Add this episode to Facebook Add this episode to Twitter Add this episode to Reddit Email This Episode

Charlie Rose

Charlie Rose on Charlie Rose, Part II

VTR Date: May 4, 1993

Guest: Rose, Charlie

READ FULL TRANSCRIPT

THE OPEN MIND
Host: Richard D. Heffner
Guest: Charlie Rose
Title: “Charlie Rose on Charlie Rose”, Part II
VTR: 5/4/93

I’m Richard Heffner, your host on THE OPEN MIND. And my guest again this week is Charlie Rose, whose late night interview and conversation program on public broadcasting stations around the country has become such an incredible hit.

Now, I suppose we ought to pick up some of the threads we unraveled last time. But first, and we will, but first, I want to get Charlie Rose’s replies to some of the questions Walter Goodman raised at the very end of his quite favorable New York Times critique when the “Charlie Rose Show” first went network early in 1993. Questions: “Can Mr. Rose really find every guest that admirable and that fascinating? Isn’t it wearing to come on so enthusiastically night after night? Doesn’t the relentless puffery strain the spirit or dampen the brain? Doesn’t anyone who accepts his invitation ever bore or annoy him?”

Well, take your pick, Charlie.

Rose: Well, I mean, where do I start? You start with this premise, on the day that that review appeared, was the same day that I saw about a sports star who had cancer. It was on the same story, New York Times, and I say there were things I didn’t like about that review because I thought he misunderstood the program, but I looked over here and it just…it brought forth the context of what we were talking about. You know, I feel…I love the work I do, I love the program. It’s half as good as it ought to be. And therefore, Walter Goodman is a critic, he writes what he thinks. I can quarrel with what he thinks, and tell him where he is wrong, and could walk him through any particular show. And he and I could have a conversation about it. But in the end you’ve got a critic telling you what he thinks, and, and I respect that right. The thing that I thought was…what Walter missed the point, and it’s interesting about an 11 o’clock show. You’ve got to look at a program like I do over the continuum. I mean, it is on an…you have seen the line-up of the kinds of people that we have day in and day out, you know, the range of really men and women who are making a significant contribution. He raised the question, and I think this is important to understand the nature of what I do. What I’ve been doing is engaging people. I view it not as a, not as an interrogatory, not as much of a conversation…it’s an engagement. It is…and I’m trying to stimulate, trying to get whoever is across the table from me to be as good as they can be. I want to find the cutting edge of who they are, and what they thing, and how…I want, I want to see them reveal themselves, justify themselves, explain themselves, I want to see a range of emotions, you know. To do that, I have to, to view that task as if this engagement…with as much enthusiasm as I have. The puffery is simply not true. I can’t introduce Richard Heffner without talking about a distinguished career at CBS, working with Ed Murrow, knowing CBS…

Heffner: Okay…

Rose: Let me finish.

Heffner: …enough already.

Rose: …knowing CBS when it was the Tiffany network, you know, and talking about Channel 13 and the work you did. If I’m introducing Barbara Walters, as I did, it wasn’t puffery, it was simply recitation of someone who has made all of us envious, regardless of who it is, because of…she has landed some of the best interviews. That’s not puffery, that’s an explanation of somebody. Barbara Walters will say…he…Goodman said she looked embarrassed. Barbara Walters, quite contrary to that, called me to say, “I wasn’t embarrassed, what in fact I was, I thought it was one of the better interviews I’d done because you made me talk about the feelings that I had about news, and, and my relative position, and how I was viewed”. You know, she went on the say that it was “one of the better interviews that I have done”. Now, I don’t think she just said that to me because she said it in response to what Walter…Walter saw it a different way. I think that he saw it one tome coming through and was not…was asleep, or wasn’t watching with great attentiveness on that particular interview. Let me continue. At one point Barbara Walters said to me how silly it was to ask her why was she happy now? I asked that question in resp0onse to her previous statement which was “I made decision and, and because I’m happier than I’ve ever been”. I then said, “Why are you happy?” taken in…as a follow-up question, I’m doing what all good interviewers should do, which is listen. But if you take it in a vacuum, as he obviously took it, not realizing what she just said, it looks like maybe some simple question, “Why are you happy now?” My point was, back to my 4C’s, you know that’s the competence thing…that’s really looking at that interview, he criticized me…and “puffery” ws his primary thing, and the fact that I had so much enthusiasm. I do. This is a great job. I look to Barbara Walters not to praise her, not to flatter her, but to understand who she is. I asked about the toll that this had taken on her, and it clearly has. She is a woman now who’s had a lot of extraordinary opportunities, but it that has taken a certain toll on her personal life, and she talked about it, you know. So, I think show stands on its own. Now there’s the other interesting thing about Walter in that case. And this, again, goes back to the question of competence and cynicism that we reflected about journalism today. He, he reviewed the first week I had had in California, and he talked about an interview with Kathleen Brown, and the police Chief Williams, Willy Williams and Jerry Seinfeld, the comedian…and he did not mention an interview I did out there, because he talked about his was a Holly wood show, with Frank Gary, one of the most distinguished architects in the country, in an interview that I was very proud of, you know. But, critics are there to tell you what they think, and, and you cannot be frustrated because they don’t write it the way you see it. And all of us are frustrated that they don’t. But you can

