May 24th, 2015
04:15 PM ET

Bob Schieffer to Brian Stelter on CNN's Reliable Sources: "...getting accurate information, Brian, is harder now than it's ever been... "

Today on CNN’s Reliable Sources, CBS anchor, Bob Schieffer, joined anchor Brian Stelter to discuss ending his legendary 45+ year journalistic career and how he’s made a practice of not discussing his competitors including George Stephanopolus and Brian Williams. Reliable Sources airs Sundays, 11 a.m. to noon (ET). A transcript and video from the show are available below.  Credit all usage to CNN’s “Reliable Sources”

TEXT HIGHLIGHTS:

On the Stephanopolus and whether he (Schieffer) made any political donations: “…I just never comment on my competitors and what they do.  I mean, that requires no comment from me.  People will make up their minds what they think about that… I - number one, I have never made a political donation to anybody.  I’ve always felt one of the great things about being a reporter is you can say, hey, I don't do that.  And the other part, I'll let people make up their minds.”

On the signing off of ‘Face the Nation’: “Well, I’m not quite sure it's really sunk in yet.  I wanted to leave while I thought I could still do the job.  I mean, I have seen too many people in Washington that have to be sort of led by the hand off the stage, as it were.  And I didn't want to be one of those guys.  I feel like I can still do it. CBS is doing very well these days.  "Face the Nation" is doing well.  And I thought this is just a good time to do it.  It had to come sometime.  So, I did.”

Schieffer on why the Internet has made getting accurate information more difficult: “...most of the information is wrong.  I mean, you know, we're just overwhelmed by news.  There's so much news that we can't get to the news.  And, you know, that's what our job is as mainstream journalists is try to cut through this great maw of information and tell them what we think is relevant, what they need to know.”

On the access to the administration: “People always ask me, ‘what's the most manipulative and the most secret administration you have covered?’  I always say the current one.  This one is always more restrictive than the guys who came before and they were - they had the screws turned down more tightly than the people who came before.  They all learned from the previous administration, and I guess it will be ever thus.”

On if he feels that the Brian Williams controversy may have made all journalists look bad: “You know, I don't know.  I don't think it did us any good, that's for sure. But Brian is a friend of mine.  I haven't talked to him in a long, long time, and I’ve kind of made a practice, Brian, of not commenting on my competitors, and I always had the feeling that it requires no comment from me.  Things like that, people come to their own conclusions about it, and I just kind of let it go at that.”

On what the public wants when they watch the news: “What people want when they turn on a news program of any kind is news.  They want to know what it is that they need to know about that's going to impact their lives.  And that's what we've tried to do, and I think that's what the success in recent years of "Face the Nation" has been.”

 

FULL INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT:

BRIAN STELTER, CNN ANCHOR:  Good morning.  It's time for RELIABLE SOURCES.  I’m Brian Stelter in Washington, with some special interviews this weekend.

And I’m starting with a question that matters enormously to ABC News.  Has George Stephanopoulos recovered from his self-inflicted wound?  That is, his donation to the Clinton Foundation. This week, he resumed his usual coverage of the Clintons on "Good Morning America."

Here he is interviewing ABC's Hillary campaign reporter on Wednesday. But tabloid newspapers and commentators continue to skewer him for the $75,000 he donated in 2012, 2013, 2014.  Yes, he apologized repeatedly and ABC says it supports him 100 percent.  But there are other rumors that other ABC anchors like David Muir will be more involved in election coverage as a result of this donation controversy. And an enterprising artist sought to keep people talking about Stephanopoulos by hanging these posters outside ABC headquarters.  Pay Pal, they say, linking George and Hillary Clinton.

Now, they were taken down in a matter of hours, but not before the blogs noticed.  So, what are Stephanopoulos' rivals saying about the donations?

Check out what CBS' Bob Schieffer told me.  Bob, of course, moderates "Face the Nation."  So, he directly competes with George’s Sunday show, "This Week."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER:  Did you read about the Stephanopoulos donations and just smack your head and think, what was he thinking?  It seemed like so many people in the news business reacted that way.

BOB SCHIEFFER, CBS NEWS:  You know, again, I just never comment on my competitors and what they do.  I mean, that requires no comment from me.  People will make up their minds what they think about that.

STELTER:  Well, I think it requires comment from you because people wonder, is everybody doing it?  Are you making donations to –

SCHIEFFER:  No.

