By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

A solid debut by Christiane Amanpour

Christiane Amanpour

Not long after Tim Russert’s death, I realized that my aversion to George Stephanopoulos was not nearly as deep-seated as my aversion to David Gregory. So I switched from “Meet the Press” to “This Week” and haven’t looked back. Among other things, “This Week” regular George Will is a great entertainer, and where else other than the New York Times can you get a regular dose of Paul Krugman?

Stephanopoulos, of course, decamped for morning television months ago, never to be seen again — at least not by me. Today, at long last, marked the much-anticipated debut of his permanent replacement, former CNN foreign correspondent Christiane Amanpour. I don’t think the occasion warrants a lot of analysis. But surely a little is in order. A few points.

1. I don’t watch “This Week”; rather, I listen to the podcast. So if there were any changes to the set, I wouldn’t know. For what it’s worth, I thought Amanpour, her guests and her panelists all sounded fine.

2. It was a good first week for Amanpour. She had two major gets, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. If Amanpour’s questions failed to elicit any major news, neither did she embarrass herself. In any event, with rare exceptions, top government officials are going to say what they’re going to say regardless of what they are asked.

3. Though “This Week” seemed pretty much the same as it always has, Amanpour did shake things up a bit, as Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid joined the roundtable from Spain. Over time, I’m hoping that Amanpour turns the entire format upside-down, eschewing political chit-chat for real substance. Perhaps this was one small step in that direction.

4. Jake Tapper deserves kudos for the way he handled “This Week” as a fill-in host the past several months. By taking a few chances (especially by embracing of New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen’s suggestion that he add fact-checking to the show), Tapper demonstrated that there’s still some life left in the old format.

If, for some reason, Amanpour doesn’t work out, or if ABC News decides to use her elsewhere, then Tapper would be a natural — and I think viewers would accept him far more readily than they would have before his stint as a substitute.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons.


A bit more on why I keep visiting New Haven


A dubious story about plagiarism


  1. Heather Greene

    I’m a bit more cynical on Jake Tapper then I find a lot of media watchers are. This is a guy beloved by Rush Limbaugh and the right for “taking on” Robert Gibbs yet he used to work for Planned Parenthood before starting in journalism. Plus those “taking downs” of Robert Gibbs really didn’t much weight and were kind of superficial He toke a blind date with Monica Lewinsky before the scandal broke into his big break.

    I guess this is a guy who knows how to market himself. Nothing wrong with that of course, but I find he is more flash without making news. Yes, he has Bill Maher on the Sunday Show, but so what… I think Ahmed Rashid added more to panel, especially as the topic was Afghanistan, then Bill Maher did. It isn’t a bashing of Jake Tapper, but a “let’s be real about him” and my reaction is based more how gushing folks are about him. If he didn’t get so much praise for not really much newsbreaking work, I wouldn’t be so down on him.

    Plus the critique ignores that when she briefly had her show on CNN titled “Amanpour,” it was pretty similar to most Sunday Shows.

    The overall point from my random old me, I’m not in that “if Christiane Amanpour doesn’t work out, Jake Tapper is great” crowd. I think Jake Tapper is fine, but not the game changer that Amanpour is for the Sunday Show. I’m more pro-Amanpour I guess.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Heather: I am totally pro-Amanpour, and my hope is that she wants — and will be allowed — to change the show completely. My only point about Tapper is that he acquitted himself well as the fill-in host. If he’d gotten the permanent gig last spring, I’d have been unhappy. But he proved himself to be pretty good.

  2. Neil Sagan

    What’s going to make “This Week” good or bad, tolerable or not is the narrative that informs the questions asked by the host. If the narrative is informed by an inside the beltway dialogue, the show will be decidedly right wing which plays to the right-wing guests and puts the dems and liberals on the defense. The best host will work beyond the right and left narratives to questions yet unraised and unanswered.

    Kurtz covered the ‘This Week’ story on his show today and said he thought that the host had to live in the beltway to do the show well – Amanpour lives in Manhattan. For a guy who covers the media, he doesn’t seem to have a clue. I argue that more perspective not less is what would make the host good.

