Goldberg discusses news 'Bias'
Metcalf interviews author, media insider on left-leaning networks

Editor's Note: Geoff Metcalf recently interviewed best-selling author Bernard Goldberg on the success of his book, "Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News." An Emmy Award-winning broadcast journalist, Goldberg spent three decades at CBS, during which he repeatedly expressed his concern to network executives that the news coverage had a liberal slant. When nothing was done to address his concerns, Goldberg blew the whistle. In choosing to reveal the inner workings of one of the "big three" networks, the journalist's career at CBS was ruined. Goldberg spoke with Metcalf about the networks' apparent stubbornness to acknowledge bias and how competing cable-news networks have changed the tide of TV news.

By Geoff Metcalf

Q: "Bias," by Bernard Goldberg. "A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News." Now this is no flash to WND readers. I've been bitching about this for over a decade. I have often observed that some people (particularly on the left) don't want to be confused with facts that contradict their preconceived opinions. Which is why the corollary to that is so cool. That is when you can find something that validates a position you have held for a long time. Bernie, you aren't getting any holiday cards from CBS this year, are you?

A: Let me tell you, if I get something from CBS and it's in a box, I'm not opening it.

Q: When I worked for ABC in San Francisco, they used to x-ray all the stuff that came in. You're going to have to get one of those machines for your home.

A: I know.

Q: The book is great, and I encourage people to get a copy sooner rather than later. However, this was not the first time you blew the whistle on these guys. Was it 1996 when you first wrote about this?

A: In '96, I wrote a piece in the Wall Street Journal. I wrote about liberal bias, and I think it was the first time anyone on the inside had written a piece in that prominent a newspaper about liberal bias. But you said right at the open that you've been talking about this for years.

Q: A decade. By the way, my dad started in radio in 1938, and spent over 30 years before ending up at NBC. I started in '68, when I was still in college, and I've worked for a CBS-owned and operated station and an ABC-owned and operated station. This bias is something that is so obvious. We've got quotes from 1957 acknowledging this, but it's like the elephant in the living room.

A: That's right. That's how I put it in the book, as a matter of fact. What gets me is you know there is a liberal bias, I know there is a liberal bias, the people reading this, most of them know there is a liberal bias. It's not as if I exposed the fact that there is a liberal bias. What's so odd is that the only people who don't think there's a liberal bias are the media elites, who, when they go on Larry King or someplace and they are asked, "Is there a liberal bias?" say, "No!" It's like the flat-earth society.

Q: But come on, are they being a little more than disingenuous? They've got to know. Come on!

A: Do you think if you hooked Dan Rather -- let's just pick Dan, because this goes way beyond CBS, right? It's about liberal bias in big-time media, overwhelmingly television ...

Q: The royalty.

A: The royalty; right. So let me ask you a question, Geoff. Honestly, do you think if you hooked Dan Rather up to a lie-detector machine and said to him, "Is there a liberal bias -- not on every story, not every day -- but is there a liberal bias too often on your newscast? Yes or no." And he said, "No!" Do you think he would pass the test? I do.

Q: Yes, in Dan's case, because I think they are such sycophants at this point.

A: I think it is because they don't even know what liberal bias is. Here's the problem: What we call liberal bias is a cultural bias. The cultural bias is that these guys overwhelmingly live in Manhattan and Washington, D.C.

Q: And they socialize with most of the people they are covering.

A: Exactly! They go to parties with people in Washington and Manhattan, they go to dinner parties, cocktail parties. These people are very sophisticated, don't you know, and very hip, and they tend to take liberal positions on things, as people in those two cities do. Fair enough. Nothing I write is an attack on liberal values. I think we have a big country; you can have all sorts of points of view. But these people travel in those circles, and after a while, they can recognize your conservative views from a hundred miles away. But they don't even think they have liberal views. They think they have middle-of-the-road views. They think your positions are conservative; theirs are reasonable.

Q: See, I don't consider myself a conservative, although I'm sure that they do.

A: Right.

Q: My litmus test is very simple. I've been saying for a long time, it is not a question of who is right or wrong, but what is right or wrong. Which means I take shots at Republicans as well as Democrats.

A: I think that's a very valuable thing to do. I write in the book that I consider myself an old-fashioned liberal.

Q: Which means?

A: Meaning I'm a liberal the way liberals used to be. But by today's standards, that would make me a neo-conservative. I think my views on the big issues of the day are fairly mainstream in America, but they are not mainstream at all in the American news room.

