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Television in America: An Autobiography – Walter Cronkite


>>>I’M STEVEN SCHEUER WELCOMING YOU TO ANOTHER IN OUR SERIES OF ORAL HISTORY WHERE WE’RE FORTUNATE TO INTERVIEW THOSE PERSONS WHO HAVE HELPED SHAPED THE STYLE AND SUBSTANCE OF TELEVISION AND OUR MAJOR MEDIA TODAY.>>OUR GUEST TODAY IS NOT ONLY ESTABLISHED TENNANTS OF RESPONSIBLE AN ENTERPRISING BROADCAST JOURNALISM, BUT HAS ENHANCED EVERY BROADCAST THROUGHOUT HIS LONG AND DISTINGUISHED CAREER AT CBS NEWS. AS ANCHOR, MANAGING EDITOR AND CORRESPONDENT. WHO ELSE WOULD EARN THE TITLE THE MOST TRUSTED MAN IN AMERICA BUT OUR GUEST TODAY, WALTER CRONKITE. WALTER, THANK YOU FOR JOINING US TODAY IN THIS SAD TIME IN AMERICA, WE’RE TALKING NEW YORK CITY, ON OCTOBER 15th, ON A MONDAY, OCTOBER 15th, 2001. AND I WILL TRY TO COVER AS MUCH OF YOUR ILLUSTRIOUS CAREER AS I CAN IN THIS BRIEF TIME, BUT WHERE WERE YOU WHEN YOU FIRST LEARNED OF THE ATTACK ON THE WORLD TRADE CENTER AND THE PENTAGON ON SEPTEMBER 11th AND WHAT WERE YOUR INITIAL REACTIONS?>>I WAS IN FLORENCE, ITALY, MAKING A COUPLE SPEECHES. WE JUST LEFT THE HOTEL FOR SOME TOURING THAT DAY. WHEN OUR DRIVER RECEIVED A CALL, AND HE SAID AN AIRPLANE HAS JUST HIT THE TWIN TOWERS. WE NEVER REFERRED TO THEM AS THE TWIN TOWERS AND I DIDN’T KNOW WHAT HE MEANT. HE HAD SOMEWHAT OF AN ACCENT AND I WAS PUZZLED. I THOUGHT HE MEANT PROBABLY THE WORLD TRADE CENTER, BUT I THOUGHT OF COURSE, IT WAS AN ACCIDENT. I DID SAY, LET’S GET BACK TO THE HOTEL RIGHT AWAY AND SEE WHAT WE CAN FIND ON TELEVISION. WE GOT BACK AND TUNED IN CNN, AND IT WAS FULL OF IT. JUST AS WE GOT THERE, WE SAW, YOU KNOW, THE REPLAY OF THE SECOND AIRPLANE HITTING THE SOUTH TOWER WHILE THE NORTH WAS AFLAME, SMOKING. AND OF COURSE, WE STAYED TUNED TO CNN FOR THE NEXT FIVE DAYS UNTIL WE COULD GET A PLANE BACK TO THE STATES. WE GOT THE FIRST PLANE OUT OF ITALY ON THE FOLLOWING SUNDAY TO RETURN HOME. I THINK I SUFFERED THE SAME REACTION AS EVERY AMERICAN, PERHAPS EVERY SINGLE PERSON IN THIS WORLD. A TERRIBLE SHOCK AND DISBELIEF TO THINK IT HAPPENED AND IT COULD BE PLOTTED BY SO-CALLED HUMAN BEINGS.>>INCREDIBLE CHANGES IN ALL OF OUR LIVES AND AMERICAN LIVES AND THE GEOPOLITICAL AGENDAS. BUT I WONDER, WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE PRINCIPLE OF AMERICAN TELEVISION. YOU HAVE BEEN DEALING WITH THE WHOLE ISSUE OF CENSORSHIP IN YOUR TIME AND HOW YOU BALANCE OUT THE REQUISITE PRESS FREEDOMS. TELL US YOUR THOUGHTS ON THIS, ON THIS ISSUE.>>I WOULDN’T HAVE THOUGHT THERE WAS GOING TO BE A SEA CHANGE IN HOW WE PRACTICED JOURNALISM UNTIL I READ A COUPLE DAYS AGO THAT THE COMMISSION OF NETWORKS HAD AGREED, AND INDEED, THE CABLE NEWS NETWORKS HAD AGREED THAT IT NOT CARRY BIN LADEN’S PROPAGANDA BROADCAST IN THIS COUNTRY. I DON’T KNOW WHO IS BEING PROTECTED IN THAT CASE. THE OTHER NETWORKS WITH OTHER COUNTRIES IN THE WORLD ARE NOT OBSERVING SIMILAR BLACKOUTS OF THIS INFORMATION.>>SURELY THE BBC IS NOT.>>THE BBC IS NOT, NOR ARE THE ISLAMIC NETWORKS OR THE OTHER NETWORKS IN OTHER COUNTRIES AS FAR AS I KNOW. MANY OF THEM AREN’T SERVING ANY SUCH BLACKOUT. ONLY THE AMERICAN PEOPLE ARE BEING DEIED WHAT HE IS PROPAGANDIZING AT THE MOMENT. I CAN UNDERSTAND TO SOME DEGREE THE CONCERN ABOUT CODED MESSAGES. BUT ASIDE FROM READING, MOST OF THE INTELLIGENCE EXPERTS –>>IT’S HIGHLY UNLIKELY.>>HIGHLY UNLIKELY IT WOULD BE SO.
AND IF SO, IT WOULD REPRESENT CERTAINLY A MUCH MORE DEEPLY ORGANIZED PLOT AROUND THE WORLD THAN WE’LL EVER IMAGINE WAS POSSIBLE, EVEN IN THE TEST OF OUR IMAGINATION OF THE WORLD TRADE BOMBINGS THEMSELVES. SO I DON’T QUITE UNDERSTAND IT, AND I DON’T QUITE UNDERSTAND WHY THE NETWORKS HERE HAVE EXCEEDED TO THAT.>>YOU THINK IT WAS A MISTAKE.>>I DO THINK IT WAS A MISTAKE. UNLESS THERE’S SOMETHING WE JUST HAVEN’T BEEN TOLD. OTHERWISE, IT’S PROTECTING THE AMERICAN PEOPLE FROM THE ENEMY’S PROPAGANDA, IT SEEMS WE SHOULD KNOW AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE ABOUT THE ENEMY’S PROPAGANDA WITH THE REST OF THE WORLD IS HEARING FROM BIN LADEN. THAT WE SHOULD NOT BE SHUT OFF FROM THIS INFORMATION. IT SEEMS IMPORTANT TO ME THAT WE SHOULD HAVE IT. ANOTHER THING THAT DISTURBS ME IS THE PROBABILITY FROM WHAT WE HAVE HEARD THAT THE MILITARY IS NOT GOING TO ENTERTAIN THE IDEA OF REPORTERS AND CAMERAMEN ACCOMPANYING OUR MILITARY FORCES IN ACTION. THEY DID THIS IN THE PERSIAN GULF WAR, TO DENY OUR HISTORY. WE HAVE NO INDEPENDENT HISTORY OF WHAT HAPPENED ON THE FRONT LINES OF THE FORCES THAT INVADED IRAQ.
THE MILITARY ORGANIZED POOL COVERAGE, ASSIGNED POOL REPORTERS AND THEN DID NOT TAKE THEM AT ALL. WE WERE BLACKED OUT. THE ONLY PHOTOGRAPHS WE HAVE AND THE FILM WE HAVE WAS THE SHOT BY THE ARMY PICTORIAL SERVICE. THAT’S SCARCELY IMPARTIAL REPORT. AND THAT’S THE ONLY HISTORY WE HAVE. WE NOT ONLY DON’T HAVE THE HISTORY OF ANYTHING THAT WENT WRONG WITH OUR FORCES AND WE SHOULD BE ENTITLED TO THAT, BUT WE DON’T EVEN HAVE THE HISTORY OF THE HEROISM. THAT’S NOT REPORTED EITHER, AS FAR AS WE KNOW. I’M HOPING THAT THE MILITARY ADVISER IN THIS CASE WILL TOLERATE, NOT ONLY TOLERATE BUT WELCOME, THE CORRESPONDENTS WITH THE FORCES IN ACTION. THAT DOES NOT MEAN THAT THEY’RE ENTITLED TO USE SATELLITE TO COVER THE BATTLEFIELD LIVE. THAT’S IMPOSSIBLE. THERE MUST BE MILITARY SECRECY AND SECURITY AND THE PRESS MUST RECOGNIZE THAT AND RESPOND TO IT.
