Did you see the start of our show Monday night? You never know what you are going to see! And, guess what? I don't always know, either! Last night was no exception.
Up until about five minutes to 10 p.m. ET, I expected we would start the show with Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana, who is on the Senate Armed Services Committee. Tuesday, the Senate Armed Services Committee will question, among others, the general who prepared the report about the abuse at the Iraqi prison.
Some time between five to 10 and 10 p.m., my New York producer told me via my earpiece that there was going to be a news conference held by PFC Lynndie England's (search) lawyers. Actually, I had been tipped off earlier that it might occur, but since we don't schedule these things, I did not take seriously that it would actually occur at 10 p.m. on my watch. My producer told me that we were going to "take it." I agreed. I was curious what the lawyers would say... at least I was until they got started.
Right at 10 p.m. we went directly to the news conference and I don't know about you, but why were the lawyers giving their biographies? I suppose that is of some value -- especially for the print media – but it’s deadly for the electronic media (TV). As the lawyers went on and on about how they got involved in the case -- at one point I felt like it was an advertisement for the American Bar Association -- my New York producer said, "Let's get out of this." I was off camera so I indicated "no." I thought that it had to get better. It did not. My New York producer then told me that our senior producer called into the show and she said, "Let's get out of this." So I nodded OK, but fully expected that we would get back to it.
We moved onto interviews with Senator Bayh and President Reagan's Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger and never got back to the press conference. We did not simply ignore the press conference. We had someone monitor it in New York and I got periodic updates in my earpiece throughout the first 20 minutes of the show so that we could make a decision whether to go back or not. As you know, we never did go back. Frankly, this was the right decision.
The bottom line is this: We plan for a show but live – unexpected -- events make it a juggling act. Of course we can't predict for certainty whether a live event will newsworthy, or not, so we "roll the dice."
I have now completed my new and self imposed "part time job" -- addressing envelopes with "On the Record" bumper stickers to send to you, the viewers of the show and readers of the GretaWire. I actually had lots of help, but I addressed many, too. I addressed them every time I had a spare two minutes and often while doing conference calls from my office (I would put the conference calls on "speaker phone" and write away!) I have discovered we have more bumper stickers, so if you did not get one (or two!), e-mail me your full name and address and I will see that you get one.
Some viewers who don't have cars have found ways to enjoy the bumper sticker and sent me pictures:
E-mail No. 1
Check out my Greta bumper sticker. Since I don't own my own car, I put it on the back of my On The Record jean jacket.
Great show tonight.
And check out these scooters stickers!
Finally, on a serious note: yes, I did get all the e-mails about the photos from the Iraqi prison (search). I don't want you to think I ignore your e-mails. Some of you tell me to stop showing them and some of you tell me it is important -- for the safety of our troops -- that we continue to show them. The thinking of the latter is that Americans need to know about any additional risks we put our troops in and of course we want our troops treated in accordance with the Geneva Conventions if taken captive. If we don't treat our enemies in accordance with the Geneva Conventions, it is guaranteed that they won't treat our troops that way. There is also a good chance they won't anyway but that is another matter and a risk the president does not want to take and neither does anyone else.
Frankly, both arguments "for and against" showing the photos often make sense -- so I often find us trying to figure out what is the "right" thing to do. We try and use good judgment -- note, I did not say "perfect" judgment. "Perfect" judgment does not exist. We attempt to strike the right balance and bring you the news. There is no correct mathematical formula. I suppose it is wiser to err on the side of showing them more since the viewer can momentarily look away.
Do you have something you'd like to say to Greta? Please write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Watch On the Record with Greta Van Susteren weeknights at 10 p.m. ET