Just concluded an hour-plus interview with Tom Brokaw, mostly about his new book Boom, which I enjoyed a great deal though I have many criticisms of it which I discuss at length with the former NBC anchor. The interview was very interesting and quite spirited though cordial even though he kept calling me Paul and even though he wasn’t at all happy with my take on NBC’s decision to show the Virginia Tech shooter tapes.
The full interview will air in hours two and three of Tuesday’s show. Here is part of what Brokaw had to say about last night’s debate/circus:
HH: Since we are talking on the Monday, er, the morning after the YouTube debate last night, I was watching it, and I couldn’t imagine you or Peter Jennings or John Chancellor or Walter Cronkite presiding over that carnival. What did you think of that last night?
TB: Well, you know, its, its a whole different world. I will tell you what I do think without going into one specific debate. I think the country reeally is better off with the range of debates that we have had. When I was a young reporter, you’d have one debate in a primary season and I remember Senator Kennedy and Eugene McCarthy got together in California, pretty spirited debate on Sunday morning before they ran against each other on Tuesday, and then there was nothing again. That fall Humphrey and Nixon did not debate, so we are better off to take a long look at them. I am not crazy about all the forms obviously, but if they are willing to play, you know, bombs away.
HH: Did CNN, though, when they let the Clinton campaign advisor ask a question and a bunch of other plants get through, did they drop the ball?
TB: Yeah. I think you have to be very careful on that, and I, that’s something that is troublesome. But you know we are living in what I call the wilderness. We’re in this whole new information age and there are so many ways to manipulate the arena online, on cable, on television, you have to be constantly on guard against that, otherwise it does become a wreck ’em derby, those old stock car races where the last car standing was the winner.
HH: When you were running NBC News, you were in charge of what made it on the screen. Who do we look to at CNN for this? I don’t think it is Anderson Cooper, I don’t think he has the same kind of authority that you had.
TB: No. Joe Klein. They have got people who have come from CBS and other places, and when you are running 24 hours a day globally you’ve got a lot of different editors and producers, and I am sure that what they did was sit down, and, they have been determined from the outset during the campaign season to take a different tack on all of this.
Brokaw refers to Joe Klein, buyt he clearly meant Jonathan Klein, president of CNN/US.