WE HAVE WORKED PERFECTLY WELL IN THE EUROPEAN THEATER. AND THE MILITARY HELPED US GET THERE, BUT ALL OF OUR MATERIAL HAD TO BE SUBMITTED THROUGH A VERY WELL ORGANIZED CENSORSHIP. AND WHILE THE MILITARY CENSORS COMMAND OF THE BATTLEFIELD. THE MATERIAL EVENTUALLY GOT BACK TO MILITARY CENSORS BUT MEN WHO WERE DRAFTED FROM THE LEGAL PROFESSION USUALLY AND RECOGNIZED THE PUBLICS RIGHT TO KNOW. NOT ONLY THE RIGHT TO KNOW BUT THEIR DUTY TO KNOW. AND PAST MATERIAL THEY THOUGHT THE MILITARY WAS WITHHOLDING. FOR THEIR OWN POLITICAL REASONS. NOT FOR MILITARY SECRECY AND ALL OF THE DISPATCHES WERE EVENTUALLY RELEASED IF A DAY LATER, OR TWO DAYS LATER OR A WEEK LATER OR A MONTH LATER. THEY WERE FINALLY RELEASED WHEN THE MILITARY SECRECY WAS NO LONGER NECESSARY.>>ONE OF THE THINGS THAT HAS JUST RECENTLY COME TO MY ATTENTION WAS WHAT I THOUGHT WAS A REMARKABLE STATEMENT OF YOURS IN REFERENCE TO SOMETHING THAT HAPPENED IMMEDIETLY AFTER SEPTEMBER 11TH ATTACKS WHICH WERE THE COMMENTS BY JERRY FALWELL AND AND PAT ROBERTSON AND IT WAS PUBLISHED IN TV GUIDE AND I HAVEN’T HAD A CHANCE YET TO SEE IT BUT TELL US WHAT YOU SAID IN THAT ARTICLE OR WHAT YOU FEEL ABOUT IT.>>WELL I SAID IT IN THE MAKING OF ONE OF THE TWO SPEECHES I WAS SCHEDULED TO MAKE IN ITALY AND THAT CAME THE DAY AFTER THE FALWEL ROBERTSON STATEMENT AND I SAID I’VE FOUND IT INCREDIBLE, INCREDIBLY INSULTING TO MANY CHRISTIANS, MOST OF THE CHRISTIANS IN THIS COUNTRY, MOST OF THE CHRISTIANS DO NOT BELONG TO THE FAR RIGHT CONSERVATIVE ELEMENTS TO WHICH FALWELL AND ROBERTSON APPEAL. BUT FOR THEM TO SUGGEST THAT THOSE WHO BELONG TO THE AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION, TO OTHERS WHO BELONG TO OTHER LIBERAL ORGANIZATIONS->>PEOPLE FOR THE AMERICAN WAY.>>PEOPLE FOR THE AMERICAN WAY. TENS OF THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE WHO BELONG TO THOSE ORGANIZATIONS WERE SOMEHOW GUILTY OF CREATING THIS SITUATION->>-TELEVISION WAS ONE OF THE EVILS THAT THEY WERE TALKING ABOUT.>>AND I SAID I JUST DID NOT KNOW FALWELL AND ROBERTSON WORSHIPED THE SAME GOD AS BIN-LADIN WORSHIPED.>>THEY LATER APOLOGIZED BUT IN THAT SITUATION->>THAT APOLOGY DOESN’T COUNT.>>MAKES IT EVEN MORE->>WE HAVE TO ACCEPT APOLOGIES I SUPPOSE BUT WE DON’T HAVE TO ACCEPT THEM INTELLECTUALLY. AND INTELLECTUALLY WHAT WE FOUND OUT WAS THAT THIS WAS WHAT FALWELL AND ROBERTSON HARBOR IN THEIR HEARTS, IS THAT KIND OF AN ATTITUDE TOWARDS THE LIBERALS IN THIS COUNTRY. THOSE WHO WOULD PROTECT OUR CIVIL LIBERTIES, PROTECT OUR RIGHT TO WORSHIP AS WE PLEASE.>>NOT EVERYONE WHO HAS WATCHED YOUR WORK OVER THE LAST 30 OR 35 YEARS UNDERSTANDS YOUR SERVICE IN WORLD WAR II ITSELF.>>I HAD SOME PARACHUTE TRAINING TO GO WITH THE PARATROOPS IN THAT DROP. DIDN’T KNOW WHERE IT WAS GOING TO BE BUT THE NEXT AIRBORN OPERATION AFTER LANDING IN NORMANDY. WHAT WE THOUGHT IT WAS GOING TO BE AND WHAT WOULD HAVE BEEN THE GREAT STORY OF THE WAR WAS TO DROP OUTSIDE OF PARIS AND TO TAKE PARIS FROM THE NORTH AND CUT OFF THE GERMANS AND WE WOULD BE THE FIRST FORCES INTO PARIS. WHAT AN ASSIGNMENT THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN. BUT IT TURNS OUT PATTON AND THE REST OF THE BOYS GOT THERE BEFORE WE COULD DROP. WE WERE IN THE PLANES IN ENGLAND BUT WE NEVER GOT OFF THE GROUND. THEY OVERRAN THE AREA BEFORE WE COULD GET OFF. THEY ENDED UP DROPPING INTO THE NETHERLANDS TO TAKE THE BRIDGES AROUND THEM SO WE COULD GET ACROSS THE REINE THAT WAY. IN THE SOUTHERN PART OF THE NETHERLANDS, THE 82nd DROPPED A LITTLE FURTHER TO THE BRIDGES AND THE BRITISH DROPPED ON THE OTHER SIDE WITH GREAT TRAGIC LOSSES. BUT I THOUGHT WHEN I GOT UP THERE, THE 101st WAS SUMMONED INTO BATTLE. WHEN I WAS TOLD I WAS GOING IN A GLIDER INSTEAD OF A PARACHUTE, I CAME VERY CLOSE TO REFUSING THE ASSIGNMENT, BEING A CIVILIAN, I CERTAINLY COULD HAVE, A CIVILIAN VOLUNTEER WITH THE UNITED PRESS, BUT I HAD NEVER BEEN ABLE TO GO INTO A BAR WITH MY COLLEAGUES IN LONDON IF I HAD. BUT I HAD SEEN WHAT HAPPENED TO THE GLIDERS IN NORMANDY. TERRIBLE MESS. SIMPLY NO WAY TO GO TO WAR. WE’RE NEVER GOING TO DO THAT AGAIN, I DON’T THINK.>>I REMEMBER MAYBE 15 YEARS AGO, WHEN YOUR COLLEAGUE CHARLES COLLINGWOOD, WHO I ADMIRED VERY MUCH, AND HE WAS TALKING ABOUT HIS OWN REACTION WHEN HE WAS IN A PLANE OVER NORMANDY THE FIRST DAY, AND HE WAS TRYING TO IMPRESS ED MURROW AND DO A GOOD JOB AND HE WAS ALSO, UNDERSTANDABLY, GERMAN GUNFIRE WAS ALL AROUND HIM, AND HE WAS UNDERSTANDABLY TERRIFIED, AND HE TALKED WITH ELOQUENCE ABOUT THE MORAL LINE, I THINK I’M REMEMBERING WHAT HE SAID, THE NARROW LINE BETWEEN BRAVERY AND MADNESS. THOSE OF US WHO HAVE NEVER BEEN IN THIS COMBAT SITUATION DON’T REALLY UNDERSTAND IT. CAN YOU ELABORATE ON THAT? WERE YOU SCARED? HOW DO YOU PREPARE YOURSELF?