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Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz takes a hard look at network news.

Thursday, October 18, 2007
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HH: Special conversation ahead. They are in your life, whether you like it or not. They are the anchors, the people for who for the big three networks every night, Monday through Friday, come into your living room and tell you what they think matters in the world. Well, do they matter anymore? The subject of who they are, what they are, what they do, and why they don’t matter as much as they used to is the subject of a wonderful new book, Reality Show: Inside The Last Great Television News War by my friend and frequent guest, Howard Kurtz. He’s author of the New York Times bestseller Spin Cycle. Of course, he’s the Washington Post media critic, and you seem him hosting Reliable Sources all week long. Howard, welcome back, good to have you.

HK: Thanks very much, Hugh.

HH: This took a long time to write, I gather.

HK: This was two years of hard labor. I was practically embedded at the networks at times, and you know, interviewed some people fifty times. I really poured my heart into this book.

HH: I’m reminded a little bit of The Powers That Be by David Halberstam, and it’s a fitting successor to that. It really sort of picks up wherever he left off in the evolution of the networks, and so congratulations. It’s pretty epic and it’s wonderfully written. Of course, we would expect that. Let’s start at the beginning and at the end, the size of the audience. As you write in the introduction, 25 years ago, 56 million people would tune into the three network broadcasts, the evening news. That’s down to 25 million viewers. Where did they go? Why did they leave?

HK: Some of them are listening to you, some of them are on the internet, some of them are watching cable news, some of them, particularly young people, are downloading or reading bloggers. There’s a lot more competition now than there was in the age of Cronkite. And I think also the networks have to bear some of the blame themselves. But look, I wouldn’t want to go back to a world of three networks and three choices for national news. But it’s a much more competitive landscape for this new generation of anchors.

HH: Why did those people leave? I know they left, and we know they went in a hundred different directions, and you’re right. Some of them are here. The largest single sustained audience in America is Rush Limbaugh’s, between 15 and 20 million people a week. But why did they leave the networks, because they haven’t stopped watching television…well, maybe they stopped watching the Rockies-Diamondback series, but they’re still watching other stuff.

HK: Sure, but you know, the whole concept of waiting until 6:30 to get a half hour summary of the news, which worked so well in the 50’s and 60’s, I mean, it does seem a little anachronistic. I mean, right now, everybody, and I’m the same way, sit in front of a computer screen, you want to get news when you want it, you want to look at the video, you don’t necessarily want to wait. And so just the sheer speed is one thing. I think the rise of opinionated journalism, whether it’s on the web or whether it’s on cable, or whether it’s on talk radio, has made a lot of people want to find people who agree with their point of view, or at least give a sharper take on the news than the network anchors feel able to do. And I also think that here’s the other key thing, and you know this from reading the book, is that it’s a much older audience that watches network news, that grew up with the habit. And the anchors really play to that base. I mean, it’s not just…everyone talks about the commercials. Look at the content. I have a paragraph where I listed all the diseases they cover. I mean, it’s everything from hormone replacement therapy to Alzheimer’s to back pain. They’re not really giving people under thirty, or even under forty, much reason to watch these broadcasts.

HH: We’re going to come back and cover that, because the aging of the demographic is a key point of the book. In fact, there are lots of subplots in Reality Show, Howard, but the key one is basically the Katie Couric-Brian Williams-Charlie Gibson race, and how these three came to replace Rather, Jennings and Brokaw. To set that up, as of today, when we originally taped this interview, mid-October, 2007, who’s winning the nightly ratings war between Couric, Williams and Gibson?

HK: It is Charlie Gibson, surprisingly, some would say, because he’s a guy who kind of sneaked onto the stage at a time when Katie was getting all kinds of publicity. I mean, her face was on every bus in New York City, she was on the cover of Newsweek, nobody was writing about Charlie. Charlie was good ol’ Charlie from Good Morning America, who got passed over by ABC the first time, ends up with the job. Brian Williams was in first place at the time having inherited Tom Brokaw’s audience, and Charlie, because he’s very easy to watch, he wears well, he was a Capitol Hill reporter for ten years, so when he talks about politics, he speaks with a certain authority, and because he’s 63 years old, which is closer in age than the other two to the average nightly news viewer, he ends up in the number one spot.

HH: So how big is his audience on a given night this week?

HK: Close to 8 million.

HH: How about Brian Williams on a given night this week?

