Had the pleasure of sitting in on an impromptu lunch visit by Tom Brokaw to the J-School, who spoke off-the-cuff on a variety of topics and answered questions posed by students. I knew he was an articulate speaker, but was amazed at his insightfulness — reflective, provocative, even-handed. A few quotes from memory (wish I had taken notes):
On the persistent stonewalling of the press by the Bush Administration: “This is nothing new, and has always happened during Republican administrations. Republicans tend to run their ships like corporations, with an accompanying degree of secrecy. Democratic administrations tend to run themselves more like sophomore dorms.”
On video games that integrate the daily news into combat and other scenarios, letting users “play” the news: “I’ve always been a free-speech absolutist, but technology lets speech come crashing down into society in ways that it never has before…” (he went on to talk about the absence of quality editorial oversight in “information sources” such as video games).
On the slow-but-steady adoption of the internet by mainstream news organizations: “Given the tremendous possibilities for new ways to present information, traditional media have shown an astonishing lack of imagination…”
On the notion that news was of a higher overall caliber 30 years ago. “A great deal of it was totally one-dimensional, e.g. ‘There’s a be-in in Golden Gate Park today, here are all the freaks on public display.’ Much national news was presented through the prism of a bunch of middle-age white guys pulling levers from the East coast.”
On the popularity of commentators such as Bill O’Reilly: “On a big night, O’Reilly pulls three million viewers. I consistently pulled 10 million on a routine night.” (He took care not to sound like he was bragging, just putting the numbers in perspective).