Q: One question I need to ask you has become a staple. I have asked this of Jack Germond, Bob Novak, Dave Barry, Reed Irvine, John Stossel, Matt Drudge, Bill O'Reilly -- even Reed Hundt (Clinton's former FCC commissioner). It's pretty simple. One of the reasons I'm doing what I'm doing now in this new media arena is because I see the symbiotic connection between talk radio and the Internet. I joke that it is really physics. Nature abhors a vacuum, and the mainstream wouldn't give people this stuff, so we are filling the vacuum. The networks have more resources; they have more money, more equipment, more technology, and as you point out in the book, "They are hemorrhaging audience." When are they going to get hip and acknowledge that all they have to do is provide the audience what they want and what they are not getting in the mainstream now?

A: I don't think that the news guys will do it, because they don't even acknowledge they have a problem. I think your question is a great one, but it should be aimed at the head guys of the conglomerates that the news divisions are a part of. You know CBS is owned by Viacom, and NBC by GE, and ABC News is part of Disney. How come those guys at the highest levels of those companies -- don't they ever say to the news executives, "You're losing audience like crazy. You're losing customers like crazy. You seem to have contempt for your own customers, because you don't even acknowledge what they think is a problem." Can you imagine if it were any other product?

Q: Bernie, some guys get ticked off at me when I tell them that what we do is not the product. The product is the audience. That's what is being sold.

A: Geoff, I'm glad you said that. And that's why this is not a conflict in any way between CBS and me -- not as far as I'm concerned.

Q: Well, as far as they are concerned, it sure-as-pigeon-droppings is.

A: Yes, but it's a conflict between all the network news divisions and their audience. Because those are the people who are not buying the product anymore. If they were selling shoes instead of news, they'd be out of business by now. You can't lose that kind of audience share over the last 20 years and still be in business. They keep losing audience. And every time they have an opportunity to address this issue -- when I wrote the first op-ed, they could have addressed it. When I talked to them in-house, privately, they could have addressed it. Now this book is out. The buzz is crazy on this book, and it's just been out like 10 minutes.

Q: As to this interview, it isn't in most bookstores yet.

A: And still, it's No. 1 on, and yet here's an opportunity, Geoff, for them to once again take advantage and say, "Hey, ya know what? Let's just think about this 'so-called' liberal bias." But they're not going to do it this time either.

Q: Fox News, which I think is frankly doing a better job than anybody of at least attempting to be fair and balanced, is getting marginalized by the effete mainstream as being some kind of wacko right-wing extreme.

A: Exactly. And they need to do that because, otherwise, they have a real problem.

Q: Hey, Bernie, here's the deal: ABC, CBS, NBC -- even though they have suffered, they still have the resources. If they provided an on-air product similar to what Fox is doing ...

A: They would do much better, because they are in far more homes than Fox is. So then I ask you, Geoff, why aren't they doing it? It is obvious to you. It is obvious to me. I would think it would be obvious to the "business" people, who are in it really for the money. Why aren't they doing it? They just refuse to.

Q: It has to be more than just personal, petty ego stuff. This book of yours is hotter than an armadillo's hide at a West Texas picnic on the Fourth of July.

A: Is that Dan Rather? Did Dan just join us?

Q: I don't think so. You had a kinda epiphany, reportedly, while you were watching "The Sopranos."

A: Yes, it occurred to me -- I'm laughing; I hope your audience is laughing -- it occurred to me watching "The Sopranos," which is a show on HBO about the Mafia (sort of the cheesy Mafia; not the Godfather-level Mafia of Puzo and Coppolla).

Q: When I read that chapter, it struck me: There's a movie-of-the-week here.

A: Yes. It occurred to me that CBS News is a lot like the Mafia. Now, before everybody says, "Come on, that's not fair," here's what I mean: The biggest sin you can commit if you are in the Mafia -- the biggest sin isn't killing somebody. Hey, that's what they do for a living.

Q: It's what you did.

A: That's right. And that's breaking the sacred code of silence, breaking the code of "omerta," the sacred code of silence. If you do that, you are a dead man. You have to be. You can't break the sacred code of silence. That's what I did at CBS news. I broke the sacred code of silence. And just as in the Mafia, when you do that, they have to crush you. That's what they tried to do to me. Not everybody. Let me put it this way, the day before the op-ed came out in 1996 in the Wall Street Journal about liberal bias, I spoke to Dan Rather, and I told him what I had done.

Q: How did he respond?

