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Alissa Krinsky

Where Are They Now? Linda Vester

LindaHeadshot(1)As we continue TVNewser’s ongoing series “Where Are They Now?”, we talk with former Fox News Channel anchor Linda VesterNext up: former Good Morning America co-host David Hartman. 

It’s been nearly a decade since Linda Vester anchored a newscast, but that hasn’t stopped friends from asking if she’ll ever come back to television.

“I don’t think so,” she tells them. “At least, not right now.”

That’s because she’s enjoying life as CEO of what she calls “Mommy, Inc.”

“I love it,” Vester tells TVNewser.  Motherhood “is more draining, by far, than my old career in journalism, but I really love it.”

The former Fox News Channel anchor lives in Manhattan with her husband and four children – two sons and two daughters – ranging in age from 3 to 11.  It was after she’d become pregnant with her second child, Vester says, that her plans became clear.

“I just really, really wanted to be a stay-at-home mom,” she reflects.  “I came to it late, I’d worked in television since I was 17, in high school, and met my husband late, and by the grace of God, got pregnant in my mid-thirties, and I thought, ‘I don’t want to miss anything!””

But the decision to become a full-time mother – one that’s made her “very happy” – wasn’t necessarily easy at first.

“It really did take a solid year to take those pieces apart and say, ‘okay, now who am I?’”

Eventually, Vester made the adjustment, even losing the need to instantly devour breaking news. “I can read [about stories] a day late,” she says with a laugh, “and be just fine.”

The Cincinnati native started her broadcast career as an intern for local CBS affiliate WKRC-TV, working with anchor Nick Clooney (yes, George’s dad).  Vester then got a job at CBS News’ Paris bureau during a semester at the Sorbonne.

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Gwen Ifill, Judy Woodruff & Jim Lehrer on ‘Core Values,’ New ‘Faces’ at PBS NewsHour

WoodruffIfill“It’s kind of a dream come true,” Judy Woodruff tells TVNewser about the job she started last September.  ”I pinch myself every day to believe that I am co-anchoring the [PBS] NewsHour.”

One year after her debut as half of the program’s new anchor team, Woodruff’s appreciation for the position is matched by that of her friend and co-anchor, Gwen Ifill.

“I got the great chance to be a caretaker” of an iconic show, says Ifill.

The veteran journalists made history when, on September 9, 2013, they became the first women to co-anchor a nightly network newscast.

“No matter where I go around the country,” Woodruff says, “people come up, and they just say how excited they are, how thrilled they are” about the groundbreaking team.

Noteworthy as it may be, the NewsHour‘s co-founder, Jim Lehrer, tells TVNewser that Ifill and Woodruff got the nod simply for being the “logical and best combination” for the job.

Calling the duo “terrific,” he says he’s delighted with a transition that was more than two years in the making.

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Where Are They Now? Bobbie Battista

Battista1TVNewser continues a multi-week series, catching up with some tvnewsers of yesterday to learn about their lives now, and their perspectives on the industry.  Today we hear from former CNN anchor Bobbie Battista. In two weeks: former Fox News Channel anchor Linda Vester.  

As Bobbie Battista will tell you, sometimes it all boils down to “being in the right place, at the right time, having made a lucky decision.”

And heeding some wise counsel from a parent.

It was 1981, and Battista had risen from a secretarial position to shatter a glass ceiling as the first woman anchor at Raleigh powerhouse WRAL-TV.  Alongside colleague Charlie Gaddy, the duo’s evening newscasts pulled in stratospheric ratings.

In short order, Battista started fielding a slew of offers from larger local markets. Another intriguing invitation came from a fledgling, 24-hour cable news operation called CNN.

“My father thought [CNN] was a good move,” Battista tells TVNewser.  After weighing her options, she decided to take her dad’s advice.

Little did Battista know that the move to Atlanta would put her on track to make broadcast news history once again.

In the eighties, as CNN started to be seen in a growing number of American homes, so too did it become available in previously-unreachable corners of the earth.

“I was hugely known in Poland!” Battista remembers with a laugh. CNN founder Ted Turner had struck an unheard-of deal, to have several minutes of network programming featured each evening on state-run television in the Communist country.  The time slot coincided with Battista’s anchor shift.

A hit with Iron Curtain viewers, Battista was sent to Poland for a ten-day goodwill tour. “It wasn’t really even something you could grasp,” she reflects. “What you were struck by was the influence that CNN was beginning to have in the world.”

The network’s ascendancy intensified during the Gulf War.

“Everyone involved in that conflict – politically, militarily – they were watching CNN,” says Battista.  “It was an amazingly important responsibility.”

Over the next many years, she’d go on to cover the Challenger tragedy, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the crumbling of the Soviet Empire, and every presidential election along the way.