    Looking back, I thought Tapper was better than predecessors, and Stephanopolous was downright tilted far to the right.

  3. Christian Avard

    I will give credit to Jake Tapper for inviting Glenn Greenwald. When Elena Kagan’s SCOTUS nomination was announced, Tapper brought Greenwald on and Greenwald rightfully, appropriately, and professionally grilled Kagan’s longtime friend and associate Greg Craig. That was a breath of fresh air on ABC This Week.

    I hope Amanour invites Greenwald to come back and she also invites other well-known commentators who get pushed off to the fringes of mainstream media discourse. Juan Cole, MJ Rosenberg, Helena Cobban, and/or Jack Shaheen (a former CBS Mideast analyst) would provide some much needed perspective on the Mideast. Independent journalist Jeremy Scahill would provide more accurate observations about the realities on the ground in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. And yes, Jay Rosen should come back on again, especially with the recent developments on WikiLeaks and what they mean in terms of journalism. Greg Mitchell would also be a great guest. Even Katrina vanden Heuvel of The Nation (although I’m not a fan of hers).

    ABC This Week has to break out of its beltway Washington journalistic culture BS. Not many people care about it anymore unless you’re a political wonk or a news buff.

  4. Steve Stein

    Check out this shameful hatchet job Tom Shales laid on Amanpour in the Washington Post. Jealous much?

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Steve: Shales’ piece is so awful that it ought to be nominated for some sort of Hall of Fame. But I really have to object to your calling Shales “jealous.” Having worked as a media critic for more than 15 years now, I can tell you that whenever I’ve done a hatchet job on someone — all of them much-deserved, of course! — someone has crawled out of the woodwork to accuse me of being jealous. It’s bogus and offensive.

      Shales is not envious of Amanpour. He’s just doing his job. Very badly.

  5. Donna Morris

    Finally, a Sunday morning talk show with substance and discipline.

    Amanpour’s questions and dialogue are in striking contrast to the usual mundane fare foisted upon us. She displayed in-depth background knowledge of the issues under discussion and politely, but firmly, challenged her subjects on their evasion and spin, often using their own past statements to do so.

    Pelosi was visibly uncomfortable at times, I assume due to the calibre of the questions, Amanpour’s follow-ups, and on occasion, Amanapour’s ability to connect diverse but connected aspects of Pelosi’s replies. Gates was more comfortable with Amanpour – he always appears at ease with the media – but I thought he was at times tacken aback by the complexity of Amanpour’s queries.

    I regularly watch all the Sunday morning talk shows, and admit to initial skepticism about Amanpour’s fit on “This Week”. My doubt was misplaced, and Amanpour spoke truth in the lead-up promo in which she says, “The world’s newsmakers answer to you.” Amanpour expects answers and she does the unexpected: she connects diverse aspects of single subjects and brings them into the conversation. Unintentionally perhaps, it throws her subjects off balance and off their talking points and spin. The viewer then catches a glimpse of truth and authenticity.

  6. Steve Stein

    OK, point taken, Dan and thanks. I’ll never do it again! (Until the next time, at least. 🙂

  7. Steve Stein

    Josh Marshall thinks she’s an “absolutely inspired choice”, but doesn’t hold high hopes for her surviving “pushback from the right”. I don’t really know what he’s referring to (other than Shales’s comment), but can Marshall be wrong?

  8. Christian Avard

    Steve, I don’t think Christiane Amanpour has much to fear from the right as she does from the overzealous Zionist lobby, its PR agencies, the ADL, the AJC, and other like-minded groups. All it will take is for Amanpour to accurately and responsibly cover the Israeli-Palestine conflict and all of these groups will mount enormous pressure to get her canned. ABC will buckle just like any other major news network would on an issue like this. ABC does not want to be labeled or branded “anti-semitic” no matter how wrong, inaccurate, or overreactionary these charges may be. If it does happen, it won’t be the first time something like this happens to a respectable award-winning journalist.

  9. Neil Sagan

    I have to agree Christian, which is why I think she will choose to not cover stories about the Israeli peace process … and why should she when she can let Edward Teller? By the way, who hired (PR flack) Ari Fleischer to railroad Helen Thomas?

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