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Tom Brokaw, Bob Schieffer talk old white dudes and the new era

August 24, 2008 |  9:04 pm

DENVER -- Aging white media dudes: Their days of dominating political coverage have come and gone, and at least some of them know it.

Network news titans Tom Brokaw of NBC and Bob Schieffer of CBS agreed Sunday that in days of yore, politics “used to be covered by white middle-aged men who lived on the Eastern Seaboard,” in Brokaw's words. And you know what? That was OK with him and Schieffer because, well, just look at them.

But times unquestionably have changed, the two acknowledged during a panel discussion put on by Harvard’s Shorenstein Center for the Press, Politics and Public Policy at a downtown Denver hotel on Sunday. They were joined by ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, a relative whippersnapper, and the timeless Judy Woodruff of PBS, who moderated.

Tom Brokaw of NBC News

The panel’s topic was the press and the presidential campaign, and the news heavyweights opined that coverage has been, as Brokaw put it, “robust, but uneven."

“The country is well served by blogs, and cable network coverage and Internet exchanges,” he said, as he gave a shout out to the ubiquitous Arianna Huffington, a queen of the new information age, who sat near the stage.

When Woodruff asked whether the media had been unfair to Hillary Clinton, as so many of her supporters accuse, Schieffer said he thought the coverage was even-handed.

“The candidate that does not win always feels unfairly treated,” he said. “That’s just part of campaigns.”

But Brokaw said he thought that calls for Clinton to exit the race before primary season ended were “unfair and inappropriate” since there were so many people in later-voting states who wanted to cast ballots for her. The fact that she stayed in, he said, “probably made (Barack Obama) a better candidate."

Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, an ardent Clinton supporter, also begged to differ with Schieffer -- rather dramatically.

Taking aim at the cable network many Clintonites came to detest, he interjected: “MSNBC was the official network of the Obama campaign." He characterized its coverage as "absolutely embarrassing."

The luncheon kicked off with a video tribute to the late Tim Russert of “Meet the Press.” It was a compilation of some of his toughest interviews, ending with ex-Vietnam POW (and soon-to-be-crowned Republican presidential nominee) John McCain telling Russert: “I haven’t had this much fun since my last interrogation."

-- Robin Abcarian

Photo credit: NBC News

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