Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

Christiane Amanpour’s Sunday morning ascent shows foreign experience is valuable

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Congratulations to Christiane Amanpour, who will be the newest host of “This Week,” ABC’s Sunday morning political wrapup show. Amanpour replaces George Stephanopoulos, who is off to do cooking segments on “Good Morning America.”

With the exception of Tom Shales, Amanpour’s move to Sunday mornings on ABC is seen as a good thing, whether the category is gender, foreign policy emphasis, and new accents.

In society, we have generally accepted that a variety of inputs into the workforce makes for a better workplace situation. While we are all human beings, our perspectives are different.

We had this struggle after the death of Tim Russert, longtime host of “Meet the Press.” In the first opening on a network Sunday morning talk show since 2002, there was extensive debate over where we should go. I personally threw out the names of Keith Olbermann and Gwen Ifill as needing serious consideration.

But NBC went with the traditional white bread route of naming Tom Brokaw as the interim host and selecting David Gregory for the permanent nod. Even Shales might argue that NBC might have made a decent short-term decision, but not so much of a long-term strategy. Gregory’s shallowness is more visible in that traditional Sunday morning time slot.

This makes Amanpour’s selection all the more poignant. Since there is so little room for serious discussion elsewhere in the TV schedule, the hope for Sunday morning is that the discussion can be for adults instead of a click-through, “microwave isn’t moving fast enough” TV news mentality.

Having a host who has served overseas as an international reporter, someone who grew up not in this country with a true outside perspective — what a nice idea.

In the Dan Rather-Tom Brokaw TV anchorman era, the one who always seemed left out of the equation was Peter Jennings. Rather and Brokaw had been on our TVs more than Jennings before getting the anchor chair. And Jennings started out as a three-headed monster, anchoring in London while Frank Reynolds handled duties in Washington and Max Robinson in Chicago.

But Jennings, who was Canadian, and had served as a Middle East correspondent, had a more dramatic perspective of the world around him than his counterparts. Brokaw had been the White House correspondent before hosting “Today” and Rather was a top reporter for “60 Minutes.”

This doesn’t mean that every show should have a foreign accent — but it’s good for viewers to feel like they have a choice. Once August arrives, you have a show anchored by a longtime political reporter and former anchor (Bob Schieffer, Face the Nation, CBS), a pretty boy vacuous reporter (David Gregory, Meet the Press, NBC), and a seasoned foreign-based reporter (Christiane Amanpour, This Week, ABC).

That news plate has a lot more variety. Good for us, good for news viewers, good for journalism.


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