HK: Brian, who’s won a couple of weeks in the last several months, is somewhere, seven and a half, 7.8 million.

HH: And Katie Couric?

HK: Katie Couric is enjoying record low ratings for the CBS Evening News, about five and a half to six million, depending on the season.

HH: Wow, that is something. We’ll come back to that. In the last year…again, I want to get some perspective at the beginning of our conversation, in the last year that the big three went head to head, Rather, Jennings and Brokaw, who was winning, and by what margins?

HK: Tom Brokaw was number one for several years before he stepped down at the end of 2004 by a significant margin. Peter Jennings before he got sick was a very solid number two, and Dan Rather, who had been the ratings leader back when he succeeded Cronkite in the early 80’s, had been trailing by a substantial margin as the third place newscast for several years by the time that he ran into his Memogate problems.

HH: When Tom Brokaw hung up his winning Plains State ways, and his greatest generation credibility, how big was his audience? Was it significantly larger than Charlie Gibson’s 8 million?

HK: Yes, because you know, the trend lines have all been heading south. And so Brokaw’s audience in his last couple of years was as high as about 10 million at times. Go ahead.

HH: In the previous generation, the Cronkite-Huntley/Brinkley and whomever ABC threw out there, what were their audiences at their heyday?

HK: I don’t have the individual breakdown, although Walter Cronkite was number one for many years leading up to his retirement in 1981, but I remember that at some point, the combined viewership for the big three, and of course, there wasn’t any cable for most of that time, was 56 million, compared to about 23-25 million today.

HH: And so do you think he had half of that? You think he had at least 25 million people?

HK: Something in that neighborhood.

HH: All right. Now the Katie Couric-CBS gamble was an attempt to get something of a younger demo. It’s failed miserably. Today, I was noticing that Disney has announced they’re giving up on California Adventure, their failed theme park which they launched in 2001. They’re going to put a billion dollars into reshaping it. They can’t keep doing minor fixes. Are we getting close to the point where CBS says we can’t fix Katie Couric?

HK: No, I don’t believe so. I think the only person who’s going to fire Katie Couric as CBS anchor is Katie Couric. And I do believe she’s taken a battering over the last year, some of it deserved, some of it not. She does get a lot of criticism about her clothes and her hair and her boyfriends and her legs in a way that the other anchors simply don’t. But I think that after the 2008 election, if the numbers haven’t improved, she’s still really lagging in third place, she may decide that life would be more pleasant being, say, a fulltime 60 Minutes correspondent. But my reporting tells me that Les Moonves and the other top executives at CBS still believe in Katie Couric, maybe because they spent $75 million dollars to get her to come over from the Today Show, and also they look at history. It took Brokaw years to become number one. It took Jennings years to become number one during the time that he was on top. So they think that this moves very slowly. But look, they made a lot of mistakes which we can go into. I mean, there were a lot of self-inflicted wounds in Katie Couric taking that anchor chair.

HH: You know, there’s a line in Chariots of Fire where the sprinter asks Mussabini to make him fast, which is you can’t put in what God left out. Did God leave news judgment out of Katie Couric? And I bring up two examples in your book, Page 264, she thinks you need to be a justice on the Supreme Court to become the Chief justice, Page 356, she doesn’t get the importance of South Dakota Senator Tim Johnson’s stroke. These are basic, basic news judgment issues, Howard. Is that the problem here?

HK: It’s certainly…I certainly saw a lot of instances, both from interviewing people and when I was there at CBS where in the early months of that broadcast, Katie Couric and her team, it’s not a one-person show, obviously, would blow off or minimize, or just completely miss important stories about politics and more, other things that the other networks would play up. And one of the reasons they missed it, sometimes they did it knowingly, is because they were adding these segments like free speech and 90 second soapbox for various people, snapshots from the web and other cutesy features. That squeezed out the time for real news, and sometimes, it was just bad judgment, as in the examples that you cite. And the core audience began to drift away, the core that actually was coming back under Bob Schieffer said we’re not getting enough nutrition here in this 30 minute broadcast. A lot of them, I believe, went to Charlie Gibson at ABC. So what did CBS do? They slammed on the brakes, they fired Katie Couric’s executive producer, they brought in Rick Kaplan as the new producer, and now they’re doing a more traditional, hard news broadcast that I think is better. But the problem is it’s such a constricted format, Hugh, that Katie doesn’t really have any chance to show her personality, the very thing that made her so popular in the morning.