>>COMBAT ITSELF IS A FORM OF MADNESS, OBVIOUSLY. WAR IS A FORM OF MADNESS IN ITSELF. IT’S HARDLY A CIVILIZED PURSUIT. IT’S AMAZING WE SPEND SO MUCH TIME INVENTING DEVICES TO KILL EACH OTHER AND SO LITTLE TIME WORKING ON HOW TO ACHIEVE PEACE. BUT ANYWAY, A MORAL LESSON BEHIND US. IN WAR TIME, YOU DO THE EXTRAORDINARY, OF COURSE, AND I THINK AS A CORRESPONDENT, AS A WAR CORRESPONDENT, THOSE OF US WHO HAD THE OPPORTUNITY TOOK THE OPPORTUNITY FELT WE WERE DOING THE HARD PART OF THE JOB, OF THE DUTY, TO BE OUT THERE REPORTING WITH THE TROOPS. THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT DURING THE WAR CAME FROM THE GIs WHOSE FOX HOLES WE SHARED AT TIMES OR AIRPLANES WE SHARED, WHATEVER, WOULD SAY WHAT DO YOU DO AFTER BEING HERE? WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE? WE HAVE TO BE HERE. YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE HERE. IT WAS PRIMARILY A COMPLIMENT, BUT THERE WAS SOME, ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND? IN ALL SITUATIONS IN WAR TIME AND CERTAINLY WITH MANY IN PEACE TIME, SUCH IS KEEPING YOUR COOL WHILE COVERING A TERRIBLE DISASTER OF SEPTEMBER 11th, AS REPORTERS DID. I WAS AMAZED AT HOW COOL THEY MAINTAINED. YOUR ADRENALINE IS PUMPING. YOU ARE IN — ALMOST, IN WHICH YOU KNOW WHAT YOU MUST DO AND YOU’RE DOING IT. YOU’RE DOING YOUR JOB, WHEN YOU SEE A TERRIBLE THING LIKE A BATTLE AND WAR OR SEEING THAT HAPPEN IN NEW YORK. YOUR TRAUMA COMES LATER WHEN YOU’RE RELAXED, WHEN YOU’RE LET DOWN. WHEN THE ADRENALINE IS NOT PUMPING. THEN THERE’S A TERRIBLE REACTION.>>DOES IT DIMINX AT ALL WHEN YOU RELAX AND GO BACK TO COMBAT?>>NO, THEN YOU’RE BACK AT WORK. YOU KNOW, WE’RE VERY MUCH LIKE THE EMERGENCY WORKERS, THE POLICEMEN, THE FIREMEN. THEY ARE EMERGENCY HOSPITALWORKERS, BUT WE’RE DOING A JOB, AND WE’RE CONCENTRATED ON DOING THAT JOB AS WELL AS WE CAN. AND AS SUCH, WE CUT OUT THE EMOTIONS ARE REMOVED UNTIL THE RELAXATION POINT COMES. THEN IT HITS YOU WHAT YOU HAVE BEEN REPORTING. IN THE CASE OF KENNEDY’S ASSASSINATION, I WAS FINE FOR THE FIRST HOUR AND A HALF, UNTIL I HAD TO SAY HE’S DEAD. AND WITH THAT, IT CAME TO ME AND I HAD TROUBLE GETTING THE WORDS OUT.
>>A BULLETIN FROM CBS NEWS. PRESIDENT KENNEDY HAS BEEN SHOT BY A WOULD-BE ASSASSIN IN DALLAS, TEXAS. STAY TUNED TO CBS NEWS FOR FURTHER DETAILS.>>FROM DALLAS, TEXAS, THE FLASH APPARENTLY OFFICIAL. PRESIDENT KENNEDY DIED AT 1:00 P.M. CENTRAL STANDARD TIME. 2:00 EASTERN STANDARD TIME. SOME 38 MINUTES AGO. VICE PRESIDENT JOHNSON HAS LEFT THE HOSPITAL IN DALLAS, BUT WE DO NOT KNOW TO WHERE HE HAS PROCEEDED. PRESUMABLY, HE WILL BE TAKING THE OATH OF OFFICE SHORTLY AND BECOME THE 36th PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES.>>IS THERE ANY OTHER EXPERIENCE THAT YOU HAD THAT WAS SO WRENCHING AND TO THIS DAY IT SEEMS AMAZING YOU WERE ABLE TO KEEP YOUR COMPOSURE IN THAT WAY?>>WELL, BEARICALLY KEPT MY COMPOSURE. NO OTHER EXPERIENCE QUITE LIKE THAT. NOTHING, NOT ONLY DOING THIS, BUT THE MOST POPULAR PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES HAS BEEN
ASSASSINATED IN SUCH A FASHION.>>ONE OF THE THINGS THAT I AND MANY OTHER VIEWERS OF AMERICAN TELEVISION ADMIRED ABOUT YOU WAS YOUR ABILITY TO TALK FOR EXTENDED PERIODS OF TIME, AND I WONDERED WHERE YOU GOT SOME EARLY TRAINING IN THAT, THAT EXPERIENCE WHEN YOU WERE TRYING TO BREAK INTO RADIO AND YOU WENT TO A DALLAS STATION AND ASKED THE BROADCAST, A FOOTBALL GUY, AND WENT IN THE STUDIO. TELL US WHAT HAPPENED THEN.>>I HAD DONE SOME FOOTBALL IN A STATION IN KANSAS CITY BY WIRE REPORT, WESTERN UNION REPORTS SENT FROM THE STADIUM WHERE THE GAME WAS BEING PLAYED. AND THEY WERE JUST VERY ABBREVIATED LITTLE REPORTS. THE WESTERN UNION OPERATOR HIMSELF PUT ON THE WIRE. SOMETHING LIKE BROWN, 2. 37, JONES. FOR THAT, WITH THE CROWD NOISE IN THE BACKGROUND, BREAK OUT OF THE HUDDLE. BROWN TAKES THE BALL. GOING TO THE LEFT SIDE. HE LOOKS. I DON’T THINK HE MADE A YARD, MAYBE TWO YARDS. EXACTLY TWO YARDS, AND JONES IS IN ON THE TACKLE. THAT BOY JONES IS HAVING SOME BALL GAME TODAY. AND THEN THE 37 YARD LINE, SECOND AND EIGHT FROM THE 37.>>SOUNDS LIKE A PERFORMANCE TO ME, BUT IT DIDN’T SATISFY –>>THIS WAS IN OKLAHOMA CITY, SIGNED UP FOR THE FIRST LIVE FOOTBALL BROADCAST FOR THEIR SEASON. THEY WERE LOOKING FOR A BROADCASTER. AND THE KANSAS CITY MAN RECOMMENDED ME, SO HE SAID DO A FOOTBALL GAME FOR US.>>GOT THE JOB.>>GOT THE JOB, AND IT WAS A NEAR DISASTER BECAUSE I NEVER COVERED LIVE FOOTBALL BEFORE. AND THEY SAID, WHAT DO YOU MEAN? SO I INVENTED A WORD FOR ONE GUY FOR ONE TEAM, ONE FOR ANOTHER TEAM, AND I COULD TELL WHO HAD THE BALL. LIKE PLAYING A GAME ON A COMPUTER TODAY. UNFORTUNATELY, MY TWO SPOTTERS WERE TERRIBLE, THE MACHINE DIDN’T WORK. IT WAS ONE OF THE WORST BROADCASTS. I THOUGHT I WOULD BE FINE, BUT MY MANAGER OF THE STATION, NICE FELLOW, BUT HE’S A VERY NICE MAN, BUT HE STARED BACK AT ME IN THE BOOTH, AND HE WAS SLIGHTLY MURMURING. QUITE FRANKLY, WHAT HE SAID WAS, CHRIST. CHRIST. GOT LOUDER AND LOUDER, UNTIL I WAS SURE THE MICROPHONE MUST BE PICKING IT UP, UNTIL THE END OF THE GAME, AND HE SAID, COME WITH ME.
AND WE SAT OUTSIDE THE BOOTH IN THE STANDS, AND I THOUGHT I WOULD BE FIRED. TURNED OUT WE WERE NOT. WENT ON TO GREATER SUCCESSES.>>YOU MENTIONED YOUR COLLEAGUES AT CBS NEWS WERE SOME OF THE BEST SET OF TELEVISION JOURNALISTS PUT TOGETHER IN ONE TEAM, AND THEY INCLUDED CHARLES CONWOOD, DAN SHULA, AND OTHERS. DID YOU UNDERSTAND AT THE TIME THE ASTONISHING CALIBER OF THE TEAM THAT CBS HAD PUT TOGETHER WHICH DOMINATED AMERICAN TELEVISION JOURNALISM IN THE ’50s AND ’60s AND I THINK HAS NEVER BEEN FINER SINCE? HOW DID YOU FEEL ABOUT IT ADD THE TIME?>>WELL, I KNEW I WAS JOINING THAT TEAM AS A VERY JUNIOR MEMBER ON THE TEAM. MY EXPERIENCE HAD BEEN IN PRINT JOURNALISM PRIMARILY. AND I HAD BEEN FOLLOWING THEM EVER SINCE I RETURNED AFTER THE WAR.
