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CyberAlert -- 10/29/1997 -- Gumbel Goes Tab; Ted's Sorry He Had 5 Kids; Nets vs. Letterman

Gumbel Goes Tab; Ted's Sorry He Had 5 Kids; Nets vs. Letterman

  1. Bryant Gumbel promised that his show would avoid tabloid topics. But when low ratings hit what did he do?
  2. Ted Turner wants the U.S. to adopt China's one-child rule. "Voluntary, of course." He had five kids, but back then he "didn't know" the harm they'd cause the environment.
  3. CNN's questions to Hillary Clinton. Have the fundraising hearings "gotten in the way" of initiatives like child care?
  4. Letterman's "Top Ten Ways Hillary Clinton Celebrated Her 50th Birthday." It's tougher on her than the network news divisions.

1) Gumbel won't resort to tabloid topics? In Monday's USA Today (October 27) Peter Johnson reported: "Bryant Gumbel's fledgling CBS newsmagazine Public Eye took another rating hit in its fourth outing Wednesday, placing last in its time slot behind NBC's World Series, ABC's Drew Carey and Fox's Party of Five."

Back on September 25 USA Today carried a story by Johnson on Gumbel's then-upcoming show. Johnson discovered:

"Since joining CBS News this spring, for a reported $5 million-plus a year, Gumbel has been spreading his gospel: Eye won't become a 'bottom-feeder' -- a newsmag that chases the latest scandal or tabloid story for ratings."

Johnson continued: "What if CBS execs -- eager to rebuild their network -- put the arm on you to go for sensational stories that'll draw big numbers? Won't happen, Gumbel insists. CBS 'knew what they were getting. Before I came over I made a point of telling them things I didn't want to do, and I was assured, 'No, that's not what we want to do'....

"Gumbel's boss, CBS News President Andrew Heyward, backs him up 'We can't go the tabloid route for a couple of reasons: 1) It doesn't square with CBS tradition and 2) too many other people do it. We could never be as tabloid as the tabloid people are.'"

Really? Let's see what topics Public Eye went with last week. Here's the rundown of stories for the October 22 show, as noted by MRC news analyst Steve Kaminski:

The nanny murder trial in Massachusetts. A re-cap of the events and trial so far.

Police officers who commit domestic violence.

A woman who disappeared from a small town in Wyoming. Body never found, but did her husband murder her?

The misreading of mammograms.

Profile of and interview with singer Celine Dion.

All very high brow.


2) Ted Turner wants to be on the side of the angels, but last week he urged Americans to adopt China's forced abortion policy. Monday night on Dateline NBC, in a comment caught by the MRC's Tim Graham, Turner told Tom Brokaw:

"I want to be one of the good people. I'd like to be, if I'm going to be remembered I don't want to be remembered like a Adolf Hitler or just some bad person, I want to be on the side of the angels."

Let's compare that wish to some remarks he made last week to the American Magazine Association convention in Scottsdale as reported by Abraham Kwok in the October 25 Arizona Republic. (I came across this by accident while looking at azcentral.com).

Zwok summarized the remarks of the Vice Chairman of Time-Warner:

"American media need to take a more active role in saving the planet. Reporters, editors and executives must lead the charge on protecting the environment and rally different cultures together to improve the lot of the have-nots. Turner said.
"In a 30-minute talk titled 'My Vision for the Future,' Turner evoked Hitler, China's one-baby-per-family policy, billionaire 'nerds,' the United Nations, King Arthur, the Titanic, and compared people to chimps and weeds -- all tied to a theme he once stamped on bumper stickers: 'Save the Humans.'
"'We have a hard time looking 100 years ahead, or even 50 years ahead,' said the man who launched CNN, which in turn help launch Turner as a visionary and garnered him such honors as the title of Time magazine's Man of the Year in 1991.
"'We're a year-to-year species, like squirrels, stocking up wheat and corn for the winter...All we are are advanced monkeys. 'We're good at responding to crises, like when the Titanic sank and it led to lifeboat drills across the world,' he said. 'But we're not good at problems that grow over time,' such as overpopulation.
"Population growth harms air quality and depletes the world's food supply, he said. Turner said the United States and other countries should convene a global conference and look hard at family planning, perhaps adopting China's policy of one child per family.
"'Voluntary, of course,' he said. 'I had five kids,' Turner added in one of the many asides Friday that typify his speeches, 'but I had them 30 years ago -- I didn't know.'"

