Tuesday, January 19, 2010

CBS's Bob Schieffer -- No substitute for reporters

“There’s no substitute for a news reporter,” Bob Schieffer, CBS News Chief Washington Correspondent, told the New York Press Club during the first of its “Living Legends” speaker series.

Schieffer started his journalism career as a police reporter at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and became the first reporter from a Texas newspaper to correspond from Vietnam. He joined CBS News in 1969, has covered the White House, the Pentagon, the State Department and Capitol Hill, anchored the CBS Saturday and Sunday Night News and now moderates Face The Nation, which airs on Sunday mornings.

“Sunday morning is different than any other time on TV,” Schieffer said. “Face the Nation is one of the oldest programs on TV, has changed the least and still has big audiences.” Schieffer says he still warns the show’s guests, “If you’re not prepared to answer questions, don’t come on. And not answering a question is an answer.”

But Washington, D.C. has changed significantly, Schieffer said. “When I started at CBS most members of Congress didn’t even have press secretaries. Now, all politicians are very sophisticated in how they manage information which sometimes makes it harder to get the truth.”

The latest Presidential Debates were fun, Schieffer said. “Obama is so composed, which is one of the reasons he won.”Being successful in the news business can be as simple as being there.

“When the phone rings, answer it,” Schieffer said, recalling the moment on November 22nd, 1963 when he answered the phone and on the other end of the line was the mother of Lee Harvey Oswald, the accused assassin of President John F. Kennedy.

The conversation resulted in exclusive information on the assassination. “I’ll never forget that day,” Schieffer said. The news business has changed dramatically due to the internet. “I’m worried about where information is coming from,” Schieffer said, adding that the media is driven to get stories out so quickly that accuracy is suffering.

“Some websites don’t always follow journalistic standards. There’s stuff getting circulated that’s just not true and it’s hard to pull that back.”The hard reality, he said, is that because there are now so many outlets, it is difficult to draw the large numbers of viewers individual broadcasts once attracted. Consequently, how to find the revenue for news coverage to continue is a good question, Schieffer said.

Schieffer’s perspectives on more than 40 years in the news business are related in his latest book, "Bob Schieffer’s America." The book includes 171 of Schieffer’s commentaries on subjects such as “How Washington Works – and Doesn’t,” the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building and waiting for the Supreme Court to decide the outcome of the 2000 election.

For more information on Face the Nation go to www.cbsnews.com/sections/ftn/main3460.shtml

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Pam Snook Public Relations 917-544-1923 pamvsnook@gmail.com, http://www.pamsnook.blogspot.com/

WSJ's Alan Murray - Will newspapers survive?

The newspaper business may be stuck in a messy period for the next 10 years, said Alan Murray, deputy managing editor and executive editor of The Wall Street Journal. Murray oversees the Journal's web sites including WSJ.com and MarketWatch.com and the Journal's books, conferences and television operations.

"It's a curious time in the newspaper business. There was a time earlier this year when you could buy a share of McClatchy stock for less than you can buy a newspaper," Murray noted.

The newspaper business has changed dramatically from the "Leave it to Beaver" days of Ward Clever reading the paper in the morning before he went to work. "People have a million places to get information today," he said, adding that the number of print readers is significantly smaller than the number of online readers.

The Journal's web site, however, has more than 20 million visitors monthly triple the amount of three years ago.

"We have to get people used to paying for content," he said, adding that advertising alone is not going to be enough. The Journal does give some content away free, but has an audience that pays for access. "We give out for free much of the popular news, but put behind the pay wall, the stuff that we uniquely provide," Murray said, adding that the paper is looking at other ways to generate revenue such as premium services. "We will find a way to get through this, but not everybody will."

Despite the financial challenges, Murray said, "I've never had more fun in journalism than I'm having now. We're talking to readers in more ways than ever and we have a richness and depth, we never had before."

The paper is looking to grow its audience and is offering more features. Being a photographer for the paper used to be a joke, but the paper has become more graphically and technologically savvy and now offers web casts. "We're go way beyond what we've done in the past," Murray said.

Rupert Murdoch has a passion for the Wall Street Journal and will fund its growth, he said, adding that he sees no evidence of ideological influence on the news coverage. There have been changes such as less long form stories, he said, adding that the paper can no longer function like a magazine.

What Murray said worries him most about the news business is the trend for people to seek media that supports their biases. "People are in a news bubble and just consuming the media that agrees with them and reinforces their opinions," he commented to the Public Relations Society of New York.

Murray is also the author of three best-selling books: "Revolt in the Boardroom, The New Rules of Power in Corporate America," "The Wealth of Choices: How the New Economy Puts Power in Your Hands and Money in Your Pocket," and "Showdown at Gucci Gulch: Lawmakers, Lobbyists and the Unlikely Triumph of Tax Reform," co-authored with Jeffrey Birnbaum.

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Pam Snook, 917-544-1923, pamvsnook@gmail.com, www.pamsnook.blogspot.com

CNBC's David Faber on Wall Street Greed...

David Faber’s seen greed up close. A financial journalist for 23 years and a 16-year veteran of CNBC TV, Faber has interviewed the financial world’s famous and infamous and chronicles it in his book,“And Then the Roof Caved In: How Wall Street's Greed and Stupidity Brought Capitalism to Its Knees.”

What caused the crisis? Several factors, Faber said at a New York Press Club event, recalling that details of complex investments were never fully revealed by companies, which “sewed the seeds of demise.”Annual reports as late as 2006 failed to mention the details of collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) and mortgage backed securities. And he said he remembers talking to hedge fund managers and wondering if they had a full grasp of the true nature and risks pending before the avalanche in 2007.

Should media share the blame? “There’s a lot of criticism of the media now,” Faber said, “That we did not do enough, that we missed raising the red flag on the greatest credit bubble. Perhaps there was more we could have done to shed light, but the companies did not make it easy to understand what they were doing.”

Will Wall Street ever change? Good question, Faber said. We’re back from the brink of the financial crisis and things look like they are getting better, he said, but questioned whether the debacle will lead to lasting reforms. “I’m not optimistic that pay practices will change,” he said. “Lobbying arms are strong…memories are short…and it may take years to resolve. We need significant changes in regulation.”

Faber said what is different now is the way he looks at and covers news. When he started in financial journalism in 1987, he wrote on a typewriter and remembered feeling that the language of finance seemed to be designed to keep people out. At 23, he wrote for an Institutional Investor newsletter and felt that scoops were everything, especially if he could beat the Wall Street Journal. And when he started at CNBC he found it was harder to get people on TV.

He’s a better interviewer now, he said, learning from his mistakes like forgetting to ask Bernie Ebbers key questions during the WorldCom scandal. Today, Faber holds Emmy, Peabody, and DuPont awards, is the anchor and co-producer of CNBC's documentaries and a contributor to CNBC's Squawk on the Street. Faber also blogs at FaberReport.cnbc.com

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Pam Snook Public Relations, 917-544-1923, pamvsnook@gmail.com