I WAS IN NUREMBERG FOR THE FIRST YEAR AFTER THE WAR AND THEN IN RUSSIA FOR A COUPLE YEARS. WE CAME HOME IN LATE ’48, AND I HAD FOLLOWED THE CBS TEAM. AS A MATTER OF FACT, I FOLLOWED THEM OVERSEAS. I KNEW THEIR CALIBER. I KNEW EXACTLY WHAT I WAS JOINING. I WAS TERRIBLY PLEASED THAT I WOULD BE INVITED TO JOIN THAT TEAM. I JOINED THEM IN 1950.>>YOU HAD ORIGINALLY BEEN MADE AN OFFER BY ANOTHER AND YOU ASSESSMENTED AND THEN YOU RENEGED ON IT. WHY DID YOU CHANGE YOUR MIND?>>I TELL YOU, I LIKED UNITED PRESS WORK. I LIKED PRINT JOURNALISM. I TRIED RADIO A LITTLE BIT IN COLLEGE AND A LITTLE BIT AFTER THAT. AND I HADN’T BEEN PARTICULARLY PLEASED WITH IT. BUT RADIO NEWS WAS PRETTY BEFORE WORLD WAR II. IT MADE THE NEWS. BEFORE THAT, THEY READ THE NEWSPAPERS. THERE WASN’T MUCH OF AN ORGANIZATION. I DIDN’T LIKE IT WHEN I HAD TO PARTICIPATE IN IT. SO I HAD GONE BACK TO THE UNITED PRESS AND STAYED THERE FOR 11 YEARS. AND I WAS ON THE LADDER TO EVEN BETTER THINGS WITH UNITED PRESS, AND ED CALLED ME AND INVITED ME TO JOIN CBS DURING THE WAR, IN FACT, I WAS GOING TO REPLACE WHERE THE RUSSIANS HAD SET UP HAVING FLED MOSCOW. IT WAS A GOOD ASSIGNMENT. AND HE MADE IT EVEN MORE SO. WHEN I WENT BACK TO THE UNITED PRESS, SALES BURY, A GREAT REPORTER, WAS OUR BUREAU CHIEF IN LONDON, AND HE SAID, YOU CAN’T LEAVE UNITED PRESS. IT’S MY FAULT BUT I WAS AUTHORIZED TO GIVE YOU A $12.50 RAISE AND YOU’RE OUT, AND I DIDN’T GET TO IT. YOU HAVE $12.50 JUST WAITING FOR YOU.
>>WAS THAT SERIOUS MONEY AT THE TIME? SERIOUS MONEY.>>I WAS MAKING $67.50. THAT WAS A BIG RAISE. THAT PUT ME UP TO $80 A WEEK. THAT WAS AMAZING. AND I SAID, WELL, I GUESS I’M GOING TO GO DO THAT. WELL, I GOT HOME THAT NIGHT, AND HUGH WAS THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED PRESS, MUST HAVE TALKED TO THE PRESIDENT BECAUSE THERE WERE NO PRIVATE PHONE CALLS EVER MADE IN THOSE DAYS, VERY FEW LINES ON THE CABLE, AND THEY WERE ALL FOR MILITARY PURPOSES. BY GOSH, HE GOT THROUGH TO ME AND GOT ME AT HOME, AND SAID WHAT ARE YOU DOING QUITTING UNITED PRESS? YOU’RE GOING TO BE THE NEXT PRESIDENT OF THE ORGANIZATION. WHICH WASN’T TRUE AT ALL. WHICH I KNEW WASN’T TRUE. BUT HE GAVE ME — AND THEN SAID FUTHMORE, I GOT A $12.50 RAISE FOR YOU. I SAID, I KNOW. HARRISON SALISBURY TOLD ME. HE SAID, ANOTHER $12.50.>>THAT’S A NICE SALARY OFFER AT THE TIME.>>IT WAS $110. BUT THERE WERE COMMERCIAL FEES. EVERY BROADCAST YOU DO THAT HAS A SPONSOR, YOU GET AN EXTRA SET OF MONEY. I DIDN’T QUITE BELIEVE THAT. I THOUGHT IT’S A SALES PITCH. THERE PROBABLY WOULDN’T BE THAT MUCH MONEY. HE SAID YOU COULD MAKE A LOT OF MONEY THAT WAY. IT TURNED OUT I COULD HAVE. OTHERS DID, BUT I WASN’T SMART ENOUGH TO REALIZE THAT. AND I’M GLAD I DIDN’T REGRET IT BECAUSE I WOULD HAVE STILL BEEN WITH UNITED PRESS THROUGH THE WAR.
>>LATER ON POSTED TO MOSCOW.>>IN ’46 AND CAME BACK IN LATE ’48.
>>ANOTHER INTERESTING PART OF WORKING, YOU SAY THAT YOU HAD MENTIONED YOU’RE IN KOREA AND HAD COME BACK TO ACCEPT THE JOB WITH THE WASHINGTON STATION, THE NEWLY ACQUIRED CBS STATION IN WASHINGTON. YOU WERE THE ANCHORMAN FOR THAT NEWS PROGRAM, BUT YOU WRITE, YOU PERSONALLY WERE NOT AWARE OF THE IMPACT OF TELEVISION ON THE GENERAL PUBLIC AND THE FAME IT WOULD BRING TO ALL OF YOU UNTIL YOUR INVOLVEMENT DURING THE SUMMER OF THE POLITICAL CONVENTIONS IN CHICAGO IN 1952. WOULD YOU TALK ABOUT THAT FOR A MOMENT? WHAT HAPPENED THAT WAS SO EXTRAORDINARY?>>WELL, MY EXPERIENCE UNTIL 1952 WAS MOSTLY IN LOCAL TELEVISION, IN WASHINGTON. WHERE THAT’S A RATHER IMPORTANT OUTLET FOR A TELEVISION STATION, AND I WAS CLOSE TO THE POLITICAL FIGURES, COVERING THE POLITICAL CONVENTION OF ’52. THAT’S HOW I GOT THE ASSIGNMENT. BUT IMMEDIATELY, THE TELEVISION COVERAGE OF THE CONVENTIONS WAS IN EVERY HOME, ON EVERY TELEVISION SET IN THE COUNTRY. THE THREE NETWORKS WERE THE ONLY SOURCES FOR COVERAGE IN THE STATION IN THE COUNTRY WERE ALL COVERING IT. THE PUBLIC REALLY DIDN’T HAVE A CHANCE NOT TO WATCH THE POLITICAL COVERAGE, BUT IT WAS A FASCINATING CIVICS LESSON FOR THE AMERICAN PEOPLE. A FASCINATING STORY. FOR THE FIRST TIME AND ONLY TIME WHERE THEY SAW THE POLITICAL CONVENTIONS AS THEY ALWAYS HAD BEEN FROM THEIR INCEPTION AT THE TURN OF THE 17th, 18th CENTURIES. THE 18th AND 19th CENTURIES, THAT IS, UNTIL THEN. VERY CHAOTIC. THEY WERE BRUTE FORCE POLITICS AS PLAYED FROM THE GUTTER UP. AND WE MADE IT, I THINK IN TELEVISION, WE MADE IT A FASCINATING RUNNING STORY WITH THE PERSONALITIES INVOLVED, MOVEMENTS INVOLVED, THE FORCES INVOLVED. THE SPEAKER STANDS, FOR INSTANCE, WERE CHAOTIC. THE SPEAKER AT EACH CONVENTION, THE CHAIRMAN OF EACH CONVENTION, WAS SURROUNDED BY PEOPLE DEMANDING THE MICROPHONE. AND HE COULD ANOTHER HOLD THE MICROPHONE HE HAD, AND THE PEOPLE ARGUING BEHIND HIM THAT HE SHOULD SPEAK NEXT. THERE WAS NO COHERE NLS IN THE SITUATION AT ALL. THE CHAIRS WERE MOVABLE CHAIRS, KIND OF CAMP CHAIRS THAT CAMP MEETING USED TO HAVE. THEY HAD BEEN ORGANIZED NICELY FOR THE BEGINNING OF THE SESSION. BY AN HOUR LATER, THEY HAD BEEN MOVED AROUND. SIGNS AND BANNERS UNDER WHICH EACH STATE DELEGATION HAD OR SPEAKERS FOR DELEGATIONS CONSTANTLY DEMANDED TO BE HEARD. AND MOST OF THE TIME, NOT BEING HEARD. FASCINATING STUFF. AND WE WERE TALKING OUR CAMERAS INTO THE MEETINGS IN THE HOTELS WITH THE CANDIDATES AND THEIR SUPPORTERS AND THE STATE DELEGATIONS, SO IT REALLY WAS AN INCREDIBLE TELEVISION, BOTH FOR REPUBLICANS AND THE DEMOCRATIC CONVENTIONS. THE PROBLEM WAS THAT THE PARTIES UNDERSTOOD HOW CHAOTIC THEIR CONVENTIONS APPEARED AND FROM THERE ON OUT, THEY BEGAN CLEANING THEM UP A LITTLE BIT AND THEN MORE AND MORE UNTIL BY ’56, THEY NOT ONLY HAD CLEANED THEM UP TO A DEGREE, BUT BY ’60, THEY RATHER PURIFIED THEM. BY ’64, EVERYTHING WAS SWEPT UNDER THE RUG EXCEPT THE FORMAL PRESENTATION SPEECHES. SO THAT THE WHOLE MEANING OF THE CONVENTION WAS LOST AND HAS BEEN LOST EVER SINCE.