A: He said, "We were friends yesterday, friends today, friends tomorrow," and he hasn't spoken to me ever since. That was in 1996. You can't break the code of silence and expect them to keep you on as one of their own. I know it is a provocative analogy to say the news organizations are like the Mafia, but I don't mean they go out and kill people.

Q: They have been known to kill careers and destroy lives.

A: That's right, that's right. And I can handle that. But the guys in the Mafia really think that they are good guys really deep down. You know, they do these things, but they are really good deep down, and that's how the news guys see themselves. The wiseguys and the newsguys -- same thing.

Q: I was recently talking to a guy on the East Coast last week about this one particular broadcast executive, and he said this guy told one of his subordinates, to his face, "I will never lie to you ... unless I really have to."

A: I've heard stories like that. It's kinda like, "I give you my word as a TV executive." It's a joke.

Q: I've got to ask you something, because one of the minor frustrations that those of us who toil in the "New Media" suffer is we're kinda like Rodney Dangerfield -- we don't get any respect. I interviewed Lt. Cmdr. Jack Daly on the air. Jack is an active-duty naval officer, and he was injured in a Russian spy-ship incident up in Seattle around 1995. His eyes were permanently messed up. While on the air with me, he accused a handful of Clinton senior-level people, including Strobe Talbot, the ambassador to Russia, and others of treason. The only outside news source was Bill Gertz in the Washington Times.

A: I've got to tell you, I don't get into that kind of stuff in the book. I think there is enough, let's call it more mainstream stuff, where they fool around with the facts and fool around with what sources they are going to use and tilt those sources to the left without going into the more exotic.

Q: OK, let's use an example you touch on in the book. The mainstream is routinely referring to right-wing Christians, right-wing politicians, right-wing talk-show hosts ...

A: ... right-wing Miami Cubans, but the only time you hear them use the term "left-wing" is when they're talking about a part of an airplane. These guys can spot a conservative a hundred miles away. But they don't talk about liberals. I mean, why is it even when they talk about politicians -- forget the right-wing stuff, a term I could do without -- when they identify conservative politicians, they correctly do it. And the reason they do it is because they want the audience to know that this person is a conservative, and therefore has a point of view -- he's not an impartial observer, and you should know what his point of view is.

Q: And I wouldn't mind if they called Newt Gingrich or Bob Barr conservative, but what about Chuck Schumer, Joe Biden, Ted Kennedy ...

A: That's precisely my point. I have no problem when they identify conservatives as conservatives. I think that's good. But they never identify those guys as liberals -- the ones you just mentioned. They just don't do it. If you said to them, "Wait a second, forget about me. Forget about the fact that you hate me. I'm a traitor." Which is interesting, because when have you heard these guys call anybody a traitor? If you attack the media, you become a traitor. If you said to them, "Let's not make this personal." If you pulled a Rodney King on them and said, "Can't we all just get along for just five minutes here? How could you identify all these conservative politicians so accurately and not refer to the Democrats as liberals?" What would they say?

Q: Well, they are going to have an opportunity, because that's what you talk about in the book.

A: And I'll bet you they are going to ignore it like every other criticism of them.

Q: Bernie, they have to recognize the hypocrisy. These are not stupid people; these are smart people.

A: That's what puzzles me. They are not stupid people. They must recognize the hypocrisy, but I haven't seen it. I just haven't seen it. I'm telling you, if you hooked Dan Rather up to a lie detector and said, "Is there a liberal bias on our newscast?" He'd say, "No," and he would pass the test.

Q: That previous question I said I asked Novak and Germond and all those other guys, they all said the same thing in response. I asked, "Are the mainstream networks going to get hip and try to exploit this audience that is running away from them?" They all said the same thing: "It ain't gonna happen."

A: That's what I say.

Q: OK, so now it is unanimous. So the next question is, why?

A: If you're a businessperson, maybe. I don't see myself that way, but you know that the guys that run corporations do, and that's fine. We're all capitalists, and that's good. But you would think they would say something like that? You said, "It can't be ego, it just can't be ego." I'm not so sure about that. If Dan Rather says there is no liberal bias, let me tell you something, you are not going to have anybody in the news room saying, "Dan, you're wrong." Because if they say, "Dan, you're wrong," they are going to become radioactive just like I became radioactive.

Q: That is one thing I don't understand about the omniscience of the royalty there. Is Dan worse than Brokaw or Jennings?

A: I don't know. I only worked for one of them. You hear stories. I haven't heard stories about Brokaw but ...