Heffner: Charlie, take it from an older man…

Rose: (Laughter)

Heffner: …and don’t take it wrong…don’t let these things get under your skin. I’ve said that before…

Rose: Right.

Heffner: …I understand what you’re saying. Walter Goodman’s a good friend, and I think he’s a damned good critic, but as a critic, you’re quite correct if you think that critics believe they have to criticize negatively.

Rose: Right.

Heffner: The art of being…of critiquing a book, an article, a television program, a film, play…that’s somewhat lost in the notion…

Rose: Sure.

Heffner: …in your 4Cs…

Rose: Here’s an interesting…

Heffner: …cynicism…

Rose: …let me tell you an interesting story. Johnny Apple is the Washington Bureau Chief…not at my behest, told me later…

Heffner: …of The New York Times…

Rose: …of The New York Times, Washington Bureau Chief of The New York Times, and a great political reporter, as good as there is today, along with David Broder, and E. J. Diehl, and, and a number of others…said to me that he was…who appears on my broadcast, told me after the fact, a month later, that he’d called up Walter Goodman and said, “You know, this was really stupid, you know, it was just…it was not the program, you missed it, because it’s the most substantive program on television”. To which Walter’s response to Johnny Apple was, “Well, you would say that won’t you because…you know, he pays you to be on the program”. Not true. I don’t pay Johnny Apple to be on the program. And not to trust the integrity of a column…of, of one of The New York Times’ most distinguished, most distinguished political reporters is silly.

Heffner: Well, I still think it gets under your skin.

Rose: Right.

Heffner: Don’t let it. I also think that we ought to get back to this question about journalists and historians. I, I have the feeling you let journalists off the hook. Now, I’m…too easily…now I’m not talking about the people who do critiques, or who do personal stories, interviews. I’m surprised that you’re willing to say…to use the old business as most of the journalists who’ve sat at this table have…

Rose: Right.

Heffner: …over 37 years…well, we’re just…we’re on deadline, and we’re introducing what happened yesterday, and it’s the obligation of the historian to approach explaining the past with time and concern and a fair balance. Where do we learn what we know about the world today? Not from history books. But from that immediate historical perspective provided by…

Rose: Well, it’s not just that…

Heffner: …Apple and others.

Rose: …clearly that’s the first draft of history…in journalism write the first draft of history…

Heffner: What other history do we know?

Rose: …and, and…well, we know that the first…that the second draft and the third draft and the fourth draft, the fifth draft. How many books have there been about FDR?

Heffner: Now wait a minute, wait a minute, Charlie…who reads them?

Rose: How many books have there been about FDR? Well, granted…I mean, granted they’re not…and how many television programs have there now, I mean about FDR, and about the Kennedys. I mean “The American Experience” just had one about, about the Kennedys and their impact. You know, you…it takes time to get a full take on Administration. I grant you that the interpretation…I man I argue, I will suggest to you, that the interpretation of the Reagan Administration will be that, that the first draft was written by the reporters who covered the Reagan Administration. Maybe the second draft was written by a book…by Lou Cannon, a very good reporter for The Washington Post, who covered the Reagan Administration and who spent a lot of time tying to find out, as best he could, what went on. The third draft may be written by Mr. Morris, the great biographer, Pulitzer Prize winning biographer of Theodore Roosevelt. I think his name is Ed…Edmund Morris, Edward Morris…he’s probably writing the third draft. The fourth draft will be written by someone…15 years from now who will have more access and will give us a more accurate picture. We know a lot more about Franklin Roosevelt today than we knew in 1943, given credit…right?

Heffner: Credit is…credit…

Rose: But, you’re suggesting…

Heffner: …where credit is due.

Rose: …people don’t read the books.

Heffner: Right.

