The Center for Communication is a 28-year-old organization that was founded by former CBS President Frank Stanton to link working professionals in the industry with universities, so that those who are out there on the front lines can help prepare the media leaders of tomorrow. Not exactly an easy task these days, given the upheaval in the front lines.
Last week, the Center gave its annual Frank Stanton Award to Charlie Rose, whose hourlong chat fest includes an eclectic lineup of politicians, CEOs, world leaders, actors and academics. Turns out, the late Dr. Stanton and the recipient of this year's award had a very personal connection. When Rose was a young lawyer from North Carolina with a yen for another profession, he was introduced to Stanton, who became a mentor of sorts for Rose, encouraging his forays into broadcasting and ultimately pointing him toward PBS's Bill Baker, where "The Charlie Rose Show" was born.
On hand to fete Rose were Baker, "60 Minutes" Executive Producer Jeffrey Fager, Newsweek Editor Jon Meacham and longtime ABC newswoman Barbara Walters. Baker noted that no one has taken cultural life hostage as thoroughly as Rose: "He must be stopped. ... It's total domination." Fager recounted how, when he was looking to fill out the roster for "60 Minutes II," Rose was a natural fit because of his willingness to cover "serious" subjects through broadcast journalism. Meacham praised Rose as "endlessly curious." And Walters claimed to be "deeply jealous" because Rose doesn't have to worry about ratings.
But it is interesting how outsize Rose's influence is among a certain quarter of America, the highly educated, serious thinkers, movers and shakers. After all, his nightly show usually attracts an audience of just about 1.2 million. But in the news world, about 22 million still tune in to the three nightly news broadcasts on ABC, CBS and NBC. And the cable news universe, in prime time, attracts another 4 million. So why is Rose someone future media creators should look to emulate? The takeaway is to find a format that fits you as a journalist. Rose borrows his studio space and doesn't need anything more than a table, a couple of chairs and his mind (and a crack researcher). With digital media, could a really smart journalist create a 21st-century version? Here's hoping.