One of many interesting exchanges with Howard:
HH: Howard Kurtz, 40% of Americans, 40%, attend church on a weekly basis, or synagogue, or some house of worship. In the networks, do any of [the anchors] do that to your knowledge? [# More #]
HK: I simply do not know. But what I do know, Hugh, is that when Peter Jennings was anchoring World News, he made a big push to get a fulltime religion correspondent, who did a pretty good job for several years. That woman has since left, and…
HH: Peggy [Wehmeyer].
HK: None of the network newscasts now have a fulltime religion correspondent, and I think that’s a mistake. I think it’s a big part of American life.
HH: Now you see, here’s my proposition. If you know that Brian Williams went to NASCAR, and you know that Katie had her birthday party at Tiffany’s, you would know if any of these anchors were churchgoers, and anchored in their community in the way that 40% of Americans are. Fair, right? It would just come up somehow.
HK: It’s not a question I asked, and I simply don’t know.
HH: Did you visit them in their offices?
HK: And elsewhere.
HH: Did you see any evidence of, say, a Bible anywhere?
HK: No, but I don’t know…the ethos of the newsroom is such that you wouldn’t want to have any, not just any religious symbols, but any symbols of any politics. I mean, the point is, I don’t want to speculate because I don’t know anything about their religion.
HH: Howard, why is the ethos of the newsroom that you wouldn’t want to have any religious symbols in it?
HK: I think the ethos of the newsroom is let’s try to be neutral, let’s at least try to appear neutral, let’s not have any bumper stickers, let’s…you know, look, if somebody wants to wear a Jewish star or cross, I mean, nobody’s going to make an issue out of that. But I do think it’s just a place where you kind of try to keep your views to yourself. Now maybe you’re right, maybe none of them go to Church, and they don’t have any feel for that. I’m more interested in whether they do a good job in covering religion and religious issues. And it’s very telling to me that only one newscast, ABC under Jennings, had a religion reporter, and that none of them do right now.
HH: And I’m going to make the argument that if they don’t go, they can’t. They won’t know the culture well enough. And again, I know you’re not not telling me, I’m just wondering in the many years that you spent doing this, did you see any evidence of religious faith on the part of the anchors or their senior producers?
HK: I didn’t, but in fairness, I didn’t ask.