He was one of CBS’s “Murrow’s Boys”, then a moderator of NBC’s Meet the Press, now a Fox News contributor. Not surprisingly, Marvin Kalb has a lot to say about television news.
TVNewser caught up with Kalb, 81, during a visit to Chicago’s Pritzker Military Library Thursday night, during a speaking tour for a book he co-authored with his daughter Deborah Kalb. Haunting Legacy: Vietnam and the American Presidency From Ford to Obama addresses how the shadow of the war continues to affect White House decision-making to this day.
TVNewser: In your talk tonight you said that “today’s reporters are better educated about the military than they’ve ever been”. Which current tvnewsers do you think do a good job of covering the Pentagon, the military?
Kalb: Jim Miklaszewski at NBC does a very fine job. At CBS, David Martin is a highly-experienced, skillful, knowledgeable reporter who’s about as solid in covering the Pentagon as anybody you can find. And there are many others as well, but those are two first-rate TV reporters.
TVNewser: I want to ask you about Andy Rooney, whom you know well and who’s in the hospital right now. Do you know anything about his condition?
Kalb: No I don’t…Andy is a remarkable example of a reporter who started in World War II, and right up to the present day, was able to observe the nuttiness of life. And reported with a touch of humor and class. And he will always be among my favorites.
TVNewser: Fox News CEO Roger Ailes recently talked about a “course correction” for the network. As an FNC contributor, what are your thoughts on that?
Kalb: I think that Roger Ailes is one of the most brilliant showmen, one of the most brilliant executives, in the TV business today. And if Roger senses that the Fox News people have been going too far in one direction, and he’s reigning them in, then that’s probably a very sensible thing to do…
My gut feeling is that Fox is really two Foxes: there’s the evening Fox of highly-opinionated people who are not really journalists but they’re opinion people. And then there’s during the day, when the journalists are at work.
TVNewser: In 2012, it will be 25 years since you were moderator of NBC’s Meet the Press. Recently, Bob Schieffer’s Face the Nation has made some real ratings inroads in the Sunday morning show horse race. What are your thoughts about that, in this post-Tim Russert era?
Kalb: No one could follow Tim Russert and beat Tim Russert, no matter how good you might be. So if there is a slippage at Meet the Press, it’s probably inevitable. Bob Schieffer is first-class, he’s a wonderful interviewer, a highly experienced journalist.
And for a long time, he’s been operating with the disability of doing a thirty-minute program, where Meet the Press is of course an hour. But Schieffer’s dignity and the capacity he has to ask very good questions in a most gentle way, has always been a great favorite with the American people. And if [Face the Nation] appears to be bouncing up now, so much the better for Bob.
But as far as Meet the Press slipping a bit, I put that into the category of what is almost inevitable.