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October 28, 2013

Host: Ted Simons

Bob Schieffer

  |   Video
  • Bob Schieffer has been a television journalist for CBS News since 1969. He's one of the few journalists to have covered the White House, Congress, the Pentagon and the Department of State. He's moderated presidential debates, including one in 2004 in Tempe. Schieffer, the 2013 recipient of the Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism, will join Horizon Host Ted Simons to talk about his career and journalism.
  • Bob Schieffer - Television Journalist, CBS News
Category: Community   |   Keywords: bob schieffer, journalist, cronkite, award,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Bob Schieffer has been a television journalist for CBS news since 1969. He is one of the few to have covered the White House, state house, Congress and the Pentagon. He's moderated presidential debates, including the 2004 debate in Tempe, and he's this year's recipient of the ASU Walter Cronkite award for excellence in journalism. Bob Schieffer joins us about his career, journalism and maybe even the art of song writing. Thanks for being here.

Bob Schieffer: Thank you very much, I’m honored to be here. Winning this award, there have been a lot of really good journalists who have won this over the years, but I have to tell you, I'm not sure any of them appreciated it more or felt it more deeply than I do. Walter Cronkite was my hero. He was who I wanted to be when I was young. He's still who I want to be. To win an award with his name on it is about as good as it gets for me.

Ted Simons: Working with and around Cronkite what did you learn, see, experience?

Bob Schieffer: The thing about Walter is he was exactly on television the way he was in person. He just was. He even talked that way. That Texas -- Walter Cronkite. He was just the same. He loved the job. I have never known anyone who loved the news more than Walter. He would talk about it with anybody. I have been with him many times, people will walk up to him on the street and say, what do you think of this latest development in Syria or something, and he wouldn't just be polite. He would stop and discuss it with them and he would generally ask them, what is your take on this? He just loved the news. He loved to talk about the news. He was a great storyteller. A wonderful friend.

Ted Simons: Do you find that comes across, you obviously love the news and current events, you wouldn't have done it this long without having a passion for it. Sometimes you look at folks, you wonder, they don't look like they're having that good of a time.

Bob Schieffer: I'm telling you I think part of Walter's success was people would look at him and say, that's a great job old Walter’s got, and Walter realized that and understood that. I think that's one of the reasons people trusted him so much.

Ted Simons: what got you into journalism?

Bob Schieffer: I always wanted to be a reporter. When I was in th grad I wrote a story for the junior high school newspaper and I saw my name in boldface type for the first time on top of that story and I said, I really like that. That's pretty neat. From that time on that is what I always wanted to do.

Ted Simons: You were in the Air Force.

Bob Schieffer: Yes.

Ted Simons: That service, how did that impact your career later on? Do you see a little bit of military happening every now and then?

Bob Schieffer: I would tell you, I think being in the military was the greatest transition that one could have to prepare for real life coming out of college. I learned a lot. I got to travel. I got to go places I wouldn't have gone before. I hoped to go to pilot school but I played baseball at TCU, and I got hit in the eye. Dizzy Dean's nephew, Paul Dean, Junior, played for SMU and hit me in the left eye. He played for SMU. I couldn't passed physical to go to pilot training. I always tell people I flew the LSD, the Large Steel Desk. It was a great transition into real life.

Ted Simons: What did you play in baseball?

Bob Schieffer: Catcher. Because they always put the slowest guy behind the plate and I was the slowest guy.

Ted Simons: Quickest way to get into the big leagues playing catcher. No one wants to do it. I'm fascinated by how many big name journalists, mostly in broadcasting, all around, were in Dallas, around Dallas, in Texas, when the JFK assassination occurred. You were there.

Bob Schieffer: I was. By the strangest circumstances I was a reporter at the Fort Worth "Star Telegram" in those days. The day President Kennedy was shot I was on the city desk just trying to help answer the phones. A woman called and said is there anybody there to give me a ride to Dallas? I said, lady, we don't run a taxi here, besides the President has been shot. I almost hung up the phone. She said, yes, I know. She said I heard on the radio. I think my son is the one they have arrested. It was Lee Harvey Oswald's mother. I wrote down the address, another reporter and I went out to this address, picked her up, took her to Dallas and I stayed with her most of the day.

Ted Simons: His wife was there as well?