>>DO YOU THINK THAT WILL EVER COME BACK?>>NO, NO.>>MAJOR PARTIES CONTROL IT TOO TIGHTLY?>>ABSOLUTELY. THEY CONTROL IT COMPLETELY. IT’S THEIR CONVENTION. IT’S THEIRS TO CONTROL. WE CAN’T MAKE THEM PUT ON A TELEVISION SHOW FOR US. IF WE TRIED, IT WOULDN’T WORK. AND IT’S NATURAL FOR THEM, IT WAS A FASCINATING TELEVISION. AND ANY FORUM YOU TRY TO CREATE NOW WOULD ONLY BE A TELEVISION SHOW, BUT THAT’S WHERE WE’RE GETTING NOW, OF COURSE. THE PLATFORM COMMITTEE MEETS BEHIND CLOSED DOORS. CREDENTIALS COMMITTEE MEETS BEHIND CLOSED DOORS. THOUGH WERE TWO OF THE PRIMARY FIGHTS TOOK PLACE IN THE CONVENTIONS BEFORE. AND THE FIGHT ON THE CONVENTION FLOOR, THE NUMBER OF BALLOTS THEY WENT THROUGH WAS, YOU KNOW, REALLY HEAVY DRAMA.>>WAS THE OUTBREAK OF VIOLENCE IN THE 1968 DEMOCRATIC CONVENTION IN CHICAGO WITH MAYOR DALEY, WAS THAT AN EXCEPTION TO THIS?>>YES, IT WAS. OF COURSE, THAT TOOK PLACE OUTSIDE THE HALL FOR THE MOST PART, FOR THE MOST PART. THERE WERE A COUPLE INCIDENTS, JOHN CHANCELER OF NBC WAS UNDER A ROAST, AND DAN RATHER WAS KNOCKED TO THE FLOOR BY SOME OF THESE HOODLUMS. I REALLY DO THINK THAT DALEY HAD PLANNED, WHETHER IT WAS WITH THE CONNIVANCE OF PRESIDENT JOHNSON OR NOT, I DON’T KNOW, BUT JOHNSON HAD HIS PLANE STANDING BY IN TEXAS, READY TO GO TO THE CONVENTION, AND I THINK THAT DALEY HAD PLANNED A REPEAT OF THE FAMOUS WHEN THEY NOMINATED ROOSEVELT AT THE EARLIER CONVENTIONS. HE HAD PACKED THE STANDS. AND ALL OF THE PEOPLE IN THE STANDS HAD JOHNSON SIGNS TO HOLD UP.
AND I THINK THEY WERE GOING TO TRY TO DRAFT JOHNSON FOR ANOTHER TERM. IT NEVER TOOK PLACE BECAUSE OF THE TURMOIL ON THE FLOOR. THEY GAVE UP THE EFFORT.>>YOU MAKE REFERENCE IN YOUR BOOK TO THE DEATH OF YOUR COLLEAGUE, DAN HALLENBECK. YOU SAID YOU ADMIRED HIM VERY MUCH. I’M SURE NOBODY IN 2001 NOW WOULD REMEMBER, BUT HE WAS AN EXTRAORDINARILY GOOD REPORTER WHO WAS HANDED AT THE TIME BY THE HURST PAPERS AND NOTABLY THE VERY CONSERVATIVE RIGHT WING TELEVISION CRITIC JACK O’BRIEN AT THE TIME, AND THEY KEPT SAYING THE MOST DEFAMATORY AND HATEFUL THINGS ABOUT HALLENBECK, AND IT WAS A TERRIBLE TIME, AND FINALLY, HE COMMITTED SUICIDE BECAUSE HE JUST COULDN’T DEAL WITH IT ANY LONGER. AND IT WAS SO UGLY, MOST PAPERS AT THE TIME WERE IN FAVOR OF BLACKLISTING ALL THOSE ORGANIZATIONS AND I WANT TO ASK YOU, I NEVER QUITE UNDERSTOOD WHY STANTON AND SOME OF THE OTHERS AT THE TIME DIDN’T SAY BLACKLISTING, UNETHICAL, UN-AMERICAN BUSINESS AND WE’RE NOT GOING TO HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH IT. WHY WERE THEY COWERED BY A GROCER SYRACUSE, WHO RAN A FEW SUPERMARKETS. CHARLIE WAS A MEMBER OF THE UNION AND HE WAS GOOD, AND HE TRIED TO FIGHT IT, AND ED MURO WAS AMONG THOSE WHO GAVE MONEY TO FORK, BUT WHAT IS YOUR RECOLLECTION THESE MANY YEARS LATER OF WHY CBS DIDN’T TAKE MORE OF AN AGGRESSIVE STANCE TO FIGHT BLACKLISTING?>>I THINK IT WAS DOLLARS AND CENTS. PURELY COMMERCIAL. THE PRESSURE WAS ON FROM THE ADVERTISERS WHO BELIEVED THAT — WHO BELIEVED THAT THIS PRO-AMERICAN ANTI-COMMUNIST FRONT REPRESENTED THE MAJORITY OF THE AMERICAN PEOPLE. AND THEY WERE BY THE ORGANIZERS OF THAT FRONT THEMSELVES, AND AS A RESULT, THE MANAGEMENT OF THE NETWORKS DIDN’T HAVE THE COURAGE TO FACE THE COMMERCIAL PRESSURE. THAT’S A VERY SAD CHAPTER IN AND I KNOW STANTON REGRETTED VERY MUCH, VERY MUCH LATER ON. I THINK THAT STANTON CERTAINLY FELT AND FEELS THAT IT WAS ONE OF THE LOW POINTS OF HIS CAREER, HAVING PUT UP WITH THAT AS LONG AS THEY DID. BUT YOU MENTIONED, HE WAS THE MOST COURAGEOUS AT ALL AT STANDING UP AND GETTING HIMSELF ELECTED, STANDING UP FOR THE FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND PRESS. AND THE ANTI-BLACKLISTING AND ACCEPTED THE LEADERSHIP OF THE UNION. IT WAS VERY COURAGEOUS. AND MANY OF THE NEWS PEOPLE, AS YOU DID, SUPPORTED THEIR EFFORT. WHICH TOOK COURAGE THEMSELVES. IT’S OFTEN EASY FOR THESE PEOPLE –>>OTHER PEOPLE WHO WERE UNEMPLOYED FOR A LONG TIME. SOME OF WHOM COMMITTED SUICIDE, AND OTHERS WERE DRIVEN OUT OF THE INDUSTRY ALL TOGETHER, BUT THE ECONOMICS OF IT, THERE WAS A BRIEF PERIOD FOR 48 HOURS WHEN LUCILLE BALL WAS BLACKLISTED, AND STANTON OR SOMEBODY SAID, HEY, WAIT A MINUTE, WE HAVE BIG STAKES INVOLVED HERE. WITHIN A COUPLE DAYS OR ONECALL, CLEARED UP AND I LOVE LUCY WAS CONTINUED. IT WAS ECONOMICED THAT DROVE THAT, FOR THEM TO SAY, HEY, THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE AND WE HAVE TO GET HER OFF THIS LIST.>>ABSOLUTELY.>>YOU ALSO NOTE IN THE COMPLEXITIES OF THE EMERGING TELEVISION JOURNALISM ABOUT THE EXTRAORDINARY DIFFICULTY IN LOGISTICS OF REPORTING ON AND BROADCASTING THE CORONATION OF QUEEN ELIZABETH IN 1953 FROM LONDON. DO YOU WANT TO SHARE RECOLLECTIONS OF THAT TIME AND WHAT YOU AND DON HEWITT AND OTHER PEOPLE HAD TO DO TO GET A SCOOP HOME?>>WELL, OF COURSE, THE DIRECTIVE OF EACH OF THE NETWORKS WAS TO BE FIRST WITH THE CCORONATION, THE MOST COMPLETE. THERE WAS GREAT INTEREST IN THIS COUNTRY IN IT, OF COURSE. THIS YOUNG QUEEN TAKING OVER. AND ALTHOUGH THERE WERE NO SATELLITE COMMUNICATION AT THAM TIME, NOT EVEN TELEPHONE COMMUNICATION OF BROADCAST QUALITY. SO WE DEVISED TWO SYSTEMS AT CBS.
