What’s News at the 1972 political conventions work tape

Rough cut of an edit of interviews with journalists shot by TVTV for Four More Years and World's Largest TV Studio, which covered, respectively, the Republican and Democratic National Conventions of 1972.

00:00Copy video clip URL Gray. Tape rewinds. Bars and tone.

01:00Copy video clip URL Black.

01:10Copy video clip URL Titles: What’s News? A montage of people answering the questions. News is: news events, television news, the changes that do affect people. “If you have to choose between change in a tax law affecting millions of people, and a political speech which would not affect millions, then the standards say you have to go with the tax law story.”

01:50Copy video clip URL TVTV’s Skip Blumberg asks ABC’s Herb Kaplow “What’s news here?” “Well, Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew are going to be nominated and they’re going to adopt a platform.” When Kaplow is asked, “in general how would you define news?” he answers: “Things that happen.”

02:20Copy video clip URL TVTV talks to several off duty journalists: “Can we ask you what’s going on?” “Nothing news worthy. I never give interviews.” “Are you going to have to create news? There’s nothing going on!” “No, we don’t create news. We cover news. You cover what’s happening.”

03:25Copy video clip URL At the convention TVTV asks a NBC news cameraman if something is supposed to happen. “He says this is an interview area. One of the reporters finds someone worthwhile, we interview them. This records on a tape machine in convention hall. We’ve interview several people: Javits, Dole. Sometimes what we do is live depending how practical it is.” Footage of the network camera.

05:12Copy video clip URL Interview with a man who shows a diagram representing the flow of the coverage NBC has of the convention. “This shows the hotels where we can send mobile units into convention hall. This is the TV pool camera and feeds. These are the telephone companies in Miami. This is NBC transmission, a trailer, the central point for sound and picture. There are our control vans.”

07:11Copy video clip URL Camera wanders through the back stage of the convention. A security guards ask for ID. A female NBC employee says she’s taking the TVTV group on tour. “Well, you have to sign in.” TVTV’s Megan Williams pins on her NBC guest pass. They continue wandering the corridors. The woman notes they are at the NBC trailer complex on Friday, August 18, 1972. A woman giving the tour says these are executive offices for Jane Goodman, Don Meaney. This is the newsroom. The correspondents check in for assignments here.

09:05Copy video clip URL B-roll of the TV control room. A man explains how the system works: it’s headed by a director in charge of remote feeds. He selects shots and makes it available to the executive producer. At the same time there’s inside control where the floor man and camera guys are coordinated by a director recommending his pictures.

09:45Copy video clip URL An executive producer, possibly George F. Murray, answers the question posed by Skip Blumberg of what criteria determines what pictures you show to the public. “It has to be news or a part of the event itself. What you’re seeing now is a large crowd if we were on air now we’d go to this shot because it’s a sizable crowd.” When asked what impact he thinks Vietnam Vets will have on the convention, the man answers: “The Vietnam Vets against the war? I think they’ll make themselves known. I don’t think they’ll have an effect on the convention. Nixon is the President and he’s the only candidate. He’s picked his Vice Presidential candidate. The only think that would constitute a controversial story is the future of the Republican Party, the business of changing the rules for the 1976 convention. I enjoy doing documentaries. I’ve done loads of them. I’m doing this because I’m good at it and they asked me to do it. I did the Democratic convention and the 1968 convention.”

13:08Copy video clip URL When asked about criticism that networks manipulate the news, the executive producer says that theory doesn’t hold water where conventions are concerned. If anything the political parties have a chance to manipulate television.

13:40Copy video clip URL When asked how much of himself is in the news he delivers, the executive producer says “we project information with taste. That’s the only way I influence what I’m presenting.”

14:03Copy video clip URL B-roll of activity in the television control room. A director calls shots.

14:44Copy video clip URL B-roll of activity on the convention floor, packed with people. Mike Wallace says, “we’ve carried the program and it’s been tight, things we’d normally carry: key note speeches. There’s a fight over how the rules should be enlarged. The rules committee is still meeting so we can get our hands on the story.”

15:43Copy video clip URL Skip Blumberg interviews floor correspondent Catherine “Cassie” Mackin with NBC news. She says things here have been “very dull. It looks to me very plastic, packaged. The rules story is a good story, the fight between the big states and small states.” She says if she could change anything she says she wouldn’t stay with the platform. “I’m put off by how we’re staying with the platform.”

17:14Copy video clip URL Herb Kaplow says you’re supposed to do a sound editorial job on the story.

17:48Copy video clip URL Dan Rather says, “I get excited about conventions. It’s a hell of a good story even if people say this one is dull. Any time you get this many politicians under one roof it’s exciting.”

18:18Copy video clip URL Another newsman says this convention is slow. The camera lights go out, but the interview continues. The interviewee says this is a new kind of television interview. Television in the dark. The interview quips, “It’s called radio.” The lights are going down for an Eisenhower movie that’s about to start.

18:54Copy video clip URL Kaplow says, “even if you think conventions are dull I think they’re important. They’re good demonstrations of our government at work., the selection process of a President. Journalistically, it’s action.”

19:44Copy video clip URL Nancy Cain asks a journalist whether it has changed his life to be a TV star. He denies the charge, but says that once you’re publicly recognized it comes with advantages and disadvantages. It’s a pain when you want privacy, it also gives you entree to places you wouldn’t have access to.

21:11Copy video clip URL An NBC TV journalist files a report from the convention floor. B-roll of TV cameras. B-roll of the convention and various news reports being filed.

21:42Copy video clip URL A journalist is asked by Skip Blumberg what the decision making process is to get certain stories out onto the air. The man says “there are ideas we have to say, there are stories from the floor, and events outside the hall. Sometimes we get together and decide there’s a theme on the day. Finally, Reuben Frank, the boss, has ideas of what he wants to focus on and they tell us. They’re in charge. You should question them.” He adds, “we don’t decide on theme of the day so much as we recognize what it is. What the convention plans determines what news is. If a fire breaks out, that’s news. We don’t pick one or two things we think are news. These things impose themselves. I was hired 22 years ago, the same year Reuben Frank joined NBC news. I came three months before him. Every editorial organization has to have someone who decides. There has to be a hierarchy. Most good reporters don’t put up with favoring one candidate over another. Journalists share certain common perceptions of the world. They tend to reject radicalism. But I don’t think that adds up to the so-called conspiracy theory that we call get together and work against a particular candidate.”

26:46Copy video clip URL When asked how much of yourself do you project in the news and how much is objective, the man says, “I think a good part it of it is objective, hopefully. Sometimes you make jokes or get bored. I’ve only been an anchorman at a convention once before. You can relax and talk about your own theories. I consider myself a journalist. I was a floor man for many years. I don’t think any journalist tries to make something of their personality to appeal to audiences. News is a small community of men using their knowledge, life judgment, and experience to put together something balanced and responsible. It’s a lot of fun.”

28:57Copy video clip URL Tape ends in mid-interview.

 

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