Bob Schieffer: His wife later came along. We never told people who we were unless they asked. If they wanted to think we were a cop we let them think we were a cop. The Dallas cops thought I was a Fort Worth detective. So as the evening wore on in fact I had asked one of the uniformed police at the Dallas police station if there was someplace we could put her so the reporters wouldn't be bothering her. He assumed I was a detective so they found a place. As the evening wore on, she said, do you think they will let me see my son? I said, I don't know. I asked the Chief of detectives. He said, we probably ought to do that. We were herded into this holding room off the jail by this time his wife had joined us and I'm thinking, my God, they are going to bring him down here I'll hear what he says to his mother. Maybe I'll get to interview him. Finally a guy in the corner said, who are you? He said, are you a reporter? I said, yes. He said, get outta here. It was an FBI agent asking the question somebody should have asked, but in those days if you looked like you belonged someplace you could get in.

Ted Simons: That's an interesting bridge the next question, which is those days compared to these days. How has journalism changed? Has it changed for the better? Do you even recognize it sometimes?

Bob Schieffer: In many ways it has changed for the better. Certainly we're going through a technological revolution which has many good aspects to it but also some downsides to it. As I often say with the internet you can -- the news travels faster than ever. That's the good news. Bad news is the nuts can all find one another. That's raised real questions about how we do business. Our national security. All of those things. But in those days, news is pretty orderly. You got up in the morning, read the paper, watched the TV news, that was about it. Now we're bombarded with news from everywhere.

Ted Simons: Opinion and sometimes news and opinion, which is hard for folks to delineate.

Bob Schieffer: Well, what's different is that in those days you had three networks and your hometown newspaper and the major newspapers. Now you can get news from any conceivable point of view. Liberal, conservative, vegetarian if you wanted that. What's happened is we now have a lot of people who tend to watch only the channels -- I call it validation television, that validate their previous point of view. So what happens is if you're not careful, you wind up getting only one side of the story. We're not all getting the same stuff anymore. That's one of the reasons I think we have the great partisan divide.

Ted Simons: What do you do about that? If folks are voting with their eyes and ears and going to for these, for lack of better word, partisan websites, newscasts, radio casts, whatever, journalism is supposed to be delivering a service. What if you're delivering a service that no one wants anymore?

Bob Schieffer: You have to find a way to be relevant. My feeling is that as long as you present information that people need to improve their lives, they will watch. They will read your publication. But that's what we in journalism have to do is figure out how to stay relevant. And the most important thing that those of us in mainstream journalism can do is put extra emphasis on accuracy because so much out there now is just flat wrong. It's not just wrong, it's hatefully wrong in some cases. It's deliberately wrong in some cases. There has to be if we are going to have a democracy and people are to get independently gathered, accurate information there has to be a place to get that. That's why it's so crucial -- this is a commercial for the First Amendment. That's why it is so crucial. You can't have our kind of government unless citizens have access to independently gathered information.

Ted Simons: And there may be -- even on this program, you get complaints from the left, complaints from the right, but the fact that you're still offering it is important whether people realize it's good for them or not.

Bob Schieffer: Well, you have to find ways to get their attention. There's this great maw of information out there, and sometimes the hardest part of the journalist’s job is to somehow crash through that and tell people what you feel they ought to know.

Ted Simons: You have been anchor, were an anchor for 24-some years?

Bob Schieffer: 23 years I think.

Ted Simons: Didn't you when Dan rather, that whole thing happened, you were the first on there afterwards, correct?

Bob Schieffer: I did the evening news for a couple of years.

Ted Simons: Did you like it?

Bob Schieffer: I did. That happened to me earlier in my life I might have really campaigned hard for that job, but -- it was a wonderful job to have, and it was fun, but I would have had to totally uproot my whole life, move to New York. My grandkids are in Washington. It was not the point of the stage of my life where that was a good thing for me. It was a great thing to do and I'm glad I did it but I wouldn't want to do it all the time.

Ted Simons: You mentioned Walter Cronkite. Talk about Dan rather. What relationship did you have with him?

Bob Schieffer: Dan and I were always good friends. We don't see each other anymore, obviously, as much as we used to, but I always liked Dan. When I first came to CBS because I was from Texas and he was from Texas, we got along very well.

Ted Simons: Face the Nation. What makes a good Face the Nation show? When you leave the studio what makes you go, that one felt good?

