Giants of network TV news need to come to grips with what they do. Two examples:
First: Tom Brokaw complains about the Romney campaign using footage of him for political purposes. In the runup to the Florida primary early this year, Romney’s people aired an ad of Brokaw, back when he was anchor of “NBC Nightly News,” talking about the ethics problems of Newt Gingrich in a January 1997 broadcast. Brokaw issued a statement on the matter:
“I am extremely uncomfortable with the extended use of my personal image in this political ad. I do no want my role as a journalist compromised for political gain by any campaign.”
Brokaw later told the Erik Wemple Blog that he issued the statement not so much to get the ads taken down but rather “to get my position” out there.
Second: Bob Schieffer complains about the Romney campaign using footage of him for political purposes. The ad to which he objects portrays Schieffer on air saying the following:
When the president was elected, he talked about hope and change. What ever happened to hope and change? Now it seems he’s just coming right out of the box with these old-fashioned negative ads.
On “Face the Nation” yesterday, Schieffer made plain why he doesn’t approve this message: 1) He has “no connection” with the Romney campaign; 2) “This was done without our permission”; and 3) ”That was a question that I posed to David Axelrod, the president’s campaign manager”
A CBS News spokeswoman declined to comment on whether the network has raised this matter with the Romney campaign. A source at CBS News indicates that the network’s legal department has been conferring on the issue.
Please, CBS News, do not waste the time of the Romney people with any such complaint. The short discussion of the matter on “Face the Nation” yesterday was already enough of a distraction. The ad complies with any reasonable interpretation of fair use under copyright law and of fair play in contemporary U.S. political discourse.
Fellows like Brokaw and Schieffer might consider dumping the shocked act when it turns out that a political campaign finds something helpful in a few of the thousands upon thousands of words they launch into public.
A press release from CBS News promotes Schieffer’s claim that the clip was taken “out of context.” “I WASN’T STATING SOMETHING THERE. I WAS ASKING SOMEBODY A QUESTION.” The trouble with this line of defense is twofold: 1) The out-of-context complaint is the refuge of people with a lousy sets of facts; use only when your case is overwhelming; 2) This case is not: It’s clear from the tape that Schieffer is asking a question — a question that’s based on his reasonable observation that President Obama’s lofty early ideals have withered under the pressure of Washington politics.
Here’s the transcript of the May 27 session in question (Schieffer poses the question to Robert Gibbs, not David Axelrod):
BOB SCHIEFFER: You know one of the refreshing changes when — when the President was elected, he talked about hope and change. Whatever happened to hope and change? Now, it seems he is just coming right out of the box with these old-fashioned negative ads. That all campaigns seem to think are the basis of all campaigns now.
ROBERT GIBBS: No, no, Bob, look, there’s going to be a choice in this election.
Refreshing is what it is: The Romney campaign is doing its job, which includes grabbing pieces of advantageous videotape. Schieffer is also doing his job, which includes posing difficult questions to influential people. This is a great moment for Washington, so long as Schieffer & Co. calm down about “permission.”