BLURRING THE LINES
JUNE 6, 1997
The decision by Susan Molinari (R-NY) to leave Congress and join CBS News has rekindled the debate over whether journalists and politicians can switch jobs and remain credible. A background report is followed by a panel discussion.
REP. SUSAN MOLINARI, (R) New York: Today we say no more.
A RealAudio version of this NewsHour segment is available.
June 6, 1997
A panel discusses journalists and politicians switching into each other's professions.
August 13, 1996
Rep. Molinari discusses the role of women in politics.
August 13, 1996
View the text of Rep. Molinari's keynote address at the Republican National Convention.
Browse the NewsHour's coverage of media issues.
KWAME HOLMAN: Last week, New York Congresswoman Susan Molinari stunned official Washington by announcing she would make the leap from the U.S. Capitol across town to CBS News.
ANDREW HEYWARD, President, CBS News: I think there are many ways that one can prepare for a successful career in television, and we're creating a new program here, one for which I think Susan is a fantastic candidate. She has great experience in public life and with national affairs. She's also a working mom who's involved with the kind of day-to-day issues that our viewers are. And I think that it would be wrong to be bound by the traditional definitions of what makes a CBS anchor.
KWAME HOLMAN: Molinari was, by all accounts, a rising Republican star on Capitol Hill. She was the second youngest woman ever elected to Congress when she took office in 1991. From there, the Staten Island moderate became the highest ranking woman in the House Republican leadership. Molinari was chosen to deliver the keynote address at last year's Republican National Convention in San Diego. The presentation, focusing on family issues, included video of Molinari, her husband, Bill Paxon, also a Republican congressional leader, and their new baby. In her new job, Susan Molinari will anchor a Saturday morning news program on CBS.
SPOKESPERSON: You made a lot of promises to your constituency in Staten Island, who supported you and backed you up, and you're saying, see, I'm going to TV.
REP. SUSAN MOLINARI: No. What I'm saying to those people is that it has been a tremendous time. It has been a great honor. It has been a wonderful journey, where we've worked together.
SPOKESPERSON: But you're out of there.
REP. SUSAN MOLINARI: And there have been tremendous accomplishments.
SPOKESPERSON: But you're basically out of there.
REP. SUSAN MOLINARI: But right now my life is changing. Yes, everybody in this audience has.
KWAME HOLMAN: Molinari is just the latest in a long line of politicians and their aides who have traded government jobs for stints as reporters or commentators. Bill Moyers was Lyndon Johnson's press secretary before going on to a long career as a reporter and commentator with PBS and CBS.
Diane Sawyer worked in Richard Nixon's White House and helped him edit his memoirs before she was hired by network television. She anchors the ABC Magazine program Prime Time Live. In the 1970's and 80's, Tim Russert was an aide to New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Governor Mario Cuomo. Russert later became NBC News' Washington Bureau Chief and now also hosts Meet the Press.
Geraldine Ferraro--a Congresswoman from New York and Vice Presidential candidate with Walter Mondale in 1988--now is part of CNN's Crossfire team. And more recently, top Clinton aide George Stephanopoulous traded his White House pass for a press pass. ABC News signs Stephanopoulos to do commentary on the Sunday show This Week.
And the list goes on.Dozens of prominent people moving from politics and government to the television news studio. Sometimes the switch goes the other way--journalists who decide to run for office. First-term Minnesota Senator Rod Grams once was a TV news anchorman; so was Wisconsin Congressman Scott Klug. J. D. Hayworth reported sports for four television stations before being elected to the House of Representatives from Arizona.
And the list of journalists who have found politics more appealing than news is a lengthy one too. Finally, there's a group of people who have turned the revolving door into a spinning door--moving back and forth again and again between politics and journalism. North Carolina's Jesse Helms was a city editor for the Raleigh Times, then an aide to two Senators--then a TV commentator and broadcasting executive in Raleigh--all before being elected to the Senate in 1972.
Pat Buchanan has left and returned to CNN twice to run for the presidency and was once a speech writer for Richard Nixon. And the NewsHour's own David Gergen worked in the White House for Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and Ronald Reagan. Then he was the editor of U.S. News & World Report, and part of the NewsHour political analysis team with Mark Shields.
After that, he served as an advisor to President Clinton. He left the White House in 1994, returned to both U.S. News and the NewsHour, where he conducts regular interviews with authors. And NewsHour regular, Mark Shields, worked for Democrats Robert Kennedy, Morris Udall, and Ed Muskie on their presidential campaigns. And even this reporter once worked for Washington's Mayor Marion Barry.