HH: Now you write at length about Les Moonves’ big thoughts, and his great confidence in himself about knowing what people want. Was he misplaced about his own judgment about what people want, or was he misplaced of his assessment of Katie Couric’s strengths and weaknesses?

HK: I think he underestimated that A) putting a woman in the anchor chair would not sit well with everybody. I don’t think that’s a major factor, but I think it’s a minor factor. I think secondly, he underestimated how difficult it would be to take somebody who had success on NBC and bring them over and insert them into the CBS culture. And Katie, by the way, brought her hairdresser and her personal assistant, and her booker and all of that, and there was a lot of friction about that. And I think finally, he underestimated the degree to which the older crowd that watches news at 6:30 really wants pretty much of a hard news diet, and not some sort of modified version of the Today Show. I mean, the day, for me, when Katie Couric had clearly lost the focus of what the evening news should be was when she devoted nine minutes of perhaps a 19 minute news hole to an interview that she did with a woman who was the widow of a guy who died mountain climbing in Oregon, a perfect emotional Today Show story. No way it deserves that much time on the evening news. And that’s when things were just crystal clear to me had gone too far, they’d gotten away from the core, what the core audience wanted, and that’s the problem that they are now trying to fix. But you can’t get people back in the tent. You only get one chance to make a Broadway debut.

– – – –

HH: Rarely do I spend two hours with an author, but Howard knows the news, and the news matters a great deal to this audience, to this show, and to the country. And so I’m pleased that you can give us this much time, Howard. Just at the beginning here, you don’t cover CNN much in this book. I assume it’s because you have a show on CNN, and that it puts you in a conflict position. Am I right about that?

HK: It’s actually not the reason. You know, I just decided that a book can’t be about everything, and I wanted to focus like a laser beam on CBS, NBC and ABC. I mean, I don’t deal much with Fox or MSNBC, either, except…and when certain stories heat up on cable, obviously, the network anchors have to take note of that. I just wanted to really take people inside the studios, inside the control rooms of these three broadcast networks, because we know cable news is going to survive. They do it 24 hours a day. The question is whether these old-style newscasts are going to survive on channels that are basically devoted to selling entertainment.

HH: You know, I don’t know how they do when you’ve got Wolf Blitzer, one of the finer anchors in the business, going to three hours on the Situation Room on CNN. It’s just sort of like the killer competition, Howard.

HK: You’re saying that’s too much Wolf? Or what are you saying?

HH: No, no. That’s where I’ll go.

HK: Oh.

HH: I mean, I’ll go to Fox and I’ll go to Wolf when I want the news. I’m not going to turn over to the 30 minute broadcast which I assume is throwing out stuff left and right, and can’t spend any time, and can’t shake and bake if a story requires that they put more time into it, because it’s late breaking and developing sort of thing.

HK: And this is exactly part of the problem, Hugh. Hurricane Katrina hits New Orleans, greatest national disaster ever to strike the United States. And the networks do a pretty good job, and especially Brian Williams, I spent time with him in New Orleans for this book. I wasn’t there when he covered the hurricane, but it was a defining moment for him. He won a bunch of awards. But how much Katrina coverage did we get on the broadcast networks? We got a little bit on the morning shows, we got the 6:30 newscast. And if you’re watching ABC at 11:30, you got some on Nightline. They did not blow out their entertainment schedule, their sitcoms, their game shows, their soap operas in order to bring us this very important story. So they force people to go to cable at moments like that, and that is why cable news, even though the audiences, let’s face it, are far more modest than the broadcast networks command, that is why cable news is where it’s happening right now, and why if Katrina isn’t important enough to do more than a half an hour, then what story could be?

HH: All right, that’s the transition. Let’s talk about Brian Williams. He is much more interesting than I knew, a much more thoughtful, and perhaps the best read of the new generation of anchors. How can they not let people know this, Howard Kurtz, about Brian Williams?

HK: I think part of it is Brian Williams, a guy who grew up watching Cronkite, and who away from the cameras, or when he goes on the Daily Show, very funny guy, very witty, very winning personality. But when he does Nightly News, he stands up there in front of the camera, very formal, some would say a little stiff, very traditional newscast. And there’s been this great debate at NBC. Even Jeff Zucker, who runs the network, wants Brian to loosen up. They all know that he can do it, but he doesn’t seem to want to do it at 6:30. So I have this anecdote in Reality Show about Brian decides he’s going to do a skit on Saturday Night Live.

