60 Minutes correspondent Steve KroftÂ says he’ll have a piece on Sunday’s show about the U.S. Senate, and how it isn’t working because there’s no compromising “middle” there anymore. He’s also preparing a story for later about a hospital chain (he wouldn’t name it) that’s somehow using jacked-up Medicare payments as a money-making strategy.
Appearing in Dallas today at a luncheon put on by the National Center for Policy Analysis, the veteran journalist for the top-rated CBS news program submitted to a grilling by Dennis McCuistion, a local TV host and professor at the University of Texas at Dallas.
During the interview Kroft disagreed that there’s overt liberal bias in the mainstream media; asserted that Dan Rather rushed his controversial 60 Minutes story about George W. Bush’s service in the Air National Guard; and said he doesn’t believe the explosion of Web-based New Media is good for the country.
“I think there’s liberal bias in some media,” said Kroft, who worked in TV news in Dallas in the early 1980s. “I think it’s a more qualified bias toward the East Coast . … The big problem –and I’m sympathetic with people who believe [the liberal-bias argument] — I think it was more true before FOX came along. I think there’s plenty of different viewpoints out there. The mainstream media still tries really hard to be nonpartisan. … And, being nonpartisan, people don’t think they’re being fair to ‘my viewpoint.’ A lot of people from the East Coast and big cities are in the business, so there it is.”
Asked whether he’s a liberal himself, as some on the right have it, Kroft protested: “I guarantee you, I’m not a liberal. I was raised in Indiana by God-fearing Republicans. … I voted for Nixon, George Bush [senior] and the younger Bush the second time. I used to be a Bill Scranton Republican, or a Chuck Percy Republican, and I’m still in the middle.”
McCuistion then turned the discussion to Rather’s since-discredited 60 Minutes report about W’s military-service record. Was the story intended to influence the 2004 presidential election? the interviewer asked. “I’m not going to say that,” Kroft replied. “I think there clearly was some bad blood between Dan and George Bush over the years. I think he was probably more concerned about getting beat [on the story]. I think it went on the air before it was ready to go.”
Regarding 60 Minutes story selection, Kroft cited the old saw about journalism’s aim being to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. “Sometimes the afflicted are small businesses … sometime’s it’s something else,” he said. “We’re always looking for somebody who’s getting screwed. We’re always trying to find things that are interesting. … We’re more balanced than people give us credit for. … People used to think that Walter Cronkite was incredibly liberal, and he wasn’t incredibly liberal.”
Asked about the rise of the blogs and social media, Kroft said the phenomenon has ensured that the traditional news-business model “has gone to hell. … I feel strongly that it’s not good for the country. There’s a lot of opinion, very little reporting. Newspapers [which do hard reporting at City Hall, etc.] are not making any money … The market is fragmented, and everybody’s getting their opinions from the Internet and television. … You can pretty much say anything [slanderous] about anyone on the Internet. But we [CBS] can be sued, and you’ll lose the company.”
When an audience member asked whether the mainstream media is covering up the Benghazi, Libya, incident to help the president win re-election, Kroft answered, “I’m not aware of anything the mainstream media is covering up. … We know what happened, and it was not good for the Obama administration. The mainstream media doesn’t feel there’s enough real factual information to say … It’s very hard to find credible witnesses. … I think there’s been less than full disclosure, but no information that anything’s being covered up.”