Better idea: Instead of adopting China's one child per family policy, which is definitely not voluntary in China, let's adopt China's 'government must pre-approve everything broadcast' rule so CNN doesn't air any "non-constructive" news. Voluntary, of course.


3) CNN's post-child care conference questions to Hillary Rodham Clinton. The October 28 CyberAlert listed all the questions posed to the First Lady on the three morning shows.

Here are those delivered in an interview taped later in the day and shown on CNN's Prime News at 8pm ET on October 23. Like her broadcast network colleagues, instead of challenging Hillary Clinton's liberal assumptions, CNN reporter Eileen O'Connor prompted her. Late in the interview O'Connor did raise fundraising, but not to get at what really happened but to wonder if it's distracting and if the President might just stop all fundraising so the Republicans would too.

"You've said that 75 percent of the families in the United States are using some form of day care, yet it's taken government and the nation as a whole a long time to focus on this issue. Why do you think that is? Is it politics, emotion?"

"How do you think you can actually work to improve day care? What were the things you heard today at this conference?"

"Some of this is going to cost some money. Where do you think the money should come from?"

"The President laid out some recommendations -- a working group chaired by the Secretary of Treasury, Robert Rubin, to provide incentives perhaps for business and some other things. He hinted an initiative that he'll be coming out with in January, perhaps a legislative initiative?"

"In terms of some of these legislative initiatives, will you be personally also trying to help push those? And in the past, you had this experience with the health care reform debate. What did you learn from that experience? And how would you do things differently in pushing for these new initiatives?"

"This is your second term as First Lady and your husband's second term as President. How would you like to see his legacy written and your own?"

Hillary Clinton: "....But there's still a lot to be done. Yesterday on global warming the president spoke about what needed to happen, and today on child care. We addressed that important issue. So I'm more focused on what is left to be done, rather than looking backwards. I'm still pretty much focused on today and tomorrow."

O'Connor: "But in the recent months there have been these hearings on Capitol Hill on campaign fundraising activities. Do you think that the focus on that has taken away from this second term and has perhaps gotten in the way of some of the initiatives?"

"Do you think, though, now that the campaign finance reform legislation actually failed on the Hill, that perhaps it's time for the President to perhaps take a stand that would force the Republicans by leading in a unilateral ending of fundraising?"

"Next week you have a birthday...Does it bother you everyone knows you're going to be 50?"


4) From the October 27 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Ways Hillary Clinton Celebrated Her 50th Birthday." Copyright 1997 by Worldwide Pants, Inc.

10. Drank too much beer, passed out on bathroom floor at Fuddruckers.

9. A lively game of "Dodge-the-Subpoena."

8. Blew out candles, then hid them and denied they ever existed.

7. Enjoyed Mark Russell's hilarious new song: "Happy Whitewater to You."

6. Watched with mixture of horror and nausea as Janet Reno popped out of cake.

5. Wrote thank-you note to Queen Elizabeth for the $40 gift certificate to the Gap.

4. Hired clown to twist balloons into shapes of Asian campaign donors.

3. Held intimate gathering for close friends who aren't in prison yet.

2. Gave Gore $50 and demanded he show her "The Full Monty."

1. Jell-O shots with Madeline Albright

With five of those ten referring to a Hillary-related scandal I'd observe that the "Clintons as corrupt" theme is considered widely accepted enough for a popular culture show to feel comfortable that its audience will understand jokes about the subject. It's also clear Letterman's writers don't rely on the television network news where none of the matters they raised were even hinted at by any of the four network interviews with the First Lady.

-- Brent Baker