Wheaton native brings ‘Midwest voice’ to Fox News’ ‘Outnumbered’

Written By By LORI RACKL TV Critic Posted: 04/28/2014, 10:14am

Sandra Smith feels right at home on Fox News Channel’s new program “Outnumbered,” where a rotating panel of four women and one man dissect the news and hot topics of the day.

The Wheaton native is the youngest of six children.

“Five girls, one boy — almost like the show,” Smith said.

She makes her “Outnumbered” debut Monday in the premiere of the chatfest, airing at 11 a.m. weekdays on the conservative-leaning cable news network. The hourlong show will cover top headlines and breaking news as well softer subjects, from pop culture to family and relationship issues.

The female-heavy panel is a novel approach for Fox, whose regular audience, like CNN’s, is roughly split down the middle between men and women, according to a 2012 Pew Research study.

That survey also found that women make up 73 percent of the typical audience for daytime TV talk shows, such as “The View,” where co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck worked for a decade before joining “Fox & Friends” last year. The female-friendly makeup of “Outnumbered” could help Fox siphon more of the sizeable estrogen set tuning into daytime television.

“Women and men are just different; we look at things differently,” Smith said.

She’ll lead the program’s news coverage on a rotating basis with “Fox Report Weekend” anchor Harris Faulkner. Other Fox female personalities who will be shuffled into the mix include “The Five” co-hosts Kimberly Guilfoyle and Andrea Tantaros, along with Fox News contributors Jedediah Bila, Katie Pavlich and Kristen Powers.

The sole man on the panel will vary each day — and be a surprise.

“The male will be the outnumbered voice,” Smith said. “Our intention is not to pick on the guy, although we will do that sometimes. We already have the hashtag, #OneLuckyGuy, on Twitter.”

While Smith grew up in a mostly female home, she followed her father and uncles into the male-dominated profession of financial trading after graduating from Louisiana State University, where she ranked as one of the top long-distance runners on the track team.

“My dad always says that starting around 16, I was running around the trading floor in my sneakers,” said Smith, who met her husband, John Conolly, at the Chicago financial firm Terra Nova Institutional.

“It was a man’s world,” she said. “I was the only female on the trade desk. It gave me my toughness.”

Smith represented the company in a few TV segments before producers at Bloomberg Television took notice and recruited her to New York. A year later, Smith jumped ship to Fox Business Network in 2007. She continues to work there as a reporter, fill-in anchor and integral player in the new series “Opening Bell with Maria Bartoromo,” the so-called “Money Honey” who severed her long-running relationship with CNBC late last year.

Smith’s long-distance courtship with Conolly, a North Shore native, meant years spent ping-ponging between New York and Chicago. The couple married at Holy Name Cathedral in 2010. While they call Manhattan home, they still have a house in Lincoln Park. Their daughter, Cora, was born here last year.

“Because she was a May baby, I got to spend my summer in Chicago,” Smith said.

Smith has been subbing recently on “America’s News HQ” in the afternoons on Fox News, whose 2013 average total daytime audience of 1.1 million is almost as large as the total viewers of CNN (419,000), MSNBC (397,000) and HLN (302,000) combined, according to Nielsen ratings data.

In the advertiser-coveted demo of 25- to 54-year-olds, Fox averaged 223,000 viewers compared to the next closest cable news competitor, CNN at 134,000.

Smith stressed that “Outnumbered” doesn’t just represent a different kind of show for Fox. It’s different for television in general, she said.

“You have shows that are all women,” she said. “You have shows that are panels focused on politics. This is not that. This will be tackling a bunch of news angles from different perspectives.”

Her perspective, Smith said, should look familiar to Chicagoans.

“I’m going to be the Midwest voice on this panel,” she said. “We have a different set of values.”

Email: lrackl@suntimes.com

Twitter: @lorirackl

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