STELTER:  No?

SCHIEFFER:  No.  I don’t.

STELTER:  I asked because it’s pretty obvious people don't give to campaigns -

SCHIEFFER:  I have never –

STELTER:  - but giving to a charity is different.

SCHIEFFER:  I - number one, I have never made a political donation to anybody.  I’ve always felt one of the great things about being a reporter is you can say, hey, I don't do that.  And the other part, I'll let people make up their minds.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER:  I spent some time with Schieffer as he gets ready to retire from "Face the Nation" and more of my interview is coming up.

(BREAK)

We're just getting started this morning.  And coming up, you’re going to see more of my interview with "Face the Nation's" Bob Schieffer.  It is the eve of his retirement and we talked about the lessons from his 46 years in the television news business.  Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STELTER:  There was a whole lot of hullabaloo this week about the departure of David Letterman from late night, after 33 years on CBS and before that, NBC.

But my next CBS guest, Bob Schieffer, has Letterman beat by more than a decade actually.  The legendary newsman has been with CBS for 46 years and has hosted the Sunday morning political program "Face the Nation" for 24 of those years.  He is retiring after next Sunday's broadcast.

Schieffer's journalism career began in print with the "Fort Worth Star Telegram."  He said he's still a newspaperman at heart.

At CBS, he's done it all, from covering the Pentagon, to the White House, starting with Richard Nixon, to the morning show on CBS, and the evening news.  He's moderated debates, written four books and he really has done it all.

I was lucky to sit down with him on "The Face the Nation" set to learn about his storied career.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STELTER:  We're sitting here on your set.  You’ll be signing off here in a few days.  What does it feel like to be leaving the show?

SCHIEFFER:  Well, I’m not quite sure it's really sunk in yet.  I wanted to leave while I thought I could still do the job.  I mean, I have seen too many people in Washington that have to be sort of led by the hand off the stage, as it were.  And I didn't want to be one of those guys.  I feel like I can still do it.

CBS is doing very well these days.  "Face the Nation" is doing well.  And I thought this is just a good time to do it.  It had to come sometimes.  So, I did.

STELTER:  Jon Stewart suggested that one of the reasons why he's stepping down this summer is because he's just over it.  He's tired of it.

Is that true for you?

SCHIEFFER:  No, no.  I’ll never get tired of it.  I mean, I have wanted to be a reporter since I was on the eighth grade and, you know, I got to be one which a lot of people don't get the chance to do when they grow up what they wanted to do when they were a little boy.

And I’ve always found it interesting.  Every job I have ever had in journalism, and that's the only thing I have ever done, I always thought it was the best job in the world, and I always felt that way.  I just love the news.

STELTER:  Let me show you a couple photos we saw from your storied career.  I thought this was so remarkable.  It's an advertisement in the newspaper for you heading to Vietnam as a reporter for the "Fort Worth Star Telegram".

SCHIEFFER:  Yes.

STELTER:  I can't imagine a newspaper doing that nowadays, but they were trying to promote the fact you would be over there checking in with the troops from the local community who were over there.

SCHIEFFER:  That was a full-age ad.  They ran a full-page ad and the idea was I would go to Vietnam.  I was the first reporter from "The Star Telegram" to go overseas since World War II.  I was the first reporter from a Texas newspaper to go to Vietnam, and so, the idea was I would go and find boys from Fort Worth and write stories about them, which I did.  And I wound up writing about kids from all over Texas.

But that was what it was all about, and I got more than 700 letters while I was in Vietnam, and I would just line them up and then I would just go out by myself and I’m bum rides on helicopters and so forth and go find these kids.

It was the single most rewarding thing I have ever done in journalism because when these kids.  And I mean they're 19 - you know, I was 26 years old.  Sometimes seven or eight years older than they were, when a guy from their hometown showed up and said, you know, your mama asked me to come and check on you and I never forgot it.

STELTER:  Wow.

SCHIEFFER:  They loved it.

STELTER:  These images of you questioning Jimmy Carter at a presidential press conference.

SCHIEFFER:  Yes.

STELTER:  When you see these press conferences now, how much has changed and how much has stayed the same with relationships between the press and the presidency?

SCHIEFFER:  Well, for one thing, they're more orderly than they were.  In those days, presidents didn't have a list of reporters -

STELTER:  I think the list is kind of - it sort of makes it less interesting.