Bob Schieffer: It's when you can get the key player in the most important news of the week. You can move that story forward. You know, Sunday mornings I think is still the smartest hour or so on television right now. The talking heads on Sunday morning, I don't mean just Face the Nation, all of the Sunday morning shows, they are much different than some of the talking heads you'll see at different times of the day in some of the other places on television. That's because we're still information driven. We're still trying to move the story forward. They are not about anchor antics or about gotchas and all that stuff. That happens at other places. That doesn't happen on the Sunday morning shows. I'm very proud of that and I tell you something, there is still an audience out there for that. Face the Nation is the second oldest television program, it will be 60 years old next year. Meet the Press is the oldest. They are the two programs on television that really have changed the least. The technology is a lot better but basically we just bring people in, sit then down at a table like this and turn on the lights and ask them questions. That's how they started and people still find that helpful. So I'm really proud to be a part of that.

Ted Simons: All right. Before we let you go, you have a busy day. You are going to talk about journalism and ethics and the whole nine yards all day long. What about songwriting? You're a songwriter!

Bob Schieffer: It's my secret life. It's kind of a parallel universe. I get a lot of fun out of it. I sing and write songs for a little band in Washington called Honkytonk Confidential. Maybe one of the great high points of my life is we were once asked to perform at the Grand Ole Opry. I came on after Trisha Yearwood and before Brad Paisley. Brad came out on the stage, we got a standing ovation. He said, thanks for coming, folks, I'm not following that. I was scared to death.

Ted Simons: All those years, anchoring all those stories, moderating presidential debates, a whole 'nother beast entirely, and the Grand Ole Opry got you?

Bob Schieffer: I'm telling you, it was really something, and it was also really fun. But I just love words and putting words together. I have always written kind of doggerel kind of poetry. This was just a whole new thing for me. And one of these days hopefully somebody is going to cut one of these and it will be a hit record.

Ted Simons: I hope it will too. Until then, though, continued success. Congratulations on a wonderful career and the award. Thank you for being with us.

Prosecutorial Misconduct

  |   Video
  • The Arizona Republic has looked at past death penalty cases in Arizona since 2002, and found that prosecutorial misconduct was alleged in 42 of the 82 cases. Arizona Republic reporter Michael Kiefer, who has been working on the series, will discuss the issue.
  • Michael Kiefer - Reporter, Arizona Republic
Category: Law   |   Keywords: death, penalty, arizona, cases,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: A special report by the Arizona Republic is examining prosecutorial misconduct in Arizona death penalty and other cases dating back for ten to 15 years. Michael Kiefer of the Arizona Republic is leading this particular project. He joins us right now. First, great reporting. Great job so far. We're just a couple stories in, you have more stories coming out so I don't want you to scoop yourself, but talk about what you're doing. Prosecutorial misconduct. How bad is it in Arizona?

Michael Kiefer: It's not rampant. It tends to be as in most other jurisdictions that there are a few players who repeatedly push the envelope. The problem is you know, it can be in very high-profile cases and it's very difficult to reign in. Nobody wants to do it.

Ted Simons: Alleged in half of all capital cases ending in death sentences and half of those we find out the Supreme Court saying, yes, there was a problem here.

Michael Kiefer: Now, in terms of what constitutes prosecutorial misconduct, that's a problematic thing. There's no black-letter definitions of the word. It's a constitutional issue. It's something that infringes on someone's constitutional right to a fair trial. These instances, these allegations will come in the appeals of these death penalties under a heading of prosecutorial misconduct, but it can range from things that are inadvertent, something so -- something like rolling eyes, vouching for evidence saying you know this witness is telling the truth. All the way up to encouraging witnesses to perjure themselves.

Ted Simons: You wrote excessive sarcasm could be involved, from that to introducing false testimony and everything in between. Where is the line drawn between misconduct and error?

Michael Kiefer: There are recommendations by the American Bar Association to distinguish among them, but the line is drawn by the judge. The allegation is made whether you're talking about a case in trial or you're talking about something during an appeal. It has to be argued. One side will say, look, we think this crossed the line. The other side will defend itself. Then it's up to the judge to make a decision. What's the problem with that? Especially if you're talking about murder cases or serious criminal actions, who wants to put that person out on the street? What are the options? The judge can sanction an attorney, can refer the attorney to the bar or throw out the case.