Q: Oh, I've heard a lot of Jennings stories ...

A: Yes, you hear a lot of Jennings stories, but the thing is, there is something about television. I don't get it. You can make a comment in a bar room and just be seen as an idiot, but if you make the same comment on television, you are like a pundit. So these guys have fewer and fewer customers every year. Their ratings are going down every single year, and yet they have this incredible clout over the other news people in house. So I'm sorry, you cannot take Dan Rather on the question of liberal bias, because he's not going to listen to it.

Q: You've talked to Andrew Heyward, right?

A: Oh yeah, lots of times. He's now the president of CBS News.

Q: He's the guys who acknowledged, yeah, the news tilts left, but he'd deny it in court.

A: What he said was, "Look Bernie, of course there's a liberal bias in the news. All the networks tilt left." Then he said one other thing I will always remember: "If you repeat any of this, I'll deny it."

Q: The nexus seems to have been that 1996 op-ed piece you wrote in the Wall Street Journal, but as far back as '93, you pitched the concept as a story idea, didn't you?

A: Yes. I pitched it as an idea for the brand new program, "Eye to Eye," with Connie Chung. I said, "Hey, it's a new show. Why don't we do something new and exciting? We could do a show on 'is there a liberal bias in the news?'" I pitched it to Andrew Heyward, who was then the executive producer of the show, and he looked at me like, "Are you on drugs or something?" I persisted, and he went to the president of CBS News and came back and said, "He says you can do the story, but you can't ask Dan any tough questions."

Q: You can't ask any tough questions?

A: Yes. Can you imagine if I said I wanted to do a piece on Newt Gingrich, and he said, "OK, but you can't ask Newt any tough questions"? So I said, "What are you, kidding?" And he said, "No." So I said, "I'm not doing the story." So that was when he said, "Look, of course there's liberal bias. All the networks tilt left." He said it in such a way as to acknowledge everybody knows that! As I got up to walk out, he said, "If you repeat it, I'll deny it." You said, "Andrew Heyward must know that there's a liberal bias." Andrew Heyward does know. He is now the president of CBS News, and he has publicly stated since then there is no liberal bias. I think you give intelligence too much credit, Geoff. You figure that because these guys are smart, they must know it, and therefore, what? Therefore they are going to cop to it? No. They are smart. They know it -- most of them. I don't think Dan (Rather) knows it.

Q: Hey, everyday I hear people defend the indefensible -- it's not black it's white. That happens all the time.

A: That's what is happening here, too.

Q: But what I don't understand -- notwithstanding the protestations of you, Bob Novak, Jack Germond et al -- I don't understand why a business, big billion-dollar businesses here, will continue to whiz away profits just because they refuse to provide the audience something that, guess what, the audience is getting somewhere else.

A: I don't get that either. I can't figure that out. But let me guess out loud here. They must not think that it's liberal bias that is causing the loss of viewers. They must say to themselves, look, once upon a time there were only three places you could get any kind of television. That was ABC, CBS and NBC. That was it. Then you got 500 channels and the Internet and talk radio, so they figure, it's just fractionalized. What are we supposed to do about that? It is true a lot of people have left ABC, CBS and NBC for other places, but they haven't left "news." They just left "those" newscasts. I told Bill O'Reilly on Fox, "Bill, you've got to thank Dan Rather, Peter Jennings and Tom Brokaw for a good part of your success. I didn't tell him ON Fox but in a conversation. I said, "You've got to thank those guys, because without those guys those people (audience) wouldn't have defected and gone to you." It was like the Berlin Wall came down. Remember when that happened? People voted with their feet. They got the hell out of the East before you could say "East Berlin." They were out of there. Fox going up was like the Berlin wall coming down, and people started voting with their remote control.

Q: Bernie, that is why I don't buy this fiction that the mainstream's losses are just a function of audience fragmentation. I feel very strongly that if any one of the big three put up an on-air product that was equal or superior to Fox, they would crush Fox. And by the way, when Walter Isaacson took over CNN, what was the first thing he did?

A: He started telling them to balance things out a little more. But let's go back to what you just said, because I think that's crucial. If ABC, CBS or NBC did it the right way -- and by the right way, we both agree we don't mean news with a conservative bias ...

Q: Balance it out.

A: ... they'd crush Fox, right? We both agree on that, right?

Q: That's what I think.

A: So why don't they do it?

Q: That is the $64 billion question!