HH: And sweating through all of his clothes, yes (laughing)

HK: And he’s just flop-sweating, he’s so nervous. Here’s a guy who’s on television all the time. He actually did quite well, but he turned down an opportunity to host Saturday Night Live, and that was when he was number one in the ratings. Now that he’s slipped to number two, and Gibson is in first place, who’s going to be the host of Saturday Night Live on November 3rd? Brian Williams. I know some of the traditionalists are going to say oh, Walter Cronkite never would have done that. Well, I think it’s fine. Go out and…

HH: Oh, Walter Cronkite might do it now. You might just ask him.

HK: Exactly. Yeah, they ought to be on TV, sure. Go out, have a good time. Of course, if he’s not funny, then I may not think it’s such a great idea. And then come back on Monday and do the news. But it’s okay to inject a little bit of your personality into the news in a way, you know, maybe not as much as Katie was doing at the beginning, but you know, these anchors are not demigods. They’re not up on Mount Olympus. Let us see that they are real people. I think that’s one of the secrets of cable, is that although it’s obviously a more opinionated medium in many ways, is that the anchors, you know, give us a lot more of their personality.

HH: I’m jumping ahead in my outline, but you quote Jeff Zucker saying that the secret to O’Reilly and Sean Hannity is that they’re entertainers as well as being opinion journalists, but they’re out there with their personalities, and that works for a segment of the audience. I so identified with that Saturday Night Live skit, because I can only remember ever being nervous going on the Colbert Report, and thinking I’m not going to get out of here alive. And flop-sweat is a good term for that.

HK: The potential for looking stupid definitely goes up.

HH: Way high. Have you done Reality Show yet with Stephen Colbert?

HK: I may be on Colbert, but I was on the Daily Show, and you know, live audience, Stewart a very funny guy, I was a little nervous myself.

HH: Well, wait ’til Colbert gets you. That’ll be different. Hey now, a couple of details about Brian Williams that come through in this book. He’s on the board of the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation, which I found to be very interesting. You didn’t tell me much about why, but it was one of those significant details that I like about Reality Show. The other is his very touching assistance that he and his wife extended to ABC anchor injured in Iraq Bob Woodruff and his wife. It’s really very small world. These anchors are always dropping each other notes, and actually living sort of in a bizarre little colony.

HK: Yeah, it’s almost like the ex-president’s club, because there are so few members. Brian Williams didn’t know Bob Woodruff all that well, but after he got injured, Brian and his wife reached out to Woodruff, they went over on a Saturday night, he gave him an NBC baseball cap, he posed for a picture with an ABC baseball cap. And they really struck up quite a friendship. And Williams continued this tradition that Peter Jennings and Dan Rather had done with him, which is writing a hand-written note when somebody else joined the anchor club. So when Charlie Gibson got the job at ABC, Brian wrote him a note, and he has a sort of gentlemanly approach. The only tension he has is a little bit with Katie Couric, because when they were both at NBC, he felt that she wasn’t very friendly toward him, and then of course, suddenly, she jumps over to CBS and is now a competitor.

HH: And he knew you didn’t have to be on the Supreme Court to become Chief Justice, so that’s…

HK: He’s actually a Supreme Court buff. There’s a picture in his office at 30 Rock of a signed photo of the Warren Berger Supreme Court. He’s a bit of an amateur historian as well…

HH: That’s interesting.

HK: And you know, people talk about the ideology, and maybe we’ll get into that later…

HH: Oh, yeah, we’re going to go there.

HK: I thought you might.

HH: Yeah.

HK: Brian Williams listens to Rush Limbaugh, he has quoted Rush Limbaugh, he reads conservative blogs as well as the liberal blogs, and he is probably President Bush’s favorite anchor of the current three. The two of them spent a lot of time off-camera talking about the books they’re reading and so forth. So I don’t think he fits as much into the knee-jerk liberal mode as some others might.

HH: Well, let me take you, then, to the criticism, having said the good things about Brian Williams. He has this focus on New Orleans. Does he understand why reconstruction hasn’t worked in New Orleans? Does he understand Nagin and Blanco, and the complexities of that culture of corruption in Louisiana preventing reconstruction from working?