Rose: They don’t read the books. My suggestion of course not everyone reads the books, but it’s part of the record. I mean a lot of people forget what they read in The New York Times last week. Our central difference seems to be, I think journalism today is better than it’s ever been. I think the coverage of national affairs, and international affairs, is better than it’s ever been. That doesn’t mean that some brilliant and some distinguished journalist who were writing for the Herald Tribune and The New York Times and a lot of other publications 20 years ago would not have been doing brilliant work today. But if you look at it as a totality, The New York Times is a better paper. It covers more subjects, it covers them with more, with more range and in more depth than it ever has. I think the quality of reporting is better. I think the quality…it doesn’t mean, again, that there are not some brilliant reporters, and it doesn’t mean that everybody today measures up against everybody 20 years ago. But I…it’s a little bit like television. And people constantly saying “Give me the good old days”. I don’t know that the “good old days” were that good. I know that Edward R. Murrow…I, I wish, you know, that I could be more like him because he was brilliant and he had a command and a presence and a dignity and an integrity and he had, most of all, courage, and that he was willing to use all of that to bring to bear, to impact of issues that he cared about, and you and I know that also there was a team of people that were doing that. And I wish…and…but I suggest to you that there are a lot of programs on the air today that are doing extraordinary investigative work, a cross section of programs. There are a lot of programs we don’t like. There are a lot of programs that are silly. There are a lot of programs that are tabloid-y, and, but we’re not talking about that. We’re talking about the quality of, of work today I think as a sum is much to be admired.

Heffner: Don’t you think…

Rose: …newspapers and television.

Heffner: …don’t you think what we really have to talk about is the generality of the information that is presented to the American people? Don’t we really have to talk about the level of understanding in this country today, and deal with the sources of that understanding? You want to talk about the books. You want to talk about the historians who get around to that, but how do we know what it means to be a human being today? How do we know what is going on in the world?

Rose: Well, okay, but let me come back to one other thing…

Heffner: (Laughter)

Rose: …I mean I really do believe…

Heffner: …you can’t…

Rose: …it’s a whole other issue as to who’s reading. To make the argument that the quality of newspaper reportage, and magazine reportage, is better than it’s ever been is not too. At the same time, suggest that all the people that are reading it, and that enough people are reading it, that enough people are absorbing it, that people today, in an information explosion, have time to absorb and make decisions with all that information coming in.

Heffner: Charlie, you’re certainly right about that. But what about those 4Cs of yours? What about competitiveness, and…

Rose: Commerce.

Heffner: …cynicism and commerce, what about…

Rose: And competence.

Heffner: What about all of those as they impact upon the presentation of something other than personal interviews in the press? Do you think that it’s only in the personal, not gossip, but the personal reporting, the personal interviews that those 4Cs come to be of some significance? You don’t think that the competition is just about the same in the presentation of news that is news and not personality?

Rose: No, I, I…no, I do give high marks. Higher marks to straight reporting than I do to profile reporting. I really do.

Heffner: High enough marks? Higher…

Rose: No.

Heffner: …of course.

Rose: Well, could it be improved? Yes. But, I mean, what’s the standard, how do we measure this? Is it…my argument is that we’re getting very good reportage today on international and, and domestic political issues…on science, and a lot of other whole areas of human endeavor. And it’s better than it’s ever been. I’m arguing that, that because of those 4Cs, in some of the areas of personal journalism it falls below the standard for some of the reasons that I’ve suggested. I happen to know a little bit about that because I’ve been written…and, and have gotten more good press than I deserve. Clearly, I mean I have been the beneficiary…a lot of people say a lot of very complimentary things…and to those people, I’m deeply appreciative. (Laughter) But at the same time, I think it is a standard of, of…we, we all ought to be, you know, aware of, of who we are and what we’re doing.

Heffner: Okay. I’ve pushed that too far already. Let me go back to a very interesting point you made. I don’t think many people understand what you try to do, and what on a much more modest scale, I try to do here…much to the chagrin and consternation of a lot of people who write in…is try to draw the best from…

Rose: Right.

Heffner: …the person sitting opposite from me. That’s not what’s really wanted these days…sufficiently…what’s wanted is beat the guy over the head.

