BY ERROL CASTENS
Daily Journal Oxford Bureau
OXFORD – Mississippi has its share of homegrown ambassadors, but few play up their native state quite as effectively as Shepard Smith of the Fox News Channel.
Smith was clearly in his element Monday and Tuesday, broadcasting from in front of Oxford City Hall.
Nearly every reference to the state during his 2 p.m. “Studio B” and 6 p.m. “FOX Report” airings drew enthusiastic applause, especially when he referred to Hillary Clinton's months-ago slam of Mississippi for never having elected a female governor or U.S. representative or senator.
Smith said Fox News Channel had little choice but to send him and a news crew to cover Mississippi's Democratic primary.
“People can't get enough of this stuff now, and until the Democrats get a nominee, we're going to have to be in every state,” said the Holly Springs native. “It costs a lot of money to send me everywhere, but the boss thinks it's worth it, and I know it's worth it. It's so cool that (Mississippi voters) matter for once.”
Smith's fast-paced delivery, constantly changing topics and the otherwise hectic nature of live news are one side of a coin whose other side is returning to his home in Oxford several times a year – especially during football season at the University of Mississippi.
“Work is crazy; you're always on stage and trying to get everything right and dealing with technical problems. I love the adrenaline rush,” Smith said. “I like that balance of real, real fast and real, real slow. That's New York and Oxford.
“I've been to 16 countries and 49 states in my work, and I've never found a place I love more than Oxford,” Smith said. “I hope the whole world doesn't figure it out. I want it to do well, but it's our special place, and I'd hate for everybody to figure out and move in here.”
“Shep” says he's excited about Ole Miss and Mississippi inviting the world to take another look by hosting the presidential debate in September.
“I think that debate's going to be the biggest moment in Mississippi history. We're going to be on a huge stage, just ready to show them,” he said. “We triumphed over tragedy with Katrina, and if we can milk this moment, there'll be no looking back. It's a good spot. I'm almost hesitant for people to hear that, to keep saying it.”