The American news media was considered a powerful force on the continent and globally on setting the agenda before the election of Donald Trump.
Their predictions were always right, they were the pulse of society and held their leaders accountable. American media made presidents.
American media also covered the unmaking of one: President Richard Nixon in 1972 with the same fervour.
Reporting Live starts from the beginning. Way before her first day in the CBS newsroom, the male chauvinism, the age difference and apathy with being the “newbie”, often at the bottom of the food chain and news cycle experiences. Lesley Stahl tells her story through the eyes of history in her book Reporting Live.
“By 30 I knew two things for sure. One was that I wanted to be a journalist, which would mean, in the environment of the early 70s, surmounting my femaleness and my blondness.”
The book is divided into five parts: Nixon and Watergate, Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter, Ronald and Nancy Reagan, Nancy and Ronnie and lastly George and Barbara Bush.
Reporting Live has got valuable lessons for anyone keen on journalism or understanding how the news cycle and media in general works. That you’ve got to work your sources and be loyal to them.
Being a female in the newsroom was not always welcome. Of this Stahl writes, “I promised myself I would never blame my setbacks on sexism.” And so she worked twice as hard as her male counterparts even when they shone bright based on her efforts.
Stahl was among the first journalists to extensively cover the Watergate scandal. During this period, she reminisced the “CBS promise that there was an unbreachable wall between management and the News Division, that reporters were insulated from corporate pressure” was not always the case.
Instead CBS News president Richard Salant put his job on the line when the chairman William Paley ordered him to kill the 14-minute Watergate piece.
The story ran and became the agenda of the nation, leading eventually to the resignation of President Richard Nixon. Of this she wrote: “I began to realise that the personality flaws of (news) presidents can determine history as much as their ideas.”
Following three presidencies up close as a White House reporter opened her mind to the goings on of each of the American administrations.
What their chiefs of staff and press secretaries meant, their mood, reading the overall temperament based on experience of what was meant by what was not said.
Her writing is conversational and light, with impeccable memory drawn from quotes and archived video.
“Life in journalism is a running tournament.” There is never a finish line. Every new day is a new slate to be filled with fresh input and information regardless of personal perspectives.
Stahl continues to rattle the cage. She still works for CBS hosting the historically popular show “60 Minutes” every Sunday including much recently hosting US President-elect Donald Trump and his family this past weekend.
Over the career spanning several decade, Stahl has won several awards and nominations, including an Emmy on ‘The Future of Mobile Money’ which heavily featured M-Pesa.
Seasoned, intelligent and engaging, Stahl will leave you with an insider’s perspective of the running of the world’s largest democracy.