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“This was already an exciting election before the summer of Trump,” noted Face the Nation host John Dickerson during his time before the Television Critics Association on Monday morning. It’s an open election and the primary field on both sides is chock a block with “interesting candidates doing interesting and strange things,” continued Dickerson, who took over from Bob Schieffer on the CBS News Sunday morning public affairs program last June.
The first GOP debate on Fox News Aug. 6 produced record ratings (24 million viewers) and a flurry of outrage at Donald Trump’s apparent allusion during a post-debate interview that Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly’s tough questioning about Trump’s derogatory statements about women were because she was menstruating.
Asked if it is time to move on, Dickerson said: “We should move on for sure.”
Dickerson added that he thought the questions from Kelly and her Fox News colleagues Bret Baier and Chris Wallace were “good, tough questions.” But he conceded that it is a challenge to resist the temptation to run toward the easy headlines rather than the substantive analysis of the issues: “The tension is front of mind all the time. How much are we covering what has just become a spectacle and how much are we reporting on a piece of news? That’s just a balance that we have to keep our eye on minute by minute.”
But the atmosphere had made that harder as candidates have become hyper cautious in the face of the relentless media spotlight (the candidates are tracked by cell phone camera-toting members of the opposition looking for gaffs).
“We don’t allow candidates to have mistakes or flubs, the minute they do, everybody eggs the same house,” said Dickerson.
Of course, CBS News had built a brand on avoiding the reductive media pile on and charting a course that stresses hard news and “original reporting,” which is the division’s tag line. And CBS News president David Rhodes noted that the news division will cover the primaries and election with more boots-on-the-ground reporting with much of that originating on the network’s eight month old streaming service CBSN.
“We’ll have less anchoring from air conditioned sky boxes,” said Rhodes.
Rhodes would not divulge metrics for the service, but he said that the median age is a spry 40 years old. Describing this as “uncharacteristic for news products” (the median age of the CBS Evening News viewers is close to 70), Rhodes predicted that CBS News’ competitors would be jumping into the space, too.
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