By Erin Roberts
Success comes from within. That's what FOX News Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes, a 1962 alumnus of Ohio University's radio-television program, told Scripps College of Communication students Wednesday: Be your best self, work hard and be happy. Success will follow.
Ailes, on campus Tuesday and Wednesday for the dedication of the Roger E. Ailes Newsroom on campus, interacted with students at a roundtable; during the "Athens MidDay" preparation, live broadcast and after-broadcast critique; and over lunch.
See related story and view a Web stream of the Roger E. Ailes Newsroom dedication.
"When I was young, I didn't think I'd be happy until I was successful," he said. "When I got older, I knew I wouldn't be successful until I was happy. People tend to search outside themselves for the formula for success, but it's within you. The more important thing is to search for happiness, and success will come."
Ailes served as WOUB Radio's student station manager for two years before he set off on a notable career as a television producer, executive and political media consultant. He oversaw the creation and launch of the FOX News Channel in 1996 and, more recently, the startup of FOX Business Network.
Ailes advised students who aspire to work on-air to be aware of their voice and its power with viewers. Practice the basic skills of journalism, he told them, and be consistent in your look and confident in your individuality.
"Ninety percent of the people I interview for on-air jobs don't have the voice. They don't understand they need to speak in a way that compels people to look at the TV," he said. "Your job is not to sound like somebody else. Your job is to sound like you, at your best."
Along the same vein, Ailes said FOX's focus on "personality-driven" news has enabled the organization to consistently beat CNN in the ratings. "We have not lost a single day -- not one day -- in ratings to CNN in six years," he said.
At the roundtable discussion, students asked about on-air appearance, managing media and what they can do to be successful in the field. Ailes was quick to share his management philosophy.
"Business is not a social experiment," he said. "This is a competitive business. Know when it is necessary to fire someone. If they aren't working as a part of the team and aren't your go-to person during a crisis, they probably aren't worth having around."
Senior Jamison Sloan, a student of the School of Media Arts and Studies, participated in the roundtable and later met with Ailes over an invitation-only lunch. He said the perspective Ailes shared was priceless.
"What he gave us was insight and experience that we would have eventually learned on our own, but ... he gave us a head start," Sloan said. "It's great that a very successful alumnus took time to come back and interact with students."
In addition to offering advice, Ailes regaled students with stories of setting up the video feed in the White House that showed the world Neil Armstrong's first steps on the moon, of meeting and being mentored by Bob Hope while an associate producer on "The Mike Douglas Show" and of convincing a young Robert Kennedy Jr. to appear in an African wildlife documentary he produced.
Brooks Jarosz, a junior majoring in broadcast journalism who works as a development producer with WOUB-TV, appeared on-air during Wednesday's edition of "Athens MidDay," which Ailes observed and then critiqued. During back-to-back "FOX & Friends" broadcasts from Ohio University in March for the Ohio presidential primary, Jarosz served as a production assistant.
He was thrilled to meet Fox's chairman, and a fellow Bobcat, in person this week.
"Getting to meet an Ohio University alumnus who is so influential in the broadcast journalism field was exciting and an honor," Jarosz said.
But the benefits of Ailes' commitment to the university are felt every day, not just when he visits campus. "It's great to work in a new facility that is running above the industry standard," Jarosz added. "The hands-on experience is truly valuable."
Kelly Martin contributed to this report.
Updated Thursday, April 24, at 3 p.m.