HK: I think he understands it, certainly, and maybe not as well as some, but better than any of the other anchors. He has made a commitment. He has taken NBC Nightly News back to New Orleans, I went on one trip with him, at least a dozen times. And he knows, he’s gotten lots and lots of mail, and he reads some of this e-mail on the air, it’s something the other anchors don’t do, reading criticism on the air, that a lot of people are sick of the story, feel he’s obsessed with it, feels it’s not good for ratings. Because he was there, because it was kind of a defining moment in his young anchor tenure, he just feels a responsibility to go back and report on that again and again. And he certainly has reported on some of the problems of reconstruction. I don’t know if he fully grasps the fact that the local political problems have impeded that to some degree.

HH: What about the…I debated Steve Capus before our actual separate appearances on your program about Virginia Tech, about the media coverage of New Orleans, that there weren’t bodies stacked in the freezer at the Convention Center. There weren’t running gun battles in the Superdome, that there was an amazing rescue effort by the Coast Guard. Is Brian Williams aware that the media did not really do such a fine job in New Orleans, that it actually fell on its face, in many respects?

HK: I’m sure there’s no question he’s aware of it, but most of those mistakes that were made were made on cable news and elsewhere, where you know, you kind of report…I’m not approving this at all, but in a complicated situation, sometimes reports get on the air that shouldn’t get on the air, because they haven’t been nailed down, they haven’t been double-checked. I don’t think that any of that made the network newscasts, because they had the luxury of sifting through the day’s events and not going on until 6:30.

HH: Yeah, the irony is just that quick to criticize the Feds, not so quick to criticize themselves. That’s what I see in MSM.

– – – –

HH: The winner right now, avuncular, old Charlie Gibson. He’s got the news judgment, Howard Kurtz, and he’s got the lead in ratings. He got it the old fashioned way, sort of news blocking and tackling. And I don’t think he’s going to give it up, because as you said, the demo is comfortable with him.

HK: Right. I mean, I think the only time he’ll give it up is when he decides to step down. And Charlie doesn’t need to be a network news anchor, and I would not be surprised at all…he was actually planning on retiring before this opening materialized. If he…another three, four, five years and he decides to hang it up. But it was fascinating to watch, and one of the things I tried to do in this book, Hugh, was to have you understand the deadline pressures that these anchors and their producers and their correspondents are under. So let’s look at last fall. Very hotly contested mid-term elections. Brian Ross, ABC’s chief investigative reporter, goes to Charlie Gibson and says I’ve just obtained an e-mail, one e-mail, from a guy named Congressman Mark Foley to a 16 year old House page. He asked for a picture of him. It was kind of suggestive, the page wrote back to somebody else saying this was sick, sick, sick, sick, sick. Gibson looked at it and said you know, am I going to ruin this guy’s whole career based on one e-mail? He says Brian, I don’t think that story is strong enough to go on World News. What happened? Ross goes and breaks it on the internet, it explodes, Foley resigns the next day, something that wouldn’t have happened ten years ago. If it didn’t get on TV, it basically didn’t happen. But maybe that wasn’t the right call, but the point is that Gibson is somebody who is one of the gatekeepers in deciding when something should go on the air.

HH: It’s also, I think, his success reflects that six out of ten viewers of the network news are women, as you point out. The average age is 60. I mean, that’s almost as bad as Cadillac’s demos. And yet you write that the producers are asking themselves what do women want to see. Isn’t that a recipe, Howard Kurtz, for a narrower and narrower audience, that as you try and play to the heart of your demo, sixty-plus year old women, you’re going to cut out what, nine-tenths of your potential audience?

HK: Yeah, I think it’s a prescription for slow suicide. And you know, the older audience is the one that is there now. It is one of the reasons that Bob Schieffer did well during his year and a half filling in between Dan Rather and Katie Couric. And it’s one of the reasons that Charlie’s doing well. Certainly not the only reason, but you know, look, I looked at these newscasts, and trying to figure out what happens when the bulk of their current viewers go off to the great television watching couch in the sky. And I don’t think they’re doing a very good job at all at trying to recruit younger people. Now there are those who say you know what? 20, 25, 30 years olds, they don’t care about news, they ain’t ever going to watch TV news, there’s no point in chasing them. One of the things that you can do, obviously, is try to meet them where they live, and that is on the internet. So you’ve got Brian Williams blogging every day. He’s the only one of the anchors to do an original blog every day. You have Gibson, very interesting, he hosts a daily webcast, fifteen minutes, it’s at 3:00 Eastern, I guess Noon out in California, and it’s much more informal and looser and hipper than what you see on the air. They talk about rock music sometimes, they talk about high tech stories, and it’s the kind of thing that younger people would watch. But I watch them do that, and then they go on the air at 6:30 with the same old tried and true formula that doesn’t incorporate any of the hipper elements that they’re putting online. So this is where I think there have to be some changes, or they’re just killing themselves.

