Schieffer, B. (2004). This just in: What I couldn't tell you on TV. New York: Berkley. 432 pages.
Bob Schieffer's official title is interim anchor of the CBS Evening News, a description that seems unduly tentative for a man who has been a network fixture since 1969. Yet its reticence accurately reflects the personality of a man who, after a long and distinguished journalistic career, suddenly finds himself in the unlikely role of a late-blooming television headliner. Transformed by fate from supporting player into leading man, Schieffer now sits upon the throne of network news's most venerable institution. This unexpected third-act twist should not come as a total surprise: For the past 40-plus years, Bob Schieffer has shown an uncanny knack for being in the right place at the right time.
Schieffer completed his best-selling memoir, This Just In: What I Couldn't Tell You on TV, before moving into the anchor slot at CBS. But the author's newfound career has given the book a second wind. Although the breathless title promises a series of juicy behind-the-scenes revelations, This Just In functions more as a collection of entertaining personal anecdotes than a true peek behind the curtains of power--interesting as far as it goes, but not much deeper than a petunia plant in a Texas flowerbed.
Like Dan Rather, his controversial predecessor, Bob Schieffer started reporting as a hometown boy in the Lone Star State. Schieffer is part of an ever more unusual breed of news professionals: the TV journalist who first learned his trade in the newspaper business. Working in the lowly position of night police reporter at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Schieffer scooped the competition by landing an exclusive interview with the mother of Lee Harvey Oswald in the hours after the Kennedy assassination in 1963. The interview with Mrs. Oswald established a pattern that Schieffer would follow throughout his career: Sometimes by circumstance and sometimes by design, Bob Schieffer has had a ringside seat at some of the biggest stories in contemporary American history.
Consider the subject matter this Zelig-like reporter has covered. Schieffer was on hand for the court-ordered integration of the University of Mississippi ("among the most terrifying experiences of my life"; p. 27). In 1965 he became the first Texas newspaperman to report firsthand from Vietnam. He played a prominent role in political convention coverage when political conventions still counted. He...