No News Is Good News
ABC has decided to broadcast portions of an interview with President Clinton conducted by Leonardo DiCaprio that had raised questions about why a movie star was fulfilling a role usually handled by a journalist. The network announced its decision in a terse news release on Tuesday, a day after ABC News executives screened the March 31 interview. DiCaprio, chairman of the Earth Day 2000 celebration committee, talked to Clinton about global warming. The interview will appear as part of an Earth Day special produced by ABC News on Saturday, April 22.
"What's the matter, Chad?"
"It's this DiCaprio business, Chip. It really has me steamed."
"I know what you mean, Chad. Sending in some Hollywood pretty-boy to interview the President of the United States -- talk about a slap in the face to hard-working TV news reporters like you and me."
"I'll say. What qualifies some actor to talk to the most powerful man in the world? Because he starred in "Titanic?" Because he has nice hair? Well, here's a news flash. I have nice hair and I'm a professionally-trained journalist."
"Right you are, Chad. I've seen your work. That piece on the new low-fat diet that shaves inches off your hips and adds years to your life? Brilliant."
"You're no slouch yourself, Chip. When you did that story about the little boy who remembered to dial 911 when his mother passed out in the kitchen, I swear, I nearly cried actual tears."
"Thanks, Chad. Now do you think a Leonardo DiCaprio, a Winona Ryder could turn in work like that?"
"Not without years of news-gathering experience, Chip. You have to know what tie to wear, when to take a dramatic pause during your stand-up, what stories merit a live report and which ones only deserve a shot from the NewsChopper. And asking the tough questions -- that's not something an actor can just improvise. It takes hours for my producer to brief me on the right questions to ask. And even then, I usually just rely on an intern to do most of my off-camera legwork for me."
"Well, you've got a lot on your mind, Chad. You have to boil down a complex issue like breast implant surgery or a high-speed freeway chase into a 60-second report..."
"...Or have your editor do it."
"Right. And you have to do all that while remembering where to stand and what words to emphasize and making sure not to inadvertently yell something obscene on camera."
"That's what I'm talking about, Chip. People see a rank amateur like Leonardo DiCaprio interviewing the president, and they think anybody could rise through the ranks to become a respected TV news personality. A beauty queen--"
"Like Diane Sawyer?"
"Or a sportscaster--"
"Like Bryant Gumbel?"
"Or an Ed McMahon-like second banana to Jack Parr."
"Like Hugh Downs?"
"Right. I mean, this job isn't just a matter of reading stuff off a teleprompter and nodding emphatically when somebody else is talking. You have to pronounce the words that you're reading correctly, and you have to pay attention to those other people while you're nodding."
"Remember my interview with Monica Lewinsky, Chad?"
"The one where you sat down for a heart-to-heart about her new lease on life?"
"That's the one. Remember how when she was talking about her new handbags and how that gave her a sense of closure after the scandal? What was I doing when the camera cut to me?"
"You were nodding, Chip."
"Not just nodding, Chad. I was listening. And caring."
"Wow, indeed. Now do you think some actor could do that."
"They could pretend."
"Sure, they could pretend. A real good actor like Anthony Hopkins--"
"Or Keanu Reeves?"
"Right. They could pretend. But could they be convincing?"
"You know what I would ask him, Chad?"
"The president. If I were interviewing him. I mean, you can bet that Leonardo DiCaprio probably just lobbed softballs at him."
"The softest of softballs, Chip."
"Right. Well, I would look the president straight in the eye and say, 'Mr. President, a lot of scientists believe our planet is undergoing global warming. Do you agree?'"
"Tough stuff, Chip. He may cut off the interview right there."
"Chad, I'm a professional. I get paid to ask tough questions."
"I would ask him about the Lewinsky affair. Or his wife's Senate campaign."
"During an interview on the environment, Chad?"
"Of course. I'd catch him off guard."
"You're a crafty one, Chad."
"Craftier than Leonardo DiCaprio could ever hope to be, that's for darn sure!"
"And it's not just DiCaprio. That woman from NYPD Blue..."
"No. The woman."
"Oh. Andrea Thompson!"
"Right. She's leaving NYPD Blue to become a news anchor in Albuquerque."
"Oh yes. An actress who's never held a news job before in her life is going to be an anchorwoman."
"Well, she was very good on JAG."
"I'm not denying that. But it's one thing to pretend to be a hard-bitten New York City cop. It's quite another to introduce segments on new exercise fads and shopping mall grand openings. I mean, she hasn't even gone to college."
"What? You and I went to college."
"Right, I majored in communications. And you?"
"I forget. But the point is, I received a formal education for my news career. All Andrea Thompson's ever done is read lines that someone else has written and looked good on camera."
"And how does that prepare you to be a news anchor?"
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