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Hullabaloo


Saturday, March 26, 2005

 
“NBC was a much more effective tool for us.”

What a perfect choice of words.

“With the departure of Dan Rather, this is a good opportunity for CBS to reach out,” said Ari Fleischer, the former White House press spokesman. “This is almost a curtains-up for CBS to improve relationships.”

Mr. Fleischer—the former Presidential press secretary who has published his Bush explication memoir, Taking Heat: The President, the Press, and My Years in the White House—was considering CBS News now that Mr. Rather, the bête noir of the conservative class, has departed the CBS Evening News.

Mr. Rather’s early retirement was good, Mr. Fleischer said.

But it wasn’t quite enough.

“Dan Rather became a symbol,” said Mr. Fleischer, who remains close to President Bush. “That’s why this is a new opportunity for CBS. But there’s a lot more to it besides who was in the anchor chair. There’s CBS as a larger organization. There is still largely a Democratic tilt that goes in their journalism.”

Dan Rather was a good start. But the White House wanted more. “A new chapter has opened up at CBS,” Mr. Fleischer said on March 22, “but we don’t know what’s in it yet.”

[...]

“Relations were really, really horrible during that whole thing, and then the White House took a different view when Dan stepped down,” Mr. Roberts said. “Everything was affected by the tenure of the guy at the head of the Evening News. It’s really subsided.”

In contrast, Mr. Roberts said, he and Bob Schieffer, the 67-year-old Texan and Face the Nation host who is temporarily replacing Mr. Rather as evening anchor, are held in higher esteem by White House officials.

“Now, don’t get me wrong,” he added. The White House was “still good at controlling information. They’re never happy to see you, but they’re less not happy to see you.”

But at the White House, there was a different view of the CBS News–reborn theory.

Adam Levine, who was the assistant White House secretary in charge of television news until January 2004—and who, like Mr. Fleischer, remains close to the Bush administration press office—said CBS News still had “a lot of work to do.”

To measure the relative credibility of news networks with press officials at the White House, Mr. Levine suggested a scale of one to 100: he put Fox News at 90, NBC News at 80 and CBS News at “about 10.”

Asked about that assessment, a current White House official, who declined to be named, said that figure was “probably generous given what happened.”

“It depends on where they go from here,” said the official. “Contrition is always nice, but it all depends on what gets on the air. That’s the true test.”

“Bowing and scraping is not going to please this White House,” said Mr. Levine.

“Results are going to please the White House.”

“There’s nothing wrong with being optimistic,” he said, referring to Mr. Roberts’ comments, but “I don’t think removing Dan Rather from the equation—that doesn’t make CBS on par with Fox.”

[...]

The calculus for the White House in granting interviews, said Mr. Levine, was more than just the fairness and balance of the network—it was a combination of “reach, fairness and enjoyability.”

He described the latter as “the respect factor,” in which an interviewer showed due deference to the office of the Presidency, thereby making it a more appealing experience for Mr. Bush.

By this calculation, Mr. Schieffer, the CBS Evening News interim anchor, had “the respect factor” going for him, said Mr. Levine.

“I found him to be very gracious,” said Mr. Fleischer. “The only thing was he seems to really dislike Tom DeLay. I think a lot of reporters do. I always had good workings with Bob Schieffer. I thought he gave issues a fair ear.”

What Mr. Schieffer and Mr. Pelley lacked was “reach,” said Mr. Levine, which meant the network had much less to offer the White House in terms of audience—unlike, say, ABC News, which Mr. Levine assessed as having more on-air real estate for White House officials to send their messages than CBS News, not to mention an esteemed political web site, The Note.

He recalled that when Mr. Pelley interviewed the President for two hours shortly after Sept. 11, the resulting segment was only 13 minutes long. Mr. Levine had arranged that interview, he said, but he might advise the President against it now. “If I’m advising him,” he said, “I’m not sure that’s the best use of the President’s time.”

Mr. Levine said that during his tenure, “NBC was a much more effective tool for us.” He said press officials in the White House liked Meet the Press host Russert, but not because he tossed softball questions

“Nobody is going to tell you that Tim Russert is easiest,” said Mr. Levine. “He’s by far and away the toughest. But he’s fair.”


Oooh, baby. And he's got big biceps too.

Tim Russert is as fair as Fox news. Proud as a peacock he must be.

Why are they called mediawhores? Because the Republicans treat them like whores and they act like whores. It's not a nice name and I know that it hurts their feelings, but when you read things like this you ralize that it is the most accurate term you can find for these servile, supplicating chickenshits. Jayzuz.

Avedon Carol reminds us that when reporters become courtiers rather than journalists, bad things result. And when they don't, when they actually look for the story instead of simpering and posing for those in power, they can actually get the real story.

But, why would they care, really? John Roberts is getting his phone calls returned from the chief liar in the administration. He has rationalized that to mean that he is a fair journalist. "What Liberal Media?" indeed.



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