By 2002, feeling “a little burned out” – and after a slew of what she viewed as disappointing changes at CNN in the wake of the AOL-Time Warner merger – Battista decided to leave the network after 22 years.

More than a decade later, she still watches CNN every day, but is wary of what she sees as “brand erosion.”  She says viewers have come up to her over the years to ask, “What happened to CNN?”

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Where Are They Now? Ken Kashiwahara

KKashiwaharaToday, TVNewser begins a multi-week series where we’ll catch up with some tvnewsers of yesterday to learn about their lives now, and their perspectives on the industry.  We start with former ABC newsman Ken Kashiwahara.  Next week: former CNN anchor Bobbie Battista.

Ken Kashiwahara most certainly has used up some of his nine lives.

Take his harrowing escape from South Vietnam while on assignment for ABC News in 1975. “It was anarchy, chaos,” he tells TVNewser about the fall of Saigon.

Kashiwahara was trapped in a mob of humanity trying to flee the country via helicopter at the U.S. Embassy.  He knew he had to scale the compound’s wall to safety.

“U.S. Marines were on top of the wall, pulling people up,” he recalls.  Kashiwahara was one of the lucky ones literally lifted up and over.

The story is just one of many experienced during a quarter-century with the network.  Another moment had Kashiwahara showered with shrapnel while covering the Lebanese Civil War.

“In the very beginning,” he says about his 25-year tenure with ABC, spent as a correspondent and as a Hong Kong and San Francisco bureau chief, “it was very exciting, the travel and not knowing where you were going to be from one day to the next.

“But after a while it got a little tiring. You could never plan your life.”

And so in 1998, at the age of 58, Kashiwahara retired.

It all began in 1969 when, after a stint in the Air Force, Kashiwahara got his big break in journalism in his native Hawaii, at Honolulu’s KHVH radio.  The station’s news director “took a chance on me.  I mean, I was terrible!”

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Would Jim Lehrer Moderate Another Debate? ‘No, No, No, A Thousand Times, No’

JimLehrer1He’s known as the Dean of Moderators, having been at the helm of twelve presidential debates since 1988.

But don’t count on veteran newsman Jim Lehrer making another go of it in 2016.

“No, no, no, a thousand times, no,” he tells TVNewser about what he’d say if asked to moderate in 2016.

Lehrer felt the same way when we talked with him 2010. But he ended up moderating the first 2012 presidential debate.

“The only reason that I finally changed my mind [in 2012] was because I was persuaded by the Commission on Presidential Debates to do it, because we were going to try a new format,” he says, referring to the “new, open” approach that enabled the candidates to more freely speak and interact with each other.

Lehrer, 80, was roundly criticized, for not doing enough to challenge candidates, Pres. Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, or control their questions.

Would anything change his mind when it comes to 2016?

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Bill Plante on His ‘Fabulous Vantage Point for History’ During 50 Years with CBS

BPlanteCBSOn June 1, 1964, 26 year-old Bill Plante reported to work as a new correspondent for CBS News in New York.

He’d spend the next five decades with the network, traveling to Vietnam and Iceland, to Moscow and Teheran.  He’d cover every presidential campaign from 1968 on, and serve as a White House correspondent for four Presidents.

On the occasion of his 50th anniversary with CBS, Plante spoke with TVNewser, telling us his work has given him “a fabulous vantage point for history and for watching politics. I love it.”

So much so, he has no plans to retire. “I don’t have one of those wall calendars where I’m ‘x’ing’ out the days until I can go to an island somewhere,” Plante jokes.

He’s enjoying his job and proud of a news division he feels is re-energized by a return to its hard-news roots.  “All of us who’ve been around here for a long time have lived through the various phases of CBS News, some of which we liked better than others. The current phase,” he pauses to emphasize, “we like a lot.”

He cites the “CBS Evening News,” helmed by network homegrown Scott Pelley, as an example. Plante also mentions “CBS This Morning,” adding that the show’s competitors are ”all kind of doing entertainment.”

“I learned from people like [Mike] Wallace, [Walter] Cronkite, from many others,” he reflects. “I learned what was expected of good reporters. It isn’t something you can commodify easily, but you watch them work, and you see what their standards are…and you hold yourself to those same standards.”

He says CBS News maintains that journalistic integrity, declining to comment specifically about accusations of political bias at the network by former colleague Sheryl Attkisson.  ”I think we make a major effort to play it down the middle,” Plante says about the news division in general.

“I’ve never had anybody, in the last five years of covering this administration, or for that matter, the previous one, suggest that we go easy or go hard [on a particular President].”

The White House beat, and his time on the campaign trail, have provided some of the most memorable moments for Plante, along with covering the Civil Rights movement and the Vietnam War.

But the years of travel came at a price.

