October 7, 2013
(Screengrab from Fox News video)
Shepard Smith at Fox News.

Last month, Fox News promised a whole bunch of new technology to star anchor Shepard Smith, who is to take over the network’s breaking-news functions. The new gizmos, said Fox News, would be located in a new spot called the Fox News Deck. From a press release:

The Deck and Smith’s dedicated team of producers and information specialists will also be able to interrupt all programming as needed at a moment’s notice to bring viewers the latest news as it develops. The newly created command center concept fuses incoming real-time news feeds, digital media newsgathering and social media utilizing advanced, state-of-the-art technology.

When plans for the Fox News Deck were in their early stages, the Erik Wemple Blog gave voice to some skepticism that the network would splurge on technology. Well, here’s the deal: If splurging on technology means anchoring the biggest computer screens that humans will perhaps ever use, then Fox News has splurged on technology. In this video, Smith explains that the screens are known by their acronym “BATS,” for big-area touchscreens. The brilliance of these devices, notes Smith, derives from their ability to go through all of Fox News’s “vetted sources” and place them on “one easy-to-use platform.”

Or: One so-big-it’s-distracting platform.

The Fox News Deck does indeed look cool, even though the producers slaving over the BATS look as if they’re putting their rotator cuffs at risk. Smith perked up quite a bit when explaining how the studio had one screen for tidbits that Fox News found “newsworthy,” another for stuff that it’s “investigating” and a third for stuff that’s “confirmed.” The host also showed how easily he could flip large images around in the studio. Very cool.

The trouble is that technology gets you only so far when it comes to breaking-news situations. Just a few weeks back, for instance, Fox News reported a “gun incident” at the White House; one of its reporters, Ed Henry, was even on the scene. Turned out some guy set off some firecrackers. And just over the weekend, “Fox & Friends” fell for a report that President Obama had given money to a museum of Muslim culture.

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.