Shep Smith's sudden departure from the Fox News Channel is welcome news to many who sought fairness and balance in the news biz.

Fox News has certainly been known for its right slant since its debut 23 years ago, but it has proven to be an oasis to consumers of information who have been surrounded by nothing but left-leaning news outlets for years. By being right of center, Fox News has provided an alternative to the status quo. A balance. And it is successful at doing so.

For some reason, Fox News has been singled out for its slant while the folks at CNN and MSNBC have not. It's crazy. Of course, Fox has buried the others in the ratings.

Many folks have had a difficult time separating Fox News Channel's news programs from its opinion programs like Hannity and Tucker. News is supposed to be straight up and down – facts only. Opinion shows are for the hosts to give their opinions. That's the way it worked at Fox until one day Shep Smith began infusing his opinion into his news broadcasts. Smith found himself at odds with the opinion people and Fox watchers and things got messy. Viewers didn't like it.

A recent dust-up with Tucker Carlson may have led to the sudden departure of Shep Smith. The network has been going through some rather odd changes in recent times. It has been said "if it ain't broke don't fix it," but someone over Fox decided to tinker around with a winning formula and the results have raised a few eyebrows.

Shep Smith was my go-to guy for years when news was breaking. He and Peter Jennings were the best in the business for breaking news. Somehow Smith became cynical and was no longer satisfied to just provide the facts. When a news anchor begins commenting on the events before him he loses his objectivity. He loses the trust of the audience. That is why the media is in a tailspin these days. The trust has been violated.

Shep Smith will back on the air somewhere just as soon as his exclusivity clause has expired and he is free of his contract with Fox. He will be fine. Fox News Channel must restore the confidence of the audience which has been shaken by some rather curious hirings and other decisions in recent months.

Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at barry@wbsm.com and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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