I hope you had a chance to listen to yesterday’s show. Guest hosting for me was Lanhee Chen, the David and Diane Steffy Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution; director of Domestic Policy Studies and lecturer in the Public Policy Program at Stanford University and a lecturer in law at Stanford Law School.
Not your typical guest host, but very much where I think the future of broadcast news and punditry is headed.
Lanhee was crisp, fast-paced, on top of breaking news stories, and surrounded by expert guests he had selected. Of course he was assisted by the best team in radio with Duane, Adam, Marlon, Tony and Danielle, but nevertheless, “You can’t put in what God left out” to borrow from Chariots of Fire. Lanhee is a natural, and gifted at communicating news with analysis thrown in.
So what makes Lanhee a great pundit? It helps that he earned his PhD in political science from Harvard University, his JD cum laude from Harvard Law School, and his AB magna cum laude in government from Harvard College, that he is a member of the State Bar of California, was the senior policy advisor to Mitt Romney and is presently consulting with would-be GOP presidential nominees who seek his help on key issues of the day. Lanhee has been around the biggest track of all. Experience counts.
But it was curiosity, not credentials, that made him sparkle yesterday. In the course of the show I tweeted out that it was better for guest hosts not to show up their regular hosts and urging that he mumble more, but in all seriousness it dawned on me that within a decade or at most two, there will be no room on the airwaves for the ill-informed or the deeply biased. Information flows are too fast for the slow, too complicated for the dense. Every cable channel will have to jettison their good-looking but dim-witted anchors and correspondents and find good-looking, smart people. In this regard Fox News has led the way with Megyn Kelly and Bret Baier, CNN with Jake Tapper, and NBC with Chuck Todd, but look for more network execs to realize that the public is increasingly sophisticated about who is delivering the news. Stupid or biased –or worse, both– don’t stand a chance against the new wave of hyper-smart, energetic anchors and commentators –like Lanhee.
Stephen Hayes, Charles Krauthammer, and George Will on Fox, and Bill Kristol on NBC and a new generation led by Lanhee and a handful of others will be delivering the news and analysis when I am in retirement in my ’70s, God willing, and it will be far more interesting and useful than when I was in my teens being fed by Uncle Walter, John Chancellor and Washington Week In Review. Firing Line was the breakthrough, and expect it to be the norm in another generation.
Viewers want value, breaking news, and speed. The world is huge but smaller every day, and stories three thousands miles away matter, and so does timeliness. Only anchors and analysts with the capacity to absorb and consider the vast sweep of information will –and should– prosper. They will.