Geraldo on the News Wars

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Geraldo Rivera, a veteran of the news wars, has never shied away from the camera. He returns to the syndication world Oct. 31 with a half-hour show from Twentieth Television, Geraldo at Large, which replaces A Current Affair. He spoke with B&C's Ben Grossman.

What news program sets you off?
I used to work at Dateline, and they do award-winning work, but tell me the difference between a Dateline crime story and an Inside Edition crime story. There is this quasi-reenactment, high drama in how they are shot and lit. The tabloid aspects are laid bare. When they do something special, like with Katie Couric, it can be quality stuff, but they do too much schlocky stuff.

How does your new show fit into the TV news landscape and Fox News'
expansion plans?

There is a real appetite for news of the day and analysis and investigative stories if done in a way that doesn't put people to sleep. People have intense interest since 9/11 in what is going on around them. There is a
sense that there is a lot out of people's control, whether it is bad weather or bad hombres.

[The show] is still in formation, but I'll play an ongoing and important role on Channel 5 [WNYW] here in New York, and I see the same thing emerging in Chicago and L.A. as well. Our O&Os will be central to our success; it's part of the evolution of Fox News. The hype about a Fox Evening News is missing the point. If the new show has success, it is a major step into another arena for this expanding brand and the whole "Ailesian" concept. We are in a bullish expansive mode; everyone else is thinking about
contracting. Roger [Ailes] is the wolf at their door.

You mentioned Katie Couric. Do you think she will leave Today?
Her [late] husband Jay Monahan was my best friend. Our kids go to school together. I can't see her leaving ever. All the talk is negotiation on her agent's part.

What are your thoughts on the new Nightline?
I think the triple anchor is a mistake. I lived through World News Tonight with three guys sharing 22 minutes. I don't think it will work. To tinker with it and reinvent it, they should go play around with some other daypart.

When you have triple anchors, how much time do you waste with tossing it back and forth? The device itself, the production aspect, becomes the tail that wags the dog.

What would you do with the news chairs at CBS and ABC?
I'd give the job to [CBS'] John Roberts in a heartbeat. I don't know what they are waiting for. And the same with Elizabeth Vargas [at ABC]. What do they want, do they want them to age in the job before they give them the job? To play this game with Roberts and Bob Schieffer? They don't pay me to advise Les Moonves, and Bob Schieffer is a wonderful guy, but if they want him to do it, let him do it. Don't play with the so-called kid. John Roberts is going to be the oldest kid in the business; the guy already has gray
hair.

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