Ted Simons: How often are attorneys sanctioned or referred to the bar?

Michael Kiefer: Prosecutors very, very rarely. I found in the 82 cases I looked at the death penalty cases going back to 2002 there were two attorneys sanctioned. Two cases thrown out. They weren't necessarily the same cases. They are very hesitant to do that. Very few attorneys or prosecutors are referred to the bar. Defense attorneys don't want to tangle with them. Prosecutors, again, most prosecutors are very honorable, but they have to be held to a higher standard. Why? They make the charge. They can offer -- they decide whether or not to impose the death penalty. They can offer the plea agreement. When you consider that most -- we have mandatory sentencing in Arizona. In essence they are pre-determining what the punishment is going to be. Now, consider also that there are perhaps 40,000 felonies charged in Maricopa County alone per year. Only 2% go to trial. Most result in guilty verdicts. The other 98% are probably settled through plea agreements. So basically you're talking about mostly guilty verdicts. Think about those things.

Ted Simons: The dynamics are touchy here. That's why this is an important story. Why did you decide to go with this story? Talk about your background in the courts. Did you see stuff? Are you hearing stuff out there? What sent you down this trail?

Michael Kiefer: I have been covering the courts here for a little more than ten years. So many of the cases that are detailed in this case are cases I have covered. I have been there firsthand. In fact it was interesting, we were going through with the lawyers and the editors, they asked how do you know they said that? Well, I was there. I have been gathering these sort of anecdotal ideas and then I was asked if I wanted to put a proposal together for the Guggenheim Foundation for a fellowship. I thought maybe I want to look at this. I have wanted to look at this. The paper gave me the time to go back and look at it.

Ted Simons: And again, you're looking in general at prosecutorial misconduct. We went over the definition and you referred to this. Bottom line is is it such that the defendant does not receive a fair trial?

Michael Kiefer: Exactly.

Ted Simons: That is what you were looking at. Is that, A, a problem right now in Arizona, and B, where is the problem worse? Maricopa, Pinal, smaller coutnies? What’s going on there?

Michael Kiefer: It changes with the culture. There was a period in which Pinal County was problematic there were three attorneys there, one a guy named Ken Peasley got disbarred. He was an enormously popular, powerful prosecutor. Did a lot of death penalties. He was considered to be un-- what is the word? No one questioned him. It turned out that he got caught in this triple homicide encouraging a detective to perjure himself. Not just in the first trial but in mistrials. It caught up with him. At that same time there were two other prosecutors who had a lot of difficulties. One was suspended. The other passed away. It's a cultural kind of thing. Now, we are looking right now at some serious retrials. Debra Milke, Jonathan Duty, both cases that have come back 20 years later, 25 years later because of actions taken by the state. Questionable confessions. Forced confessions. We pay for this. What is the problem? You can have as in the first section I talked about Ray Crone. Ray Crone was sent to death row for a crime he did not commit. His first conviction was thrown out because of prosecutorial actions. The second one he was ultimately exonerated. Debra Milke, the risk here is that an innocent person can go to prison. And also that a guilty person can be set free.

Ted Simons: With that being said, what kind of response are you getting, vocal or otherwise, on the background style here, from prosecutors, from judges, from defense attorneys? Are you getting this guy is way out of line, what's he talking about, or hurrahs?

Michael Kiefer: There's been a lot of reaction, mostly favorable so far. Defense attorneys of course have thought this to be a problem. They feel -- they are hesitant to say anything about it because they have to face the same prosecutors over and over. I had a few judges tell me that they are happy to see something being done. Let's see if they will actually start calling people on it. A few prosecutors actually have talked to me. Some have been surprised by some of the things that people have said in the story.

Ted Simons: Short time here left, but what kind of oversight do County attorneys have over their departments? Are these folks just running under the radar here?

Michael Kiefer: You have people who have been working -- County attorneys tend to be elected officials. I'll get in trouble for saying this, but they have not -- they are not homicide, typically homicide prosecutors. They’re managers, they’re politicians. I think they delegate it to the supervisors they have. So they don't meddle in the cases.

Ted Simons: Tomorrow you'll talk about Juan Martinez in Maricopa County. That should be interesting. Great work. Good to have you. Thanks for joining us.