ONE WAS THE ONE DON HEWITT PUT TOGETHER WITH ED MURROW. THAT WAS A CHARTERED AIRCRAFT TO FLY FILM BACK, AND THEY WOULD EDIT THE FILM ON THE WAY AND HAVE A COHESIVE PRESENTATION, TWO-HOUR PRESENTATION WHEN THEY ARRIVED FROM BEGINNING TO THE END OF THE DAY OF CORONATION DAY.
I WAS INVOLVED IN THE SECOND TEAM, AND THAT TEAM WAS GOING TO FLY BACK BY MOSQUITO BOMBER UNDER THE CANADIAN AIR FORCE, ROYAL CANADIAN AIR FORCE, AND WE WOULD PARTICIPATE IN THOSE FLIGHTS. THEY WOULD NOT DROP OUR FILM IN THE UNITED STATES, HOWEVER, BUT WE WOULD PICK IT UP IN HALIFAX ON A P-51 FIGHTER PLANE IN HALIFAX THAT WOULD FLY DOWN TO NEW YORK. WE WERE GOING TO PUT THAT FILM TOGETHER FOR A VERY INTRICATE KIND OF SYSTEM. AT THE AIRPORT IN LONDON. WITH THEM STANDING BY OUTSIDE, WE HAD THEM DEVELOPING FILM EQUIPMENT. WE COULD RUN THE FILM RIGHT THROUGH AND DEVELOP IT AT THE SAME TIME AND ALMOST INSTANTANEOUSLY. WE WERE TAKING THE BBC COVERAGE, PUTTING IT THROUGH A PRINT SYSTEM, AND I HAD A MICROPHONE, AND I KNEW WHAT WAS THE BRITISH WAS GOING TO SAY, IT WAS ALL SCRIPTED, PRACTICALLY, AND WE WOULD CUT IN AND OUT AT INTERESTING MOMENTS. THUS COMPRESSING THE COVERAGE. AND I WOULD COME IN WITH THE COMMENTARY AS IT WARRANTED. ABLIB FOR THE MOST PART, BUT SOME KNOWLEDGE OF WHAT WAS HAPPENING. WE COULD HEAR BBC AND HAD THEIR SCRIPT. WE DID THAT AND PLACED THE FIRST FIVE REELS IN THE FIRST MOSQUITO TO GO, AND NOW THIS STUFF IS IN CANS, FILM CANS. YOU KNOW A LOT ABOUT, OF COURSE, LABELED 1, 2, 3, 4, AND 5. AND TIMES ON THEM. WELL, THE MOSQUITO GOT TO HALIFAX IN FINE SHAPE. THE P-51 WITH ANOTHER FIGHTER PILOT WAS STANDING BY. THE PROBLEM WAS HE FOUND HE COULDN’T PUT THE BIG CANS IN THE COCKPIT, THE LITTLE TINILY P-51 COCKPIT, SO HE TOOK THE FILM OUT OF THE CANS, LITTLE REELS, AND PUT THEM AROUND HIM IN THE SEAT AND THREW THE CANS OUT THE SIDE. AT BOSTON, I FORGOT WHO WAS COVERING IT, BUT ANYWAY, THE CAMERAS SHOW THE PLANE LANDING.>>THERE HE IS. I THINK HE’S ON THE DECK NOW. JOE HAS MADE IT.>>AND THEY ARE ANNOUNCING FROM THE ROOF. THE PLANE IS LANDING NOW. IT’S ON THE RUNWAY. AND THE OTHERS HADN’T GOTTEN IN YET.
FIRST FORUM OF THE CORONATION.>>THERE’S HARDLY ANY ROOM IN THAT PLANE EXCEPT FOR GASOLINE AND JOE, AND THEY HAD TO TUCK THOSE FILMS AWAY, AS YOU SEE, THEY’RE TAKING THEM FROM ALL POINTS, ALL SIDES OF THE PILOT. HE MAY EVEN BE SITTING ON SOME, I’M NOT SURE.>>NOW THEY HAVE A PASSENGER TO RUN IT FROM THE CONTROL TOWER.>>HERE THEY GO. THIS IS A FOOT RACE TO GET THEM IN TO THE PROJECTOR. I DON’T KNOW. YOU GOT THE FIRST ONE THERE, OR DO YOU KNOW?>>BUT THEY COULD DO NOTHING BUT SLAP THE FIRST REEL OF FILM ON AND HOPE FOR THE BEST. AS LUCK WOULD HAVE IT, THE FILM THAT THEY SLAPPED ONTO THE TRANSMITTER DEVICE WAS THE FILM OF THE ACTUAL CORONATION ITSELF. SO INSTEAD OF ALL THAT STUFF IN THE MORNING OF THE QUEEN OUT ON THE BALCONY AND THE PARADE AND THE TROOPS, OF THE CARRIAGE RIDE. IT WAS THE CORONATION. WE BEAT EVERYBODY TO THE CORONATION. WE BEAT THE BBC WITH THE CORONATION.>>WALTER CRONKITE REPORTING FROM LONDON WHERE IN A FEW MOMENT NOW, QUEEN ELIZABETH II LEAVES BUCKINGHAM PALACE, THE BUILDING OVER WHICH THE ROYAL STANDARD FLIES, FOR THE MOST SIGNIFICANT RIDE OF HER LIFE, THE TWO MILES THROUGH WILDLY CHEERING CROWDS TO WESTMINSTER ABBEY IN A CEREMONY 1,000 YEARS OLD. SHE’S TO BE CROWNED BRITAIN’S SIXTH REIGNING QUEEN.>>I’M SEGUEING IN, I HOPE GRACEFULLY, WHEN YOU CAME BACK FROM VIETNAM AND MADE A REMARKABLE ESSAY ON YOUR EVENING NEWS SHOW, THE GIST OF WHICH WAS SAYING AMERICAN POLICY MAY BE A MISTAKE AND LYNDON JOHNSON THEN RESPONDED TO IT. TELL US ABOUT HOW ALL CAME UP AND YOUR MISGIVINGS ABOUT MAKING SUCH A PERSONAL STATEMENT, IF THERE WERE MISGIVINGS.>>THERE WERE MISGIVINGS. WHAT HAD HAPPENED WAS THAT THE TET OFFENSIVE, OF COURSE, AMAZED ALL OF US, SO WE HAD BEEN TOLD BY OUR MILITARY LEADERS IN VIETNAM THAT WE COULD SEE LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL. IT WAS A VIETNAM EQUIVALENT OF WORLD WAR I’S, BOYS WILL BE OUT OF THE TRENCHES BY CHRISTMAS TYPE OF THING. VIETNAM, WHILE IT WAS GOING ON, BUT NOW WITH THE AMAZING STRENGTH OF THE VIET CONG AND NORTH VIETNAMESE TO MOUNT THIS OFFENSIVE AND RECAPTURE WHAT WE THOUGHT WERE LIBERATED VILLAGES, HUNDREDS OF THEM THROUGH VIETNAM, WITH A GREAT LOSS OF LIFE ON OUR SIDE AS WELL, AND THIS SHOOK THE CONFIDENCE OF AMERICA. WE ALL FELT THAT WE KNEW THIS WAS HAPPENING. THIS WAS A REACTION OF AMERICANS. HOW COULD THIS BE? AND SINCE I SUPPOSE SOMEWHAT EGOTISTICALLY WE AT CBS THOUGHT WE HAD BEEN DOING A REALLY GOOD JOB OF GOING CENTER OF THE LINE IN REPORTER THE PERIOD THAT WAS PROBABLY MORE DIVISIVE IN THE UNITED STATES THAN ANY OTHER TIME EXCEPT THE CIVIL WAR ITSELF, AND HERE AND NOW, THE PEOPLE WERE PURELY CONFUSED. AND WE DECIDED THAT SINCE WE FELT WE HAD THIS REPUTATION, SINCE WE HAD BEEN SHOT AT EQUALLY BY BOTH SIDES, WE MUST BE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD. BUT I WOULD GO AND DO A STRAIGHT DOCUMENTARY ON WHAT WAS HAPPENING THERE AND IF I FELT STRONGLY ABOUT IT, I MIGHT DO AN EDITORIAL ON WHAT I FELT ABOUT IT. THIS HAD NOT BEEN DONE BEFORE. BY US.>>YOUR HOPE OR UNDERSTANDING WITH MANAGEMENT BEFORE YOU LEFT?>>NO, I DIDN’T KNOW I WOULD BE DOING ANYTHING. I DIDN’T KNOW I WOULD COME DOWN HARD ON EITHER SIDE. I CERTAINLY DIDN’T KNOW WHAT SIDE I WOULD COME DOWN ON AT ALL. I WENT OUT AND SAW WHAT WAS HAPPENING. I TALKED TO THE MILITARY LYDERS, WHAT THEY WERE SAYING, AND I WAS PARTICULARLY DUMBFOUNDED BY THE STATEMENT OF GIVE US 150,000 MORE MEN AND WE CAN FINISH THIS JOB.