Rose: Right. No, I agree with that, that’s part of what I was saying. No, that’s clearly…

Heffner: And that’s part of the criticism that you’re…

Rose: Of course it its, you know, there’s not enough, there’s not enough credit given to…this is not about me because I can tell you a hundred ways I could be better at my job, and I know that. At least I have the benefit of knowing what, where I…we can take the broadcast that I do and how we can make it a better broadcast. I mean some people say I’m doing the best I can, and if you don‘t like it then, the hell with you. I don’t say that. I’m saying I can see 10 ways we can be better, and to make it more of a broadcast that matches my own vision for what I’m doing. And that makes it an exciting process, and that’s why it’s a…continues to be an enthusiastic turn-on for me. At the same time I am…you know, we know and I’ve thought about his, that the people that attract an audience, more celebrities you have, the more likely you are to attract an audience. And as soon as I say that, though, I understand the caveats. The caveats are if you look at some of the magazine programs, “Prime Time Live” has found now that their ratings have grown…ratings have grown when they’ve done hard-nosed, tough investigative reports about Day Care, about a lot of other things that the average person watching can identify with. You know, the, the dynamic is to find the right mix of personality stuff, of profiles, of celebrities, whether they come from the world of business or the world of film-making, and at the same time do hard-nosed investigative stuff. But I’m, I am amazed at how much attention is paid to sensational topics by magazine, you know.

Heffner: Why are you amazed?

Rose: Well, okay, amazed is a bad choice of words.

Heffner: Disappointed, concerned, perhaps.

Rose: Right. And, and I know that what I do, what I do day-in, day-out is not on the vanguard of attracting the largest possible audience. I, I understand that, you know. I do not choose to select subject matter that will necessarily attract the largest possible audience. If I did I would do a different program. If, if Saul Bellow or Tony Morrison, or Alice Walker, or Jesse…all extraordinary people that America ought to know more about, you know…

Heffner: And your politics…

Rose: …appear on my program. My politics?

Heffner: Yeah.

Rose: What about my politics?

Heffner: Well, I’m asking you…what about your politics, and to what extent must they play some role in what it is you do?

Rose: They’re…I, I don’t…I can’t imagine. I don’t know where they play. I mean I think that I am driven by curiosity more…I don’t have an agenda. I…the only agenda I have is to try to make sure of the diversity of what’s going on out there. You see I got some criticism, you know, when I…Rush Limbaugh was on my broadcast early one. And because I know he had a huge audience out there, and I wanted to k now what he was saying, and why was he saying it, and what was the connection. Now, since then he’s also appeared on “Night Line”, and, and two or three weeks ago, on “Meet the Press”. Now, I wanted to make sure that my public television broadcast reflected the diversity of America from the whole spectrum of people who were talking about who we were as a nation and where we were going…Limbaugh is one of those people. At the same time, you know, I‘ve had on “Night Watch”, but not on this program, at a different place in the political spectrum, Louis…talking about his whole range of issues from anti-Semitism to, you know, AIDS conspiracy, and a lot of other things. Because if we fail to take note of people from the Left or the Right who are connecting with an audience, we’re missing something and I think we do that at our peril.

Heffner: Alright, if we couldn’t define Charlie Rose’s politics by looking at his list of guests…

Rose: Right.

Heffner: …how do we define them?

Rose: Well, you can’t define my politics because my politics are not at issue. My politics are that, you know, I have a love affair…and I say this, as Pollyanna-ish as it may sound, with the country, and a strong feeling for the people. I mean I really do feel that. I mean I, I’m…Tony Morrison writing “Jazz”, wrote about the ordinary people during the Harlem Renaissance, and, and the time that jazz was taking place in Harlem because she wanted them to reflect the real life, you know. I don’t…I…my broadcast probably should reflect more of ordinary people, but my politics…my politics believes that…believes that government has to…I have a love affair with the country…with the politics of the country. I’m a political junkie. My politics have to do with looking and raising all kinds of questions about who we are and where we’re going, you know, and who is speaking to…what are the…what are the concerns of people. What are their…what, what is their psyche saying to them, and who’s touching it and who is offering interesting ways to go at that, you know.

Heffner: Are you telling me, and it would be fair enough, it’s really not my business, Dick Heffner, to ask Charlie Rose what his politics…

Rose: No, no, no, I don’t mind at all.

Heffner: You certainly couldn’t be saying you don’t have…

Rose: I’m saying it doesn’t drive my work…at all…

Heffner: Oh, no, that…okay…

Rose: …it doesn’t drive my work…no, my politics are essentially…I mean I believe strongly in, you know, if you ask me what do I personally believe in…

Heffner: That’s the question.

Rose: …it is…I, I have a very strong progressive sense…as a civil libertarian…you know, a very strong sense of individual liberties, as a…in terms of that…very strong sense of civil rights…very, very pronounced view about civil rights, and about racism in America, and about how we deal with those issues, and about gay rights, and the rights of a lot of other, a lot of minorities I feel strongly about. On the other hand, economically, in terms of economic prescriptions for the country, my own experience teaches me and tells me that I am the conservative. I didn’t necessarily believe that, for example, I thought Clinton never made the case, that President Clinton never made the case for the stimulus program and that, that the political mood of the country was that “Show us the cuts”…and the political experience of the country was “Show us the spending cuts before you talk about how you’re going to spend the money”.