A: Let me ask you the next question. Do we agree that the top guys at Disney, GE and Viacom are pretty smart businessmen?

Q: You damnbetcha, or they wouldn't be there.

A: Doesn't that make it even more mysterious?

Q: It makes it a for-real mystery. I know that a lot of those conglomerate honchos like Eisner lean left. But hey, when it comes to making a buck, the conventional wisdom is they would sell their mothers to enhance a return on investment.

A: Absolutely.

Q: So based on that, this becomes like an Ionessco play in a theater of the absurd that doesn't make any sense at all.

A: But all we know for sure is what you say doesn't make any sense is happening. That's all we know for sure. That's the only thing I can't figure out. I figured out most of the rest of the stuff, because I was there and I saw how it happened. But how the guys who are in charge of maximizing profits and getting the value of the stock up, how they don't go in there and say, "Hey guys, knock it off!" I don't understand that.

Q: Is there a point of diminishing return, when market share gets to such a point that someone all of a sudden says, "OK, either fix this, or you're fired"?

A: Wouldn't you have thought that would have happened by now? In 1980, the three networks had 75 percent of the people who were watching anything during the dinner hour watching one of the network shows. For the people not in the business, it means this: Of all the TV sets that are on at the dinner hour, 75 percent, three out of four, are watching either ABC, CBS or NBC News in 1980. Today, it's down to 43 percent.

Q: OK, a "portion" of that loss is because of fragmentation.

A: Absolutely! And anybody who says it's all liberal bias is nuts. But some of it is because of liberal bias. I asked a businessman friend about this, and he said the guys in charge think it's all fragmentation.

Q: If they really believe that then someone should fire them.

A: They are in charge! I mean, even the top guys think it's all fragmentation. He doesn't have any inside information, but he's a business guy, and he says that's what they think. They don't make any connection between liberal bias and loss of audience. Get that? They don't make any connection between liberal bias on the news and loss of audience. They throw their hands up and cry, "Oh poor us, we have 500 channels to compete with now and the Internet. What are we going to do?"

Q: So how do these smart suits explain, or do they even acknowledge, the remarkable success of Fox?

A: My guess is -- since I'm not in on any inside information over there anymore -- my guess is that they say ... See, they don't have any respect for the audience in general. They call a lot of people "white trash" who aren't white trash at all. They are just not as sophisticated as the elite think they are, and they didn't go to school in the Northeast, and they don't live in Westchester county or Manhattan. My guess is they see those people at Fox and they say, "This is just a bunch a yahoos over there, white trash yahoos. Those people, they just want some right-wing garbage," and they just write them off. They figure, "We can't hold those people anyway. We're right down the middle, heaven knows, and we can't hold those people. What are we going to do? We're not going to get them back by slanting the news to the right."

Q: Bernie, that is their Shakespearean tragic flaw if they really believe that they are right down the middle.

A: That is their tragic flaw. You know why? Because it is going to lead to their demise. As we speak, it is leading to their demise. Let's pick another product. If we were selling hats -- you and me, Geoff, selling hats -- and we had a 75 percent share of the customers in 1980, and now we have 43 percent, I'd be looking at you, and you'd be looking at me, asking, "What are we doing wrong here?" Someone might come along and say, "Well there are a lot more hat manufacturers now." But why don't they buy our hats? We've got all the clout. We've got the brand name. We've been around forever.

Q: I'd probably pull out the commentary Harry Reason wrote about 30 years ago, explaining how 70 percent of your body heat escapes through the top of your head, and that's why you should wear a hat.

A: You're asking great questions, and all we know for sure is they are not doing the things you think they ought to be doing. That we know for sure. We know they are losing audience; that we know for sure.

Q: And when they lose audience, they lose money.

A: And we know they don't like losing money. What we can't figure out is, when are the guys who run the conglomerates going to go to the news people and say, "I've about had enough of your silliness."

Q: I've been in the broadcasting business for a long time. My Dad was in it for a long time. My wife has been selling television advertising for 20-something years. One key item advertising executives always analyze is the percentage of the buy. I mean, if Ford is placing a TV buy, they are only spending a fixed bunch of money. So each competing media outlet is going to try to get the biggest piece they can. That's the big battle -- the real, crucial, strategic battle the networks are losing. They are losing percentage of market share.

A: They are losing share like crazy. Here's a bulletin: Their share is going to go down next year from this year, and the year after that, it's going to go down again. And Fox is going to be going up during that whole time.

