Deconstructing the News Conference

•  32 years ago, news conferences were different. Or not

•  You can tell it’s 1987 by the big hair

•  Alert: This is a thumb-sucker. A think-piece. Deep, very deep

In 1987, an executive producer at CNN was frequently calling in ABC Radio News’ Reporter-on-the-Road (me) to hold forth on TV about such matters as who got snubbed in the Grammy nominations, should music CDs have “parental guidance” stickers, and other issues and trends in pop music, my ostensible “beat,” when not gallivanting across the globe in pursuit of more serious news.

Frank Radice was responsible for this. We’d met while covering the Grenada invasion in ’83 and he started using me as a talking head, or “expert” on some CNN Showbiz Today segments. This one, he wrote and narrated himself. And, oddly, I was the sole talking head in this discussion of how celebrity news conferences were evolving. I don’t think I contributed anything profound. To the contrary, I just made some semi-glib asides. But . . .you be the judge. (SFW)

Appearances like this led to a once-a-week slot as a contributor to Showbiz Today and eventually to 12 years as a full-time correspondent.

So, what have we learned? How are celeb news conferences different today . . if at all? I’d have to say they’re not, really. Little in the way of real news emerges. It amounts to free advertising, ultimately – a point Paul Newman made in the piece.

Only in the realm of national politics has something new been added to the equation. And that’s the parlor game, “Count the Lies.” Of course, politicians and public officials — most but not all, it could be argued — have always dissembled to a degree. But today, the practice of fact-checking, the deployment of fact-checkers, verily the “beat” of fact-checking seems to be a growth industry.


4 thoughts on “Deconstructing the News Conference

  1. You are too modest. Your observations at the time actually offered quite a good analysis of a phenomenon which, as you said, “you can dance to.” I also love that you used the term “deep,” which also was very eighties. In my 1982 film BLACK WAX, Gil Scott-Heron joked about how, when he was growing up, if the teacher asked him and his fellow students to read a particularly opaque poem, someone in the class would respond, “Hey, this must be deep!” Bottom line (another word of that period) is that you really should be writing a book on celebrity journalism. It’s something that’s only getting bigger all the time, and you understand it better than any observer I’ve seen. Your ironic take on it is needed. Oh, I also loved Paul Newman’s typically wry admission of what he was doing.

Leave a Reply