Monday, September 22, 2008

A Conversation with Ken Burns and Bob Schieffer

Fordham University’s Graduate School of Business Administration hosted a conversation with Ken Burns and Bob Schieffer. I have admiration and respect for both of these men. The questions started off very basic. We found out that both of them realized in 8th grade they wanted to do what they are doing.

The theme of truth in journalism or story telling and how do you keep perspective in this age of technology was a recurring theme. We live in an era of sound bites, which can get us into trouble. Both said they would rather hear a longer version of the answer and not have to live in a 2 minute YouTube world. Bob emphasized that there is so much going on with technology, but at the core of it all is still good reporting. He said you can’t be objective but you can be fair. He feels that the nightly news is one place where both sides of a story and the facts are presented. The nightly news elaborates on stories the viewers are probably already aware of.

The name Sarah Palin seems to invoke passion and this discussion definitely had its moment. Bob spoke of how he though the press had a responsibility to find out everything they can about Palin. She’s an unknown. The facts about her need to be presented. He pointed out that the press was being unreasonably chastised for chasing the story of her 17 year-old pregnant daughter. It was the bloggers who pressed the issue and it was only after the McCain campaign issued a press release, that the mainstream press covered it. This proves that with so much information out there, whether it be truth or fiction, people have to gather the facts and make educated decisions on their own. You can’t believe a commercial that a politician endorses or creates. Question it. I remember having a button in college that said Question Authority. Chasing another aspect of the Palin nomination, Ken said he thought it was irresponsible on the part of McCain to chose a running mate without vetting her properly and one with a seemingly lack of knowledge on most foreign and domestic affairs. As Bob pointed out, Sarah would be a 72 year-old heartbeat away from the most powerful position in the world.

Bob Schieffer will be moderating the final presidential debate. He said they have been trying for years to get the candidates to agree on a real debate forum and they have finally accepted. He will ask a question, each candidate will get 2 minutes to respond. After both have spoken, they will debate the issue between them. Bob will make sure they stay on point.

I will badly quote Walter Cronkite, but he said news should be reported without adjectives and adverbs. Watching the local news, it seems like it is one big commentary. Both Mr Burns and Mr Schieffer are at the top of their respective games. I think holding on to their truths and presenting both side of a story got them there.

As an aside Bob mentioned that he will be living a lifelong dream which will take place in Nashville two days before the Tom Brokaw moderated debate there. He and his band, Honky Tonk Confidential, have been invited to play the Grand Ole Opry on October 5th with Trisha Yearwood and Kenny Chesney.

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