Heffner: Are you saying…

Rose: I’m economically conservative and, and, and strongly progressive on questions of human rights, and individual liberties. Let me make one other point. It is that I, I think that my politics have very strongly oriented itself to an activist role in terms of, of government. That government can make a difference as a stimulus, as a stimulus, a catalyst. And I secondly, my politics suggest to me that there are a lot of experimentation going on, and David Osmond’s written a book called “Reinventing Government” which lays out a case where things are working, you know. For the most part they’re at states and localities and in cities around the country, rather than at the Federal Government.

Heffner: Charlie, let me, let me…we just have a few minutes left…let me ask you a question I asked Walter Goodman…our friend…at this table…

Rose: And, and by the way, I do consider Walter Goodman a friend, and…

Heffner: Fine.

Rose: …let me just make one last point about Walter, where I strongly disagree with, with what he said about my program…but Walter Goodman was very generous when I called him up and said, “Let’s talk about his. I don’t think you understand it the way I understand it”. And his response was, you know, “Let’s do that”.

Heffner: Alright.

Rose: And so he was very open and I, I gave him credit for that, and, and at some point he and I will sit down and have a conversation about the broadcast. We may not agree on anything…

Heffner: Alright, let me see whether you agree on the question of the Fairness Doctrine and whether you feel it would be wise for broadcasting once again to work under a Fairness Doctrine. Is that a fair question? The Reagan Administration did away, essentially, with the Fairness Doctrine, the House of Representatives managed to pass a bill, the Senate approved, and President Bush…I guess it was Reagan and then Bush, both Presidents refused to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine…

Rose: Yeah.

Heffner: …or maybe it was only Bush. Do you think that we, in broadcasting, would do better by way of what we do for this nation…

Rose: Yeah, before I…

Heffner: …if there were a Fairness Doctrine?

Rose: …answer the question, let me turn it…what do you think?

Heffner: What kind of, what kind of business is that, Charlie Rose?

Rose: (Laughter)

Heffner: Come on.

Rose: No, tell me what you think.

Heffner: Invite me to your program…

Rose: Alright, I will…I will do that…

Heffner: …and I’ll answer. But, but tell me.

Rose: This is…I was in favor of the Fairness Doctrine.

Heffner: You were.

Rose: Yes.

Heffner: Okay. And you’d like to see it re-instated.

Rose: Well, I don’t…I’m not going to…I don’t, I don’t have a lot of confidence in my having thought this through, a lot of confidence in saying that. But I was in favor…at the time, I was in favor of it because a lot of people that I know, that you and I both know, believed in it.

Heffner: You don’t feel that there is a chilling effect of the requirement that there be fairness and perhaps balance in presentation of news and other matters on the air.

Rose: A “chilling effect”?

Heffner: Fred Friendly always says that the Fairness Doctrine provided a “chilling effect”, it led broadcasters to say, “I don’t want to touch this”. News people to say, “I don’t want to deal with this…”…

Rose: Possibly.

Heffner: …subject because if I do, I may run afoul of the charge that I’m not fair.

Rose: Possibly, it could have that. I mean clearly…that always…I mean people when they’re faced with institutions or leaders, or managers when they’re faced with a situation in which they, they know that an action may run afoul, may be more reluctant, you know, reluctant to do it, because they don’t want to be distracted by that kind of battle.

Heffner: In the 30 seconds that I see we have left…do you think there is a political complexion to television journalism today?

Rose: Not that much in terms of hard news, no. In terms of most of the news programs…no…

Heffner: Or the documentaries?

Rose: …in some, and not in some. I mean it, it…you can’t make a blanket…well, I’ve seen some that I think do have an edge to them and they come at a particular problem from a particular point of view.

Heffner: Charlie Rose, it’s been such a pleasure talking to you, hearing your point of view…untrampled, untouched, undiluted…

Rose: Well, I learned something from you…

Heffner: …thank you for joining me today.

Rose: …it was great to be here.

Heffner: Thanks. And thanks, too, to you in the audience. I hope you’ll join us again next time. And if you care to share your thoughts about today’s program, please write to THE OPEN MIND, P.O. Box 7977, FDR Station, New York, NY 10150. For transcripts send $2.00 in check or money order. Meanwhile, as an old friend used to say, “Good night and good luck”.

Continuing production of this series has generously been made possible by grants from: The Rosalind P. Walter Foundation; The M. Weiner Foundation of New Jersey; The Thomas and Theresa Mullarkey Foundation; The New York Times Company Foundation; and, from the corporate community, Mutual of America.