Look out, America - heeeeere's Jesse!
Former (and perhaps future?) presidential candidate Jesse Jackson announced late last week that he will host a weekly hourlong talk show next season called "Voices of America With Jesse Jackson."But don't worry. The show, which will be syndicated nationally by Warner Brothers, is not intended as competition for Geraldo, Phil, Oprah and Sally. Instead, it sounds like they're going to be shooting for a "Civic Dialogue" kind of feeling - only with an extremely charismatic host. For a change.
"We want the show to encourage national debate," the Rev. Jackson said Thursday at a New York City press conference, "to open up the great and critical issues of our day."
Eric Easter, a Jackson aide, added that the program will bring together "political folks along with just ordinary people" to talk about the issues.
"We must open up the window for communication," Jackson said.
A weekly national television forum also opens up a window of opportunity for someone with political aspirations - say, the mayor of Washington, D.C., or even the presidency? What politician wouldn't jump on the chance for that kind of exposure - especially if you're planning on doing battle with a much-exposed incumbent?
But Jackson denies any such ulterior motives.
"I am not running for any office," he said, "and at this point I have no plans to do so."
The program will be produced by composer-arranger Quincy Jones and former CBS News President Van Gordon Sauter, who sees this as a chance to "bring some distinction to television."
"He (Jackson) knows that it's the conflict of ideas that brings people together," Sauter said.
What he didn't say is if Jackson learned that while campaigning for the presidency or while guest-hosting "Saturday Night Live."
-ANOTHER WELL-KNOWN public figure is moving from the front page to the entertainment section (do I sense a trend developing here?). Dr. C. Everett Koop, former U.S. Surgeon General and one of the most influential health care professionals of the past century, has been signed to host a series of one-hour specials for NBC next season.
Interestingly, the specials will be produced for NBC by MacNeil/Lehrer Productions.
"I want to give an honest appraisal of the nation's health concerns and to help Americans promote their good health, prevent disease and find reasonable health care at reasonable cost," Dr. Koop said. "NBC will enable me to reach the largest possible audience."
Funny, that's just what NBC wants him to do. (No word yet as to whether or not they'll let him wear the white Navy uniform, however.)
-AS FAR AS CBS NEWS is concerned, reports that the network broadcast faked combat footage during its award-winning report from the Afghan War in the 1980s are "simply not true."
But Mike Hoover, the photographer whose work was called into question a couple of weeks ago by the New York Post, took it a step further. He called the Post's claims that he had staged news events during his work in Afghanistan in 1984 "absolute rubbish" and "a flat-out bunch of garbage."
"The New York Post's reporters on this story based their claims on interviews with people that were not with me in Afghanistan at the time our footage was taken," Hoover said. "I am proud of the work we have produced for CBS and stand totally behind it."
Similarly, the Post stands behind their story, with editor Jerry Nachman expressing "a little surprise" at CBS's stand.
"I believe we've met our burden of proof, and I don't believe they've met theirs," Nachman said. "I would have thought they would have done a low-level mea culpa."
But CBS News president David Burke doesn't feel such an apology is in order. In an internal memo to his staff last week he indicated that "after extensive conversations with persons in the United States and abroad, as well as a searching discussion with free-lance photographer Michael Hoover, CBS News is satisfied that allegations it broadcast fake combat footage from Afghanistan in the mid-1980s are simply not true."
Burke did concede that the intensive review of the footage did reveal "the unintentional use of a misidentified aircraft."
Beyond that, however, CBS is comfortable with the report.
"The CBS Evening News, Dan Rather, and the producers involved with the coverage of that distant war back then met all of their professional obligations," Burke said, "and met them with complete integrity."
Case closed. For now.