PBS reporter talks politics at luncheon

ARC grad now Washington journalist speaks to Kiwanis

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In the olden days of politics, Republican President Reagan and Democratic House Speaker Tip O'Neill often shared 6 p.m. cocktails at the White House without either one feeling they were selling out their ideals.

Judy Woodruff, a senior correspondent on The Newshour with Jim Lehrer, spoke about the partisan political climate to the Kiwanis Club of Augusta at St. Paul's Episcopal Church.   Jackie Ricciardi/Staff
Jackie Ricciardi/Staff
Judy Woodruff, a senior correspondent on The Newshour with Jim Lehrer, spoke about the partisan political climate to the Kiwanis Club of Augusta at St. Paul's Episcopal Church.

Judy Woodruff of The News Hour with Jim Lehrer spoke of today's partisan climate, the changing face of the media, Ronald Reagan's command of the press and of working a summer job as a teenager in Augusta, during a lunch meeting with the Kiwanis Club of Augusta on Monday.

That bitter partisanship that has dominated Washington politics for two decades is not news to many. But, as a 30-year veteran political journalist, Woodruff has seen the change from a bird's-eye point of view.

In the '70s and '80s, politicians stayed in Washington, brought their families, and socialized across party and ideological lines, Woodruff said, and it helped them govern together later. Today, they fly home on weekends and, when in town, associate with those who hold similar views.

"What's troubling and even corrosive (today) is the assumption that the other side is wrong, no matter what," Woodruff said. "That there's something fundamentally flawed, even illegitimate in the belief structure of the other side. That compromise or a solution is not desirable and is to be avoided at all costs, because it's really selling out on principles and capitulation to the enemy."

Opinion journalism and the introduction of ever-shorter news sound bites have exacerbated partisan politics, but are not the source of it, she said.

On a lighter note, Woodruff, who was a White House correspondent through two administrations, recalled the differences between the Carter White House, which was very open with the press, and the Reagan White House, which ran a tight ship.

Those shots of Reagan waving as he boarded the helicopter were sometimes as close as the press got that day, she said. After John Hinckley's assassination attempt, Reagan granted reporters a 40-minute interview and spent the first 35 minutes telling stories about Hollywood.

"We looked at our watches and saw we had 5 minutes left ... so we just kind of limply asked him one question each and got up to leave," she said. "That was classic Ronald Reagan."

Woodruff, who graduated from the Academy of Richmond County in Augusta, got her start in the '70s at an Atlanta TV station and credited her coverage of candidate Jimmy Carter as the break that propelled her into national political coverage.

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jstevens73 05/09/11 - 04:09 pm
The article never mentions

The article never mentions needing more partisan nor states anything about ARC. Hmmm.... I swear it doesn't look like this article was finished. Right down to having no period at the end . Let me know when to come back to finish reading? LOL. Sorry if I'm being too picky.

Sweet son
Sweet son 05/09/11 - 04:28 pm
js, I am with you. The

js, I am with you. The article in the headlines mentions ARC but does not go into Ms. Woodruff's life in Augusta. If there really was one? Carole, enlighten us!

dwb619 05/09/11 - 11:08 pm
She was an Army brat,

She was an Army brat, attended Richmond Academy while her father was stationed at Fort Gordon, during the mid sixties.

Carole Hawkins
Carole Hawkins 05/10/11 - 10:02 am
dw619, Thanks for helping

Thanks for helping out. There was an extra paragraph about a summer job as a candy striper in an Augusta hospital, but it seems to have been cut on the edit. Sorry to disappoint.

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