Bob Schieffer, veteran CBS reporter and anchor, looked every bit the weathered, veteran journalist when he stood up to address the Atlanta Press Club on Sept. 30. But when he spoke, he was as enthusiastic as a rookie, optimistic about the state of network journalism, women in his profession, and politics in general.
His “good old days” stories ranged from his early days in radio, when he was paid $1 an hour, to an encounter with President Nixon at a White House church service. Urged by longtime White House journalist Helen Thomas to attend, Schieffer questioned Nixon about his “in-house advisers.” Schieffer imitated Nixon’s gravelly voice in quoting him, as the president responded that they would be “out-house advisors.”
The Texas native rated the presidential election as too close to call, but termed it very interesting. “Can you remember an election where one candidate suspended his campaign?” he asked, referring to John McCain’s actions during financial bailout talks in Washington.
Also, he feels it possible that all three major TV networks could eventually have women anchors. “If Charley Gibson left ABC, I think you’d see Diane Sawyer there. And if Brian Williams left NBC, I think you’d see Ann Compton as anchor,” Schieffer noted. He added that 70 percent of the journalism students at Texas Christian, his alma mater, are women.
Schieffer also stressed that the three network evening newscasts get more than 10 million viewers, even in the era of 24-hour cable and satellite networks. “People want us to put things in perspective for them.”
Having covered every major beat in Washington in his career, he termed Congress his favorite. He called it the “national zoo. There’s one of every kind of person in there.”
In an era when the trend in TV news is toward bland, vanilla type reporting, it was refreshing to hear someone with experience and color. And sad to know that such people no longer are the norm. Still, Schieffer’s talk made a good impression.