The Insider

Feb 3, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Between managing Dan Rather’s public life and her avocation as a flamenco dancer, Kim Akhtar assembled a jaw-dropping cross-section of New York media folk to salute Bob Schieffer’s “This Just In: What I Couldn’t Tell You on TV,” his entertaining memoir that is shooting up the best-seller lists (No. 15 on Amazon.com’s list at deadline) with some daily and deserved praise from Don Imus.
The Insider broke down the crowd at the party hosted by CBS News anchor Rather and CBS News President Andrew Heyward thusly: the Literati (Graydon Carter and David Friend, the Vanity Fair editors who were among the executive producers of CBS’s lauded “9/11” documentary; publisher Mort Zuckerman; The New Yorker’s Ken Auletta); the Competition (NBC anchor Tom Brokaw and wife Meredith; ABC anchor Peter Jennings and wife Kayce Freed and ABC News executive Paul Friedman); and the CBS’ers Past (Billie and Larry Tisch and Tisch-era executive Jay Kriegel; Sony’s Sir Howard Stringer and his new music chieftain Andy Lack) and present (CBS Inc. topper Les Moonves, “The Early Show’s” Julie Chen and pretty much anyone else currently collecting-or signing-paychecks at CBS News).
If you were in the same place at the same time as The Insider, you’d have seen patriarchal anchor Walter Cronkite, who insisted that well wishers come to him so he wouldn’t lose his spot at the bar, chattin’ up MSNBC poster girl Ashleigh Banfield, whose identity escaped some in the room. You’d have heard talk-show host Charlie Rose, who had to be up early the next day to do a “60 Minutes II” interview, talking about the rigors of holding down two TV jobs.
You quite likely would have agreed with The Insider and “48 Hours” executive producer Susan Zirinsky and CBS News correspondent Richard Schlesinger (who will be forever known as the role models for the Holly Hunter and Albert Brooks characters in “Broadcast News”) that except for the women’s wardrobe, which screams 1987, the James L. Brooks movie, which made a recent return to cable, holds up extremely well.
And you would have heard everyone remark what a good guy Mr. Schieffer is and what a good ride they hope he has with the book, in which even the closing chapter of “Work notes, sources, afterthoughts and observations” is must-reading.
Cheers for Chung, wisdom from Walton
Another media man playing to packed rooms is barnstorming CNN News Group President Jim Walton. At his come-all meeting with the New York bureau troops last week, a producer invariably described as soured by his inability to get an on-air gig ranted about all the things he thinks CNN needs to fix, among them the content of “Connie Chung Tonight.”
When the meeting broke up, Ms. Chung approached the ranter, exquisitely manicured hand extended. “I just want to shake the hand of a real journalist,” said Ms. Chung. “You think I’m an a**hole, don’t you?” replied the ranter. “Nooooooo,” said Ms. Chung.
The Insider wishes she’d been there to lead a cheer for Ms. Chung.
Ditto for Mr. Walton in Atlanta, where revisionists-or forgetful-ists-are increasingly recasting the old Ted Turner days as a warm and fuzzy era in which CNN was “Family” with a capital “F.”
Mr. Walton’s, himself a veteran of CNN’s early years who knows better and a man whose mandate is to produce the best possible news with the leanest possible workforce, adroitly steered between the lines by emphasizing that while CNN intends to treat staffers professionally, it is a business, not a family. He also quoted his father, who said: “It is OK to love the company you work for but don’t expect the company to love you back.”
The Insider can hardly wait to hear the reports from Mr. Walton’s meeting with CNN’s Washington contingent, which was scheduled for last Friday. To be continued.

Pearl-HBO project shelved
The Insider hears that HBO and Marianne Pearl have had-and heeded-second thoughts about doing a documentary inspired by the abduction and horrific slaying of her husband, Wall Street Journal reporter Danny Pearl, a year ago in Karachi, Pakistan. Ms. Pearl had gone so far as to take the hostile-environment survival training offered by CNN at its facility in North Georgia, but, said someone familiar with the recent development, sending the widow and new mother back into Pakistan for the sake of a documentary ultimately didn’t sound like the safest, smartest thing to do. To which The Insider, complete and unadulterated wuss that she is, can only say amen. Ms. Pearl’s still-untitled memoir about her husband is scheduled to be published in April.
`Fine’ wine on `Living’s’ menu
Coming to Fine Living in the third quarter, says President Ken Solomon, is “the ultimate series” on wine. Mr. Solomon says he searched for a year and a half for the right personality around which to build the series. Stay tuned. In the meantime, Mr. Solomon says he’s having fun, fun, fun growing Scripps Networks’ sister channel to HGTV, Food Network and DIY. In less than a year, Fine Living is rolling out to more than 13.5 million cable and satellite homes. The Insider doesn’t know whether she should break out the red or the white wine.