Charles Gibson: Falwell Didn't Deserve Top Story Honors, FNC's GOP Debate Bored Me
Washington Post media reporter Howard Kurtz interviewed America's top anchorman for Thursday's paper, and the anchor of ABC's World News was determined: "Charlie Gibson was determined not to lead his newscast with the preacher's death." He explained:
"It lends importance to a figure whose legacy contained a lot of positives and a lot of negatives," says the ABC anchor, who was once a reporter in Falwell's home base of Lynchburg, Va. "It venerates the subject to an extent that I didn't think belonged there. He was a controversial figure."
Gibson's decision not to "venerate" Falwell is presented by Kurtz as a sign of how Gibson is in control at ABC:
There was no right answer -- NBC's Brian Williams and CBS's Katie Couric both led with multiple Falwell stories, while Gibson began with a possible deal on immigration legislation. But the decision underscored the extent to which Gibson is firmly in control at what recently emerged as the top-rated evening newscast.
Perhaps the oddest line is how White House correspondent Martha Raddatz is charmed by Gibson calling her "Toots" (which must be heavily laced with post-feminist irony):
"He's warm and fun," she says, "and how can you not love an anchorman who calls you 'Toots'?"
Kurtz also reported that Gibson's newscast chose not to well, "venerate" the latest Republican presidential debate on Fox News:
Gibson has limited coverage of the 2008 presidential race so far. Wednesday's "World News" was the only one of the network broadcasts not to carry a word on the previous night's debate of Republican presidential contenders in South Carolina. "These debates strike me as crazy," he says. "It gives Rudy Giuliani a chance to whip it up on [Congressman] Ron Paul, but who cares? I just think it's too early. I love politics, and I'm not engaged."
Kurtz did not report that Too Early Gibson did air analytical segments with ex-Clinton spin artist George Stephanopoulos after the Democrat debate (April 27) and the Republican debate that was NOT on Fox News (May 4).
UPDATE: Clay Waters notified me that New York Times reporter Jacques Steinberg confirmed Gibson's insistence that Falwell wasn't worthy to lead his newscast:
As an example he cited how he was adamant all day Tuesday that his broadcast not open with the obituary of the Rev. Jerry Falwell, who had died earlier in the day.
“You don’t normally lead with obituaries for someone with a legacy that is very positive in some ways, very negative in other ways,” he said. “It was a sense I had that it didn’t rise to the point of the lead.”
....“A year ago, when I first came in, I began to realize that the anchor’s inclinations, I guess, or feelings, were listened to and taken to heart a lot,” he said. “I kept thinking, ‘You better not express this unless you’re damn sure you’re right.’ Just be very careful picking not your spots, because they’re going to listen to you, by golly.”