CNN's Costello was in town yesterday, and I wrote up her speech -- and a brief post-speech interview -- in this story. But, as is so often the case, there was more to say than what I put in the story, including some talk about Linda Ellerbee, Bill Clinton, switching gears in broadcasting and would-be news people. ...
-- On why Bill Clinton's previous campaigning for Hillary Clinton was a mistake: "When Al Gore was running for president, everyone criticized him for not using Bill Clinton. And the reason he didn't, of course, was that he was running on morality and Bill Clinton was fresh off the Monica Lewinsky thing. But that wasn't really the only reason. I talked to someone very high up in the Gore campaign, and she told me, and I quote, 'There was a reason we didn't use Bill Clinton in the campaign, and it had nothing to do with Monica Lewinsky.' Bill Clinton has a tendency ... to demand all of the attention. He can't help himself. It's just how he's made. He needs to be the center of attention, and Al Gore knew that. And Al Gore's not the most dynamic man on the planet. Now he is, maybe, but he wasn't then." And the very thing Gore managed to avoid happened when Bill Clinton stumped for Hillary Clinton.
-- Costello on shifting gears: "I was anchoring, early in the morning, about 6 a.m. -- I used to have a show called 'Day Break' -- and I was just reading headlines, and this was at a time when Israel had Yasir Arafat trapped in his compound. And he was saying they wouldn't let food in, he was starving, and I was reading a headline and in my ear(piece) a producer said, `We're trying to get Yasir Arafar on the phone in 30 seconds.' I was reading some ridiculous story about a cat in a tree that was rescued and I'm thinking to myself -- part of me thinks, 'Oh my God, they're getting Yasir Arafat on the phone,' and the other part of me says, 'I'm not going to have time to prepare my questions.' ... And suddenly Yasir Arafat is on the phone and in my ear, and the only question I can think of to ask him is what he had for breakfast that day."
But the question had a point, Costello said, since Arafat had been complaining about the lack of food other than pita bread. And when Arafat said he had had cereal, Costello said, it became the question and answer from the interview that CNN replayed over the day.
-- Regarding Ellerbee (and the responsibilities that come with being a woman in news): In November 2007, Costello did a piece for "The Situation Room" about an installment of Ellerbee's "Nick News" on child protesters, like one who illustrated his opposition to torture while dressed like a prisoner in Abu Ghraib. The piece focused on the negative reaction to "Nick News" from conservatives, along with a statement from Nickelodeon, which Costello read. At the same time, the only person quoted on-air besides the young protester was a rep from the conservative Media Research Center, who wondered if the torture idea had come from "some talking from mom and dad." (The quote and this summary of the piece are based on an online transcript. You have to scroll quite a ways down.)
Costello thinks the report was fair. Ellerbee, whom Costello called a "great pioneer in news," disagreed. "She called me on my cell phone. And she said, 'Carol, I know you do great work. But, as a woman who is still paving the way for others to follow, I expect more of you. So shape up, Carol, or I'll be calling again.' And did that put the fear of God into me!"
-- As for some would-be newscasters, Costello said some are fantastic reporters. But there's another group out there.
"It makes me angry when I speak at universities and young women stand up and say (Costello's voice turning light and silly), 'I want to be an anchor.' " Asked what qualifies them, Costell said they reply, "Well, I know stuff."
"Well, what do you know?"
"Well, I can talk really well."
"Well, what can you say?" Costello wondered. She recalled how, during her interview for CNN, she did a mock newscast during which she is told, "there is a plane in trouble, circling Chicago's O'Hare airport. Ad-lib."
"And that pretty much happens," Costello added. "I mean, people think we're fed all this information. That's crap. We don't get any information."
So, she said, she turns to the young women who want to be anchors and says, "There's a plane in trouble circling O'Hare airport. Where is O'Hare airport?"
And the answer is something like "Uhhhhhhh, Minnesota?"