HERE WE’RE BACK ON OUR HEELS, WE HAD BEEN GIVING THE MILITARY ALL THE PEOPLE THEY NEEDED AND ALL THE MONEY THEY NEEDED AND NOW 150,000.>>LIED TO FOR MANY MONTHS.>>MANY MONTHS. IT WAS DISASTER, OF COURSE. SO WHEN I CAME BACK, WE DID THE DOCUMENTARY, THEN I THOUGHT THE EDITORIAL ROILED UP IN ME, AND I TOOK IT AND –>>THE PRESIDENT OF CBS.>>THE PRESIDENT OF CBS, AND A STICKLER FOR FORM AND A STICKLER FOR COMMENTARY.>>A LAWYER BY TRAINING, NOT A JOURNALIST.>>BUT IT TURNED OUT TO BE ONE OF THE BEST — HE WAS INCREDIBLE. AND HE SAID IF THIS IS WHAT YOU FEEL, IF YOU LABEL IT WHAT YOU’RE DOING, GO AHEAD. MORE POWER TO YOU. AND WHAT I SAID WAS I THOUGHT WE SHOULD LOOK AT WHAT WE DID AS THE NATION DOING OUR BEST TO PRESERVE OUR GROUNDS FOR DEMOCRACY, WHICH HAD NOT BEEN REALIZED IN SOUTH VIETNAM, AND THAT WE HAD GIVEN MUCH OF MATERIAL BLOOD IN PURSUIT OF THIS EFFORT AND WE SHOULD NOW ASSUME PEACE AND GET OUT. I LABELED IT VERY CLEARLY. DID IT AFTER WE DID THE DOCUMENTARY. WENT TO COMMERCIALS FIRST. BEFORE AND AFTER THE COMMERCIALS, SAID THIS WAS A PERSON OPINION, MINE ALONE. AND I FELT THAT WE WERE GOING TO GET A MUCH STRONGER REACTION THAN WE DID IN THE SENSE THAT THERE WOULD BE A DEMAND FOR MY DISMISSAL AT CBS AND PROBABLY FROM ADVERTISERS AND OTHERS. THAT NEVER DEVELOPED. THE PUBLIC ACCEPTED THESE WORDS AND THE EDITORIAL IN THE NEWSPAPERS APPRECIATED THEM AS AN HONEST STATEMENT. IT WAS A REMARKABLE REACTION. AN ASSISTANT THEM AND JOHNSON WHO LATER BECAME EDITOR FOR CNN, LOS ANGELES TIMES, REPORTED THAT THE PRESIDENT WHO WATCHED OUR THREE PROGRAMS AND WATCHED OUR SPECIAL PARTICULARLY, AFTER HE HEARD MY EDITORIAL SAID, WELL, IF CRONKITE ADDRESSED AMERICA, MIDDLE AMERICA, HE SAID, AND INDEED WITHIN A COUPLE WEEKS, HE WAS ANNOUNCING HE WAS NOT GOING TO RUN AGAIN. I DON’T THINK — I DON’T THINK IT WAS BECAUSE OF MY BROADCAST. I THINK THAT WAS JUST ONE SMALL STRAW ON THE CAMEL’S BACK. HE HAD A LOT OF OTHER REASONS.>>IS THERE A PLACE IN TELEVISION FOR WHAT YOU MIGHT CALL AN OP-ED PAGE FOR TELEVISION?>>I THINK SO. THE TRADITIONAL NETWORKS DON’T DO IT ANYMORE. CHANCELLOR’S PASSING WAS THE LAST OF THE COMMENTATORS. WE HAD A DEFINITION AT CBS OR AT LEAST I HAD, I THINK IT FOR THE NETWORK THAT OTHER PEOPLE’S ROLE WAS AN AN ANALYST, NOT AS A COMMENTATOR. THERE ARE COMMENTATORS, EDITORIALESTS AND ANALYSTS. ANALYSTS TRY TO GET BOTH SIDES, BUT LOOKING BEHIND THE DAILY STORIES. WHY THINGS HAPPEN, HOW THINGS HAPPEN, WHY THEY HAPPEN. COMMENTATOR WAS ONE WHO ACTUALLY DID COMMENT, GAVE OPINION ON HOW IT HAPPENED. A LOT OF PEOPLE TRIED TO BE ANALYSTS AND NOT COMMENTATORS. THERE WAS THE DIFFERENCE THERE. I THINK THERE’S A PLACE, DEFINITELY A PLACE, LABELED AS SUCH BY PEOPLE WHO ARE QUALIFIED TO DO SO. LIPMAN WOULD HAVE BEEN PERFECT TODAY. SCOTTY RUSTEN WOULD HAVE BEEN WONDERFUL IN TELEVISION. UNFORTUNATELY, WE DON’T HAVE THAT ANYMORE. IT WOULD BE GOOD.>>THERE’S BEEN A CONGLOMERATION OF POWER AND CONTROL. IS THAT A PROBLEM AS FAR AS YOU’RE CONCERNED?>>WELL, I THINK YES. I THINK THAT THE MORE, THE BROADER THE OWNERSHIP OF TELEVISION STATIONS, WHICH IS EVEN MORE SERIOUS PROBLEM, AND NETWORKS, THEY’RE MORE DIVERSE, THE OWNERSHIP, THE EVEN MORE DIVERSE THE VIEWS OF OWNERS MAY BE TO HOW NEWS IS DISTRIBUTED. THAT’S QUITE IMPORTANT. THE MORE MONOPOLISTIC THAT IS, THE FEWER VIEWERS THE PUBLIC IS LIKELY TO BE EXPOSED TO, THE LESS BROAD THE COVERAGE IS LIKELY TO BE. THERE HAS BEEN A FEW RUNNING ALWAYS, A CURRENT KIND OF BACKGROUND OF TELEVISION NETWORK COVERAGE AND WHY DO WE ALL HAVE TO COVER THE SAME STORY AT THE SAME TIME? ONE OF THE HEADS AT NBC OTHERWISE, I THOUGHT, WAS QUITE A WELL CONSIDERED PRESIDENT OF THE ORGANIZATION, WHO DIDN’T UNDERSTAND AT ALL EVERY TIME HE WOULD SEE A PICTURE OF A NEWS CONFERENCE WITH ALL THOSE CAMERAS AND MICROPHONES. HE SAID WHY IS THAT NECESSARY? WE’RE ALL SPENDING THAT MONEY, WE’RE CROWDED THE THING. WHY NOT ONE MICROPHONE, ONE CAMERA. AND IT SHOULD BE POOLED, OF COURSE. AND I THOUGHT HOW DO WE KNOW THAT ONE CAMERA COULDN’T BE TURNED OFF AT ONE POINT OR ANOTHER BY THE ONE CAMERAMAN OR REPORTER OR WHATEVER. WE NEED TO BE THERE SO WE ALL CAN MAKE OUR OWN CUTS, OUR OWN VERSIONS OF WHAT WAS SAID AND WHAT WAS BROADCAST. NEWS HAS ALWAYS BEEN SOMETHING OF A TALE OF THE DAY. ALTHOUGH IN THE EARLY DAYS, THE PRINCIPAL OWNERS, THEY LEARNED THEIR RESPONSIBILITIES AT THE FEET OF CONGRESS AS CONGRESS DEVELOPED THE FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS ACT AND THEY WERE TOLD WHAT THEIR RESPONSIBILITIES WERE. THEY WENT INTO IT PURELY AS ENTREPRENEURS, BUT THEY WERE TAUGHT THEIR RESPONSIBILITY, AND THEY TOOK IT TO HEART. TOOK IT VERY MUCH TO HEART. THE NEWS DEPARTMENTS WERE MORE SHOWCASES OF INTEGRITY. SHOWCASES OF PRINCIPLE. SHOWCASES OF RESPONSIBILITY. AND THEY TURNED IT OVER TO NEWS PEOPLE TO RETURN. IN MY DAYS AT CBS, THERE WAS ONLY THE WHOLE TIME THAT I WAS MANAGER OF THE NEWS, THERE WAS ONLY ONE CASE WHEN THERE WAS EVER ANY INTERFERENCE WITH WHAT WE PUT ON AIR, WITH THE INSTRUCTION OF WHAT WE SHOULD PUT ON THE AIR OR WHAT WE SHOULD KEEP OFF THE AIR. THAT WAS KIND OF A FREAK CASE THAT REALLY DIDN’T COUNT, I DON’T THINK.