By Grace Austin

In the January/February 2007 issue, Diversity Journal reported an innovative new program at FOX News called Ailes Apprentice. While only in its infancy then, the program has grown tremendously, with 30 graduates, many who have remained working at FOX News. The following is an update on the program.

The brainchild and namesake idea of CEO Roger Ailes, the Ailes Apprentice Program reaches out to minority journalists, in college or already working for FOX, to participate in a year-long, paid apprenticeship program. Currently in its ninth year, the program offers apprentices the opportunity to learn the corporate culture, and provides them with individual mentors and one-on-one time with FOX CEO Ailes.

Victor Garcia was one of a few apprentices featured in Diversity Journal, graduating from the program in 2006. Initially Garcia heard of the program while still in school at The University of Arizona and interning at FOX News.

“The disadvantage I had was that I’m from out West, I’m from a small town; I’ve never known anyone that worked in the corporate culture. This was a step in figuring out how to continue pushing my career forward,” said Garcia.

Garcia pitched stories, transcribed sound bites, and later began producing segments for Bill O’Reilly’s radio and television programs.

“They really trusted me,” said Garcia. “I never got coffee, which was a big deal for me. That’s the symbolic thing, ‘Oh you’re just a coffee getter.’”

Stephen Soto is a recent graduate, completing the program in October 2011. Soto had been working at the company, and felt the internship experience could help his career. Soto had previously worked in sales, and wanted to transition into TV.

“It exposed me to everything very quickly. We had monthly seminars. We met with an important figure in news or politics. They would just talk about where they were from, their background. It was awesome because I could identify with most of the people,” said Soto.

Since Garcia was in the program, he has seen it expand, offering more opportunity to Soto and other recent graduates.
“Soto gets access to a lot more people. They have more seminars, they have writing classes. I was [previously] advised by someone, my show supervisors and my mentor, but now they’ve been more thorough. They have classes in different aspects,” said Garcia.

Adds Soto: “[In one class] we presented new ideas to the company. We had to present ideas on how to attract new demographics. [The program] grows every year. It keeps on growing.”

“You get a lot of different perspective and different opportunity. When I was in [the apprenticeship], they were still figuring out where they were going to go with the program. Now they have a social networking website with those involved in the program,” said Garcia. “It’s really changed since the five years that I was in it.”

Both Soto and Garcia have remained at FOX News, a testament to their experiences at the organization. Soto is currently working as a production assistant on multiple daytime news shows, while Garcia is now an associate producer for The O’Reilly Factor and a contributing writer for FOX News Latino.

“It feels like a family; it’s not too formal. You can talk to the vice president, talk to your superiors. They’ve taken really good care of me. I’ve always been given opportunity and taken advantage of it,” related Garcia.
Both former apprentices can attest to the program’s goal of growing diversity at FOX News, a company that has come under fire for its lack of diversity. A 2008 Media Matters study showed that FOX News was the whitest network, with 88 percent white guests.

“I think it has improved the diversity at FOX News. It gives people from a diverse background a chance to see how [the organization] works,” said Garcia. “There’s a fine line with some diversity programs. Some can be condescending. It’s never felt like a handout. It’s something there to point you in the right direction and give you a guideline of what opportunities you have here at FOX News.”

Soto, originally from the Bronx, New York, has met many famous and influential people through working at the organization.

“Its awesome standing there and meeting Laura Bush and Governor Brewer of Arizona. I didn’t get exposed to that as a kid, but now I’m in this program and it has prepared me,” said Soto.

As young minority employees at FOX News, Soto and Garcia have been empowered through the Ailes Apprentice program. Their future looks bright in broadcast news.

“I have a renewed confidence in my job through this program,” said Soto. “It’s like stepping into the world all over again.”

“I like seeing this program [work.] I’ve really enjoyed it,” said Garcia. “I can’t sing enough praises.”