HH: There’s a story very, I think, revealing about making the President cry, the story of the autistic kid who scores a few points in a basketball game. And it’s the hunt for the emotional hook. But that’s the crack cocaine for producers as well, if you make the President cry. Most people say well, that’s nice, but what happened in the world? At least the news junkees do, and I think they’re playing to Oprah instead of to the people who are left brain people, Howard.

HK: Well, you know, my view is there’s nothing wrong with a little bit of emotion in news, there’s nothing wrong with feature stories. Everything doesn’t have to be what happened in Iraq yesterday, and what’s happening on a political campaign. But the fact is, you know, that what is the core function of these newscasts? Why do they exist? Why should they continue to exist? It should be to provide us with a fresh, original look at the most important issues of the day. And unfortunately, I think too much of it is a regurgitation of what is in a handful of large papers, particularly the New York Times. I mean, I spend some time in this book just looking at one month, stories that were in the Times, and to a lesser extent, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post and the USA Today, and how often they just catapulted to the top of the newscasts, often ripped off without credit, I mean, to the point where the New York Times would run this feature on a guy who has suddenly recovered a Corvette that was stolen in 1969. All three newscasts would do that feature that same night. I mean, they just rip and read, and I just think that with the audiences that they have, and the money these networks have, they ought to be doing more original reporting, and not just regurgitating what’s in the morning papers.

– – – –

HH: Howard Kurtz, you don’t talk much about the Fox News Network here, only in passing about Brit Hume and his character as an anchor. And he is my go-to guy. That’s who I watch. I think he’s sort of almost the mirror image of Charlie Gibson. If Charlie Gibson is a little bit to the left, Brit Hume may be a little bit to the right in the way that they distribute the news, and the way they provide it. But how are Fox’s numbers for that program now, for Special Report?

HK: Brit Hume’s broadcast does about a million and a half, which is a very, very respectable number in the cable universe. The biggest, most popular show on cable is Fox’s Bill O’Reilly, who’ve got about two million. And by cable standards, obviously, Fox is doing very well, those programs doing very well. But that still is just obviously a fraction of the 25 million who are watching the three network newscasts.

HH: But it’s a third of Katie Couric’s network.

HK: That’s correct.

HH: And so if Hume was on one of the big three, do you expect he would be up there with Charlie Gibson, which is my assumption after reading your in-depth analysis of this, though you don’t reach that conclusion, that given who that audience is, and who Brit Hume is, he really ought to have gone to CBS if they were serious about winning.

HK: Well, you know, as you know, Brit Hume for many years was the White House correspondent for ABC News, and although he didn’t make any bones privately about being a conservative, and sometimes he wrote for the American Spectator, the Clinton White House people, that was when he was there, told me that they thought he was among the fairest correspondents covering President Clinton. And so if Hume, if the cookie had crumbled a different way, and Hume was a broadcast network anchor, certainly, you’d have a different, you’d probably have a different kind of newscast than Gibson has, and obviously, you’d be putting up bigger numbers, because he’d have a bigger platform.

HH: Now you mentioned in the last segment that the New York Times is in some ways the tip sheet for the network news. That’s because the bubble they live in. You also talk about this bubble, Rudy can’t win. “Many of the journalists lived in New York, and had watched his two terms as mayor up close, and did not believe that he could be elected president.” And I started thinking when I read that, they are in a bubble, and I wonder, did you run into any conservatives at all in the big three newsrooms?

HK: Well, most of the people who I see there and talk to there would tell you that they don’t, they’re not of the left or the right. I’m sure you would take issue with that in some cases. Charlie Gibson, in fact, and you can make up your own mind about his politics, I don’t know, but he feels so strongly about at least trying to be fair that he has stopped voting. He says I don’t want to make up my mind to vote for a particular candidate or not, because I’m in this anchor chair now, and I’m going to try to play it straight. But as far as the bubble, there is a bubble that exists over the island of Manhattan.

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