Q: In the wake of the epic tragedy of Sept. 11, a growing body of critics is suggesting that if the fourth estate had done a better job of identifying real problems and dangers, maybe some of the real bad stuff could have been prevented?

A: Somebody screwed up big time, and I don't know if it was the CIA, or the INS or ...

Q: It was a combination of a whole lot of things.

A: ... a whole lot of things. The media didn't keep their eye on the situation and contributing factors as closely as they should. I talk about the liberal bias, but you could argue that one of the bigger biases is the bias toward crap. They just put silly stuff on their magazine shows, except for "60 Minutes," and maybe they should have spent more time on this than stories about Siamese twins and whether the husband killed the wife this week or the wife killed the husband.

Q: I've had John Stossel on the air a few times ...

A: Do you like him?

Q: Yes, I like John. He's better asking the questions than answering them, but I do like him. I'm still kinda flummoxed over why ABC lets him do what he does.

A: Because he's successful at it. I don't think John is widely liked in-house. But I think the news executives realize that he's striking a chord.

Q: Hold on partner, because you just nailed it. If John Stossel is "tolerated" because what he's delivering to the audience is resonant and successful, why the hell doesn't CBS and/or NBC do something like that?

A: You could make a case because John Stossel had Roone Arlidge, the visionary head of ABC news, and CBS has a whole run of people who are not of that caliber, and NBC the same thing. If somebody came in to head up ABC or NBC and was really visionary -- let's say you came in and you said, "Look, I don't want any conservative bias here, but this Stossel thing is working. Why don't we do something like that?" You'd do it.

Q: Several of the other media types I have interviewed over the years have suggested one of the reasons -- and perhaps the myopia of their failing to recognize a liberal bias is that a lot of the guys in control right now are products of the '60s. These were the campus radicals who, now all of a sudden, are in charge and the suggestion is, like Peter Pan, they refuse to grow up.

A: That's certainly a possible explanation, but I really think with these guys, if they moved the headquarters out of New York -- and the big bureau is obviously in Washington -- but if they moved the headquarters out of New York and moved it to Omaha, Neb., let's say, I think there would be less bias. Because they wouldn't send their kids to fancy private schools with kids whose fathers are investment bankers and media elite themselves.

Q: I don't know. There was more liberal bias at CNN, and they are in Atlanta.

A: I thought about that. And I don't think that was true in the beginning. In the beginning, I remember even conservatives saying, Michael Baron for one, Mike Baron said the reason CNN is less biased than anybody else is because they are based in Atlanta. Now something has happened to CNN over the years.

Q: Yeah, Rick Kaplan happened and crystallized the Clinton News Network perception and reality.

A: That would explain that. But if you're doing what amounts to a wire service on television -- and that's what CNN was in the beginning. They covered the news. If something big happened, you turned to CNN to see what was going on.

Q: They suckled on wars.

A: War is good for ratings. But CNN, I think, at the time was probably the straightest of all of them, and one of the reasons is they were based in Atlanta, which is not New York, and it's not Washington. There are people there who have a different sensibility, and it rubs off on you. That's the point. If you're doing the news out of Lincoln, Neb., Lincoln Neb., rubs off on you. The fact that people work at Mutual of Omaha, people are farmers and some people work in hardware stores and stuff, all that rubs off on you and affects how you see the news. But when you're in Manhattan and the only people you really see are very successful people just like yourself, well, that's how you see the news.

Q: It will be real interesting to see what does or doesn't happen at CNN (the Clinton News Network/Communist News Network), if in fact Isaacson does precipitate any real change, or if so much inbred stuff is wrapped around the roots that it won't allow it to change. Because they have the best shot of taking on Fox.

A: That's right. They do. And you don't have to become conservative to take on Fox. You do have to become more down the middle to take on Fox.

Q: What scared me about Isaacson was the impression that if he threw a couple of conservatives on the air, that might do it, and that ain't the problem. This whole dichotomy of left/right and conservative/liberal ignores business model realities.

A: Then the stockholder has to say, "Wait a minute, why is the stock at $50 a share when it should be at $60 a share? And don't tell me about fragmentation; we all know about 500 channels. People are getting what they want someplace else. I don't want you to pander to the audience, but I do want you to do something to get that stock price up." They could do that, but I think they see the news division, in terms of money, as a relatively small part of the operation. And since the people in the news division are to the left, they just let them do what they want. At some point, someone is going to have to say, "We can make more money than we are making. We do have a 'potentially' valuable asset in a news division, and we've got to do something about this."