Why Editors Are Not on TV Talk Shows and Are Mostly Silent on Social Media

Ben Bradlee, Al Haig, David Brinkley, and George Will after a Sunday morning show.

Watching television talk shows and reading Twitter, I sometimes wonder where are all  the big name editors? Where’s Marty Baron? Dean Baquet?

Then I remember back when ABC-TV tried to redefine the Sunday morning talk show with This Week With David Brinkley. A regular panelist on the new show was Ben Bradlee, executive editor of the Washington Post, then at the height of his fame after Watergate and the movie version of All the President’s Men.

Bradlee, as tough and charismatic as any editor, lasted only a few Sundays. He looked good but he didn’t seem to have much to say. My take was that Bradlee’s m.o. was asking questions, not answering them.

Some of it also may be that editors are used to orchestrating the conversation, deciding where things are going, asking questions, listening to the answers, making decisions. Bradlee probably could have been good in an I’m-in-charge role, but not as just another panelist.

I saw some of this when I was on on the board of the American Society of Magazine editors. I’d go up to New York City for the meetings and 15 editors would be sitting around a table discussing issues and you could tell that every one of them wanted to be in charge of the conversation. That’s the way life was at their magazines.

The bottom line: Editors are much better at asking questions than answering them.

Comments

  1. Richard Mattersdorff says:

    Bradlee wrote he was sought for the show as a liberal foil for George Will, for which he said he lacked temperament and interest.

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