Reporter's Notebook

The art and science of the interview

Posts Tagged ‘Gayle King

Time versus Carefulness

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program-clock

There was an interesting conflict between broadcasting necessity and journalistic necessity this morning on CBS This Morning.  Susanne Craig and David Barstow, both reporters of the NY Times, co-wrote a story which they broke about the taxes of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

Apparently, Ms. Craig discovered three pages of Mr. Trump’s 1995 tax return in her NY Times mailbox.  After she and Mr. Barstow verified the authenticity of the pages with the tax professional that actually prepared the return the pages seemed to come from, the reporters released the story.  The reporters were asked if they feared legal consequences for writing the story based on documents Mr. Trump’s campaign said were obtained “illegally”.  They responded that a  tenet of journalism is that if a reporter does nothing to solict the receipt of such documents and they are verified as true, they can report the story as factual and be held harmless.

Ms. Craig spoke succinctly and briefly about how she got the documents, while Mr. Barstow was extremely measured in how he talked about conversations with staff attorneys, odd presentations of numbers on the form itself and getting the preparer to verify his work.

But because he took so much time carefully going through those aspects of the story, Charlie Rose and Gayle King began getting cues from their director that time was running out and that they need to wrap so the show could go to a break.

It was ironic that the journalists at that table, all of which were seeking the truth in the spirit of the First Amendment, were also essentially at odds over the amount of time available to tell that truth.

The chasm between TV news and newspaper reporting has been an open secret for decades.  If you notice, TV people are often reading stories written by newspaper people.  Newspapers reporting has been and remains the backbone of American journalism while TV is the compromise that adds pictures and speeds things up while removing much of the useful nutritional information.

I understand the program clock.  I understand affiliates down the line waiting their turn to insert local news, weather and traffic.  And I understand the need to make sure advertiser’s commercials get aired since ultimately, that’s the fount from which everything flows.

It just made me a little sad that such an important story was abbreviated.  To read the full, fascinating article at your leisure, visit http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/02/us/politics/donald-trump-taxes.html

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You Gotta Be Schitting Me

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Shit Creek

American culture can be weird.  For example, the second season of the CBS comedy, “Schitt’s Creek” was previewed in an interview with its two top billed stars, Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara on CBS This Morning.  The show name was plastered on plasma TV screens all over the studio.  Yet everyone at the table, including three professional journalists, were straining to avoiding saying the title, which is a wordplay on a profanity.

Americans love to be tittilated (whoopsie).  Whether it’s going to the ballet to see who’s going to fall, watching sports waiting for the next big hit or following political debates to see who is going to have the next Lloyd Bentsen moment.  But this is a little confusing, because in this case, tittilation would be if the actual word, “shit” was being used or skirted, not a substitute for the word.

I used to live in Utah, and its residents had the same relationship with the word, “fuck”.  In my twelve years there, I saw the substitutes for “fuck” mutate from “flip” to “frick” to “fudge” – all “f” words.  It seemed that as a version got too closely associated with the real profanity, a new one replaced it and moved into the vocabulary.  I used to fantasize that someday, it would return to “fuck”.  I wonder what it is now.

The late George Carlin, a master at comedy that emphasized such wordplay, used to eat this stuff for breakfast.  Carlin, as you may remember, was named in a 1978 U.S. Supreme Court case between the FCC and the Pacifica radio network that forever enshrined the seven dirty words you couldn’t say in broadcasting.  They are, for the record and in mostly alphabetical order, “cocksucker”, “cunt”, “fuck”, “motherfucker”, “piss”, “tits” and of course, “shit”.

In an HBO comedy special, Carlin himself made fun of people’s discomfort with the actual words, commenting that at one point, a man asked him to remove motherfucker from his routine.  Carlin said, “He says motherfucker is a duplication of the word fuck, technically, because fuck is the root form, motherfucker being derivative; therefore, it constitutes duplication. And I said, ‘Hey, motherfucker, how did you get my phone number, anyway?'”

He later added the word back to his routine, claiming the bit’s rhythm didn’t work without it.  Carlin made fun of each word; for example, he would say that tits should not be on the list because it sounds like a nickname for a snack (“New Nabisco Tits! …corn tits, cheese tits, tater tits!”).

Maybe, after the Janet Jackson “wardrobe malfunction” during the 2004 Superbowl and the subsequent hiking of indecency fines by the FCC from 35-thousand dollars to more than 300-thousand dollars per violation, U.S. radio and TV networks got religion and all forms and flavors.  But it’s a little like the Simpsons episode where Bart is in the back seat yelling the word “bitch” and Homer grits his teeth because Marge says, “Homey, it is the name of a female dog.”

Hey CBS, own it.

True Levity

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Countdown Clock

You often see TV news hosts chatting each other up in an effort to sound homey or accessible.  Sometimes, these fall flat and are marked by awkward silence or even more awkward conversation.  But sometimes, it’s sincere as it was this morning on the CBS This Morning newscast.

Host Jeff Glor announced a story introducing the upcoming NFL Football season and a graphic showing a countdown clock came up on the screen.  It showed that the start of the season was 148 days away.  As the music played and the digital clock counted, you could hear the incredulity in the anchor’s voices.

Their chatter was more like a cacophony as they talked over each other, unable to believe that the network was promoting the start of something that was almost six months away with the urgency that it was breaking news.

Yes, CBS is their employer, and yes, the NFL is a huge sponsor.  But this was so ridiculous that even they couldn’t take it seriously.

Now that was true levity.

Written by Interviewer

April 22, 2015 at 22:00

Shape of a … Triangle!

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CBS This Morning Studio

Film producing icon Harvey Weinstein was a guest this morning on CBS This Morning.  He talked about the kerfuffle around American Sniper, the snub of Selma and the lack of diversity at this year’s Oscar award nominations.

While responding to a comment by George Lucas about how the Oscars are a political exercise in smearing films not your own, Gayle King reminds Mr. Weinstein that it’s well known that no one in Hollywood is better at stirring up shit about competing films as a way of crashing them than him.  At about 8:37 a.m. Pacific Time, as Mr. Weinstein is deflecting Gayle King’s comment, Charlie Rose’s hand goes to his temple.

Sometimes, when a reporter is listening to an answer that doesn’t ring true, he or she winds up for the pitch with a gesture.  It can be setting down a pencil.  It can be tapping a small stack of papers.  It can be removing glasses.  Mr. Rose rubbed the side of his head ever so briefly before positioning himself on Gayle’s right wingtip.

He followed up on her question by essentially repeating it and after that, things got a teeny bit tense.  But the point, and one I make often in this blog, is that reporters have a responsibility to not let a rambling answer be the only answer.

The three (Charlie, Gayle & Nora) tend to sit at the anchor desk at the points of a triangle for a reason.  Besides being nature’s most stable shape, they once again show they have each other’s backs.