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TVNewser’s 2014 Guide To Graduation Speakers

Class-of-2014. jpgAs is TVNewser tradition, here now is our seventh annual list of who’s-speaking-where-and-when at the nation’s colleges and universities (in alphabetical order):

CNBC’s Guy AdamiQuinnipiac University (CT), May 10

CNN’s Brooke Baldwin: University of North Carolina School of Journalism and Mass Communication (NC), May 11

ABC’s Richard Besser: University of Michigan School of Public Health (MI), May 1

CNN’s Wolf Blitzer: Cansius College  (NY), May 17

Bloomberg’s Michael Bloomberg: Harvard University (MA), May 29… Williams College (MA), June 8

CNN’s Gloria Borger: Colgate University (NY), May 18

FNC’s Dr. Ben CarsonRegent University (VA), May 3

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Dave Marash On His ‘Inspiring’ New Job

Marash“The possibilities are inspiring,” says veteran newsman Dave Marash in describing his new job as co-news director of Sante Fe’s public radio station.

An official announcement named Marash, and former print journalist Zélie Pollon, as KSFR-FM’s new leadership team.

“My wife Amy and I moved to New Mexico in October of 2012,” Marash tells TVNewser, “and with all the legendary zeal of the convert, I love it out here.

“My friend Zelie interviewed me [for a KSFR program], and, afterwards, George Weston, the station’s general manager, asked me about possibly working at the station.  It turned out the news directorship was open.  Zelie and I talked about taking the job together as a job-share and convinced ourselves, and eventually, George and others, that this might work to everyone’s advantage.”

Marash says he also hopes to anchor a weekly interview news show.  In addition, he’s excited to turn the newsroom into a “workshop” by approaching ”all the local colleges and high schools about possible interns, who will trade their time and energy for training in reporting, radio writing and audio editing.”

A sixteen-year veteran of ABC’s Nightline, Marash made headlines in 2008 when he exited Al Jazeera English after expressing to management his disappointment in a lack of editorial input from its American staff.

Just this last week, American journalist Liz Wahl - citing editorial bias at Russian network RT – resigned her anchor job, albeit in a public, on-air announcement.

Robin Meade, 12 Years an HLN Anchor

“I know that my main job is [to provide] good information, ” says HLN anchor Robin Meade about her mission as a morning anchor, “but it’s [also] mood enhancement. I am supposed to enhance your mood, so you can go on with your day!”

Meade, whose Morning Express show airs weekdays from 6am-noon ET,  spoke with TVNewser Tuesday night at a screening of “CHICAGOLAND”, an eight-part series that debuts tonight on sister network CNN.

Such original programming is part of an overhaul for CNN under the leadership of Worldwide President Jeff Zucker. HLN, too, is undergoing change – it was just last month that the network announced it was rebranding “to become the first TV network for the social media generation.”

Meade is on-board with the interactive focus, since “luckily we kind of already had social media in our DNA for the morning show,” she says.  “I think of the show as a two-way street… It fits right in with us.”

Meade tells us why she still finds her morning gig a good fit, 12 years after she joined HLN.

Jeff Zucker on CNN’s Evolution and His ‘Exhilarating’ Experience Leading the Way

JeffZuckerCNN“I think a new lineup will evolve over time,” CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker tells TVNewser about the cabler’s much-talked-about primetime schedule. “I don’t think we’re going to have a singular day when we’re going to announce a whole new lineup.  It’ll evolve.”

TVNewser caught up with Zucker in Chicago last night, at the Windy City premiere of “CHICAGOLAND”, CNN’s eight-part documentary series debuting tomorrow night at 10pmET.  It’s part of a wave of new programing ordered by Zucker in an effort to break the mold at the network and kick-start ratings.

One of the puzzle pieces for Zucker is how to utilize Piers Morgan, whose eponymous primetime show will soon be replaced. Earlier this week, Morgan said he’ll “make a deal to do 20 to 25 shows a year, all interviews with big names.”

“I am talking with Piers about what our future will be,” Zucker tells TVNewser. “We are in conversations.”

As the network moves forward, though, one thing is clear: Zucker likes the ratings scored by series such as “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown” and “Morgan Spurlock’s Inside Man”.

“Certainly, there’s an appetite and an audience that’s willing to come to CNN to watch that kind of programming, and I think that you’ll see more of that this year.”  Zucker says he has  “several other series in that vein that we haven’t even announced yet.”

And Zucker says that doesn’t mean CNN is moving away from being first and foremost a news organization.

“The fact is,” he says, “CNN is actually offering more hours of live news programming today than we have at any point in the last five years.  So the two [live news and documentaries] are not incompatible. We are always there when news happens. We’re in Ukraine this week, and Crimea, in tremendous numbers, offering round-the-clock coverage, far more than anyone else.”

While CNN’s evolution will take time — and patience — Zucker is keenly aware of the day-to-day ratings game.

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