Bode May Quit PBS' Political Show
Feb. 24, 1999
NEW YORK (AP) _ The political intrigue backstage at PBS's ``Washington Week in Review'' makes what's talked about on the air seem tame.
Moderator Ken Bode of the political roundtable says he's ready to quit because his boss wants ``more attitude'' on the show. Management, meanwhile, claims Bode is misrepresenting them and is angry he's taken their battle public.
``Washington Week in Review,'' shown Friday nights on most PBS stations, has aired for 32 years. The show's panelists are working reporters who stress analysis over the opinionated commentary found on many other political talk shows.
Bode said he sought to promote an ``oasis of civilization'' on PBS that stood out from shows with argumentative panelists.
``You can find that 24 hours a day in about 16 locations on the dial,'' said Bode, who is also dean of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. ``You don't need another one.''
Bode's contract expires this month and he said he was negotiating for another year when he learned that WETA-TV in Washington, which produces the show, had offered his job to NBC News correspondent Gwen Ifill. She turned it down.
He said he has agreed to stay for another four months and then leave.
Sharon Percy Rockefeller, president of WETA-TV, said changes that are being discussed will be ``imperceptible to virtually every viewer.'' She said WETA-TV was talking about changing the amount of time some panelists were on the air.
``In no way were we going to change the format (or) change the integrity of the journalism,'' Rockefeller said. While Ifill was approached about being moderator, she was not offered the job, she said.
Meanwhile, Elizabeth Piersol, executive producer of ``Washington Week in Review,'' was fired Tuesday when ``it became clear she wouldn't be a constructive part of the team,'' said WETA-TV spokeswoman Mary Stewart.
Piersol did not immediately return a telephone call for comment Wednesday. The Washington Post said that in a meeting, WETA-TV executive vice president Dalton Delan had claimed he had never said the show needed more attitude, edge and opinion, and that Piersol had contradicted him. Delan also didn't return a call for comment.
Delan ``had to fire Elizabeth Piersol to cover his tracks, and that is an unforgivable thing to do,'' Bode said. ``It just shows that in television, as in other businesses, the cover up is worse than the lie. That is just a miserable act of self-preservation.''
One member of WETA-TV's board, Roger Wilkins, has resigned in protest over the flap.
Bode said he planned to discuss what's going on with the show on the air, an idea Rockefeller wasn't aware of. She said she didn't know whether Bode would stay for the next four months.
``We were mystified and dismayed that he chose to share his feelings about this transition to the public, to the press,'' Rockefeller said. ``We had hoped for a more graceful end to his five-year tenure.''