>>WHAT WAS THAT CASE?>>WELL, THAT WAS A CASE WHERE THEY DECIDED TO SUM UP THE WATERGATE SCANDAL. IT HAD ALMOST DISAPPEARED FROM THE NEWSPAPERS. HADN’T BEEN ANY NEW REVELATIONS FOR WEEKS. WHAT WAS REPORTED WAS GETTING FURTHER BACK IN THE NEWSPAPERS. IT DISAPPEARED FROM MANY NEWSPAPERS. WE’RE COMING UP ON THE ELECTION, AND IT LOOKED LIKE THE PEOPLE WERE FORGETTING THE SCANDAL OF WATERGATE AS WE FOCUSED ON THE ELECTION. I THOUGHT IT NECESSARY THAT WE REVIEW WHAT WE HAD KNOWN ABOUT THE WATERGATE SCANDAL AND PUT OUT THAT IT STILL HUNG OUT THERE SOMEWHERE UNDECIDED.>>THIS IS THE ’72 ELECTION.>>YES. RIGHT, AND SO WE DID A VERY LONG PIECE, THE LONGEST PIECE WE HAD EVER DONE. AS THE FIRST OF A TWO-PART PIECE. SUMMING UP ALL THE EVIDENCE OF WATERGATE, AND THAT WAS ON A FRIDAY. WE SAID WE WOULD BE BACK ON MONDAY WITH THE SECOND HALF OF THAT PIECE. WELL, BETWEEN FRIDAY AND MONDAY, THE WHITE HOUSE WAS EXCEEDINGLY BUSY GETTING ON TO STANTON.>>NIXON WHITE HOUSE?>>NIXON WHITE HOUSE INDEED, AND THEY MADE ALL SORTS OF THREATS, AND THEY RELAID THEM TO THE PRESIDENT OF CBS NEWS, AND SO THEY FOUND A WONDERFUL WAY TO COMPROMISE IN A SENSE. HE SAID, WELL, HE AGREED WITH HIM THAT TOO MUCH TIME HAD BEEN GIVEN TO IT ON FRIDAY. THE PIECE DIDN’T WARRANT SPENDING MORE TIME THAN WE HAD SPENT ON A SINGLE STORY BEFORE, AND HE WAS GOING TO SEE THAT THE SECOND PIECE WAS DRUMMED DOWN PROPORTIONATELY TO MAKE IT FAIRER AND SO FORTH. AND HE ACCEPTED THAT. AS A MATTER OF FACT, THE SECOND PIECE WAS LONGER THAN THE FIRST PIECE BEFORE HE MENTIONED IT, BUT IT WASN’T DIFFICULT TO CUT AT ALL. WE DIDN’T LOSE A DARN THING OUT OF IT, BUT IT KEPT ME FROM SAYING SINCE THEN AS I WOULD HAVE SAID TO YOU A MOMENT AGO, I WAS NEVER TOLD TO TAKE ANYTHING IN OR OUT OF A PIECE.>>IN TODAY’S CLIMATE IN THE FALL OF 2001, WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU HAVE FOR MICHAEL POWELL, FOR SECRETARY OF STATE COLIN POWELL, WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE HIM TO DO, MICHAEL POWELL?>>I WOULD LIKE HIM TO STOP THE MONOPOLIZATION OF TELEVISION OWNERSHIP IN THE COUNTRY, TO REVERSE COURSE. HE IS IN FAVOR, APPARENTLY, OF LETTING OWNERS BUY MORE THAN ONE STATION IN A COMMUNITY.>>YES.>>BUY NEWSPAPERS AS WELL AS TELEVISION STATIONS IN A COMMUNITY. THE MONOPOLIZATION OF COMMUNITY TELEVISION AND NEWS, THE DISSEMINATION, THAT’S DANGEROUS TO OUR DEMOCRACY.>>IF YOU HAD A MAGIC WAND THAT GAVE YOU A MYSTICAL AND FANTASTICAL POWER TO DO ANYTHING YOU WANTED, HOW WOULD YOU CHANGE THE STRUCTURE AND FACE OF AMERICAN TELEVISION WITH PARTICULAR REGARD TO TELEVISION JOURNALISM? WHAT WOULD YOU DO?>>I WOULD TURN IT OVER TO THE NEWS PEOPLE. I WOULD TRY TO ASSURE THAT THE NEWS PEOPLE DID INDEED HAVE A BUDGET NECESSARY TO DO WHAT THEY BELIEVE WAS NECESSARY. I THINK THAT THE NEWS IN EACH OF THE TRADITIONAL NETWORKS IS QUITE DIFFICULT, DOING AN EXCELLENT JOB, BUT THEY CAN’T DO IT WITHOUT THE FUNDS. THAT’S WHY WE HAVE NOT HAD ADEQUATE COVERAGE OF WORLD NEWS, FOREIGN NEWS, ON OUR NETWORKS FOR THE LAST SEVERAL YEARS. WITH THE CABLE NEWS CHANNELS, THE VIEWERSHIP ON THE TRADITIONAL NETWORKS HAS BEEN REDUCED CONSIDERABLY. IN MY DAY, WE HAD 98% OF THE VIEWERS WATCHING THE THREE NETWORKS. TODAY, LESS THAN 50% OF THE VIEWERS ARE WATCHING THE TRADITIONAL NETWORKS. WELL, THAT DEEP CUT IN THE VIEWING AUDIENCE, THE OWNERSHIP HAS DEMANDED AN ATTEMPT TO GET BACK SOME OF THAT, OF COURSE, AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE, BUT AT THE SAME TIME, THE BUDGET HAS BEEN CUT. SO AS LITTLE AS WE DO ABOUT THE ARAB WORLD AND THE WORLD OF ISLAM, BECAUSE WE HAVEN’T COVERED ANY OF IT FOR YEARS.>>YOU HAVE BEEN IN RECENT YEARS, YOU HAVE BEEN A PASSIONATE SAILOR ON YOUR GLORIOUS BOAT, AND I WISH YOU A LONG AND BEAUTIFUL VOYAGE, AND THANK YOU EVER SO MUCH FOR COMING.>>THANK YOU, STEVEN.

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