SCHIEFFER:  And we would have to hold our hands up and say, "Mr. President, Mr. President," and sometimes they would respond to you and sometimes they didn't.

STELTER:  There's a lot less access now to the administration or is there more access, more transparency?

SCHIEFFER:  People always ask me, what's the most manipulative and the most secret administration you have covered?  I always say the current one.  This one is always more restrictive than the guys who came before and they were - they had the screws turned down more tightly than the people who came before.  They all learned from the previous administration, and I guess it will be ever thus.  I mean -

STELTER:  So what do we do?  What do we do in the industry to combat that?

SCHIEFFER:  Well, there are two - we have to understand, there are two things here.  The politicians' mission is to deliver a message.  Our message - our mission is to try to find out if it's true and to try to get to whatever the truth is.

STELTER:  Uh-huh.

SCHIEFFER:  And that's not saying there's, you know, anything wrong with what the politicians do.  But what's happened, Brian, is that information management has become so much more sophisticated, not just in politics, but in business, in sports.

Think about this, when I came to Washington in 1969, most members of Congress still didn't have press secretaries.  Most of them, you know, handle their own press relations.

STELTER:  People hear so much negativity about our profession.

SCHIEFFER:  You know, we've got to have journalists.  The need for accurate information is more important than ever, and unless - I mean, in our system of government, having access to independently gathered, accurate information is as important to our process as the right to vote.  You have to have that in a democracy like we have.

I don't know where reporters are going to work in the future but whatever their platform, we have to have that information, and getting accurate information, Brian, is harder now than it's ever been.

STELTER:  You think so even though the internet has made it more accessible?

SCHIEFFER:  Yes, because most of the information is wrong.  I mean, you know, we're just overwhelmed by news.  There's so much news that we can't get to the news.  And, you know, that's what our job is as mainstream journalists is try to cut through this great maw of information and tell them what we think is relevant, what they need to know.

STELTER:  Do you think the Brian Williams exaggeration controversy hurt the whole industry, made all journalists look bad?

SCHIEFFER:  You know, I don't know.  I don't think it did us any good, that's for sure. But Brian is a friend of mine.  I haven't talked to him in a long, long time, and I’ve kind of made a practice, Brian, of not commenting on my competitors, and I always had the feeling that it requires no comment from me.  Things like that, people come to their own conclusions about it, and I just kind of let it go at that.

STELTER:  Do you see him returning to NBC?

SCHIEFFER:  I have no idea.  You know, I have also -

STELTER:  You know how CBS works though.  I mean, you know how network politics work.

SCHIEFFER:  Yes.  I will say this - I have never offered advice to my competitors because I was afraid they might use it.

(LAUGHTER)

SCHIEFFER:  Might use it to their advantage.

So, NBC will make up its mind about what to do about that.

STELTER:  To me, still a newbie to television, one of the lessons of television is stability and time are so key.  You know, you have been on "Face the Nation" for so many years and you’re seeing some of your best ratings in years.

SCHIEFFER:  Uh-huh.

STELTER:  Because over time, people have come to know you’re there and to trust you.  All of that makes me wonder if all the changes you see on television, all the anchor changes and all of this and that, kind of hurt the networks that they happen to.

SCHIEFFER:  You know, I have seen so many wheels invented, reinvented in the time that I have been in television.  I’m not sure you can reinvent this wheel.  I think you have to get back to basics.

What people want when they turn on a news program of any kind is news.  They want to know what it is that they need to know about that's going to impact their lives.  And that's what we've tried to do, and I think that's what the success in recent years of "Face the Nation" has been.

STELTER:  Is there any job in journalism you wish you had, that you wanted to have that you didn't have?

SCHIEFFER:  Well, I tried - when I came back from Vietnam, I tried very hard to get a job at "The New York Times" and "The Washington Post", and I never got an appointment.  And so I finally wound up working for a local television station in Texas.

STELTER:  I guess it worked out pretty well here, huh, TV?

SCHIEFFER:  So far, it's worked out just fine.

STELTER:  Bob, thanks so much.

SCHIEFFER:  Thank you, Brian.  I appreciate it.  OK.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STELTER:  Schieffer signs off one week from today and it will truly be an end of an era moment for television news.  John Dickerson will be taking his place in June.

END INTERVIEW

 


Topics: Brian Stelter • CNN • Reliable Sources
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