Episode 16, with guests Betsy Fischer, Executive Producer of “Meet The Press” and Prof. Alan Schroeder, Debate Macher from Northeastern U.

Betsy Fischer and Alan Schroeder are our interview guests this week
Show produced by Katherine Caperton
Original Air Date: June 25, 2011 on SiriusXM Satellite Radio “POTUS” Channel 124.  Click above to listen.
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Show also available for download on Apple iTunes by clicking here

The only sure things in life are death, taxes and, if it’s Sunday, “Meet The Press.”

Betsy Fischer is our opening guest this week.  For those of you who don’t know her, she’s the most influential news person in Washington you may not have heard of. Even if her name’s not on the tip of your tongue, she sets the agenda for what Washington talks about every week as Executive Producer of NBC’s 63-year old weekly power play called “Meet The Press.”

Here’s an oldie but goodie from “Meet” with two guys we all know:

Betsey Fischer, EP of “Meet The Press”

I could suggest I was a grade school politico posture and say I started watching “Meet” during the Bill Monroe days from 1975 to 1984, but I’d be lying.  Yes, I remember a musical chairs of hosts including Marvin Kalb, Chris Wallace and Roger Mudd in the mid-1980s as I made my way through Swarthmore — when I woke before noon on Sundays. But the real launching pad for MTP for me was the gargantuan and googly-eyed Garrick Utley, who held the moderator’s chair from 1989 to 1991, yielding to the giant Tim Russert that year.

It was during the Utley Administration that Fischer got her start at “Meet” as an intern. In that first-break job she learned — as her predecessor and my pal, Jeremy Gaines did — the proper way to tear news clips for the moderator using an NBC News-approved straight-edge.

Betsy is a testament to keeping focus during a career in Washington career and not getting short-sighted.  From her intern perch and the first few years working for the late Mr. Russert, she now is Washington influence personified.  The people who she and current moderator David Gregory select to appear on their Sunday morning program have the potential to “drive the conversation” for the succeeding seven days.  That’s not a power taken lightly.

In her conversation with Adam Belmar and me, Betsy reveals the alchemy that goes into selecting the Sunday morning guests, how visual elements influence her highest-rated show, the secret to the green room food selection, and how to gain the upper hand against “Face The Nation” and “This Week” when your guest is doing a “Full Ginsberg.”

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Northeastern U.’s Alan Schroeder

From there, we talk to one of my old friends, Professor Alan Schroeder of Northeastern University.  Alan was, when we met back in 1984, the Executive Producer of WBZ-TV’s “People Are Talking,” the daily pubic affairs broadcast of the then-NBC Affiliate in Boston, Mass., and I was his intern.  Alan is now a much-admired teacher of media and journalism and perhaps its foremost authority on presidential debates.  He’s the author of Presidential Debates: 40 Years of High-Risk TV (Columbia University Press, 2000) and Celebrity-in-Chief: How Show Business Took Over the White House (Westview Press, 2004).  You can get both Presidential Debates and Celebrity-In-Chief at Amazon, among other places.

We talked with Alan on the heels of Michelle Bachmann’s boffo breakout performance at the WMUR Debate in Manchester, New Hampshire. After that first cattle call, we looked ahead to dozens of parlays for the candidates willing to sequester themselves in debate prep, spend interminable hours in holding rooms, pose for countless obligatory “class photos,” send their surrogates forth to a myriad of spin rooms and, hopefully, score points against their competitors as Bachmann did in New Hampshire.

Alan knows the backstory behind every mythic debate moment including, among others, Nixon’s shadow, Mr. Breen’s microphone, Bernie Shaw’s indelicate question, Lloyd Bentsen’s killer, and Al Gore’s invasion of George W. Bush’s space, an event we affectionately refer to as “the stalker debate.”

Have a listen to this show and gain an deeper understanding of what influences opinion, every Sunday on “Meet The Press,” and every four years as competing candidates square off in the political equivalent of a Steel Cage Match.

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