Find and watch: News Anchors Discuss ''The Press & the Election''
This is extremely interesting. All the major news editors from all the major networks (Brokaw (NBC), Rather (CBS), Jennings (ABC), Lehrer (PBS), Woodruff (CNN)) in a mediated discussion at the JFK School for Government about the roll of the media in the elections. It never occured to me that a conversation like this could ever happen. Watching this and critically thinking about this is an incredible opportunity for anyone who is interested in media's relationship to politics.
It's very interesting to see these folks debate with each other, to see their different perspectives on running a news organization, on the pressures they feel from the public and from their corporate structures, on their feelings about each other's news organizations, on their feelings about this year's reduced coverage of the conventions, on their collective disappointment with the resources that are given to them by their owner corporations.
On a number of questions they're very clearly giving signals that they can't quite speak freely for fear of upsetting their bosses ("I'm not stupid enough to sit up here and say it's a Disney issue." - Jennings). But they are letting out some pretty surprising and interesting tidbits.
Jennings comes off as surprisingly cool. Just after Brokaw and others get done explaining that outside pressure absolutely does not affect the objectivity of their stories, Jennings says:
"I'm not sure how far out on this limb I want to go, being as I'm not retiring as soon as Tom but I think there are a lot of people in this room who believe what we're saying. And I'm not 100% sure we believe it ourselves. I mean no ... you're talking to men and women who are friends and close collegues. I think there is this anxiety that you're talking about and I think it comes in part from the corporate suite. I think that the rise not merely of the presence of conservative opinion but the related noise being made in the media by conservative voices these days, I think has had an effect in the corporate suites. And I think it worries people. And I may be dead wrong about you [Brokaw], but I hear more about conservative concern than I did in the past."
"This wave of resentment rushes at our advertisers, rushes at the corporate suites, and gets under the newsroom's skin, if not completely into the decision making process, to a greater degree than it was before."
Jennings seems pretty cool. As soon as he said this every single other person was rushing to disclaim his comments, to say that they have absolute freedom from pressure from their corporate structure, that they love their bosses, etc.
The audience asks a lot of really important questions. This is why C-SPAN is so fucking cool. All the questions that I would want to ask these anchors if I got to interview them are actually getting asked. Some of their answers are side-stepping but they are surprisingly frank and insightful with their answers. These are some smart folks.
Anyway, the whole piece is pretty interesting. I encourage folks to pull up the stream and check it out. Sadly there seems to not be a transcript.