Return to Transcripts main page

Reliable Sources

TSA and the Media; Interview with Rachael Ray

Aired November 28, 2010 - 11:00   ET


HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: Journalists today have to do it all -- report, write, blog, tweet, feed their Facebook page, then start the cycle all over again. But is this constant churn, what I call hyper- speed journalism, good for viewers and readers, or are we just all too often filling air time and column mentions?

The story just took off, charges of intrusive searches by airport security guards. But is the press blowing a few incidents out of proportion?

Rachael Ray has food shows, cookbooks, a magazine, syndicated daytime program, and lobbies in Washington on the side. Is this the pinnacle of success, or is she spreading herself a bit too thin? The conversation with a culinary superstar.

Plus, glossy magazines running pictures of female journalists in fetching outfits. You got a problem with that? We'll talk to the editor of "Elle" magazine.

I'm Howard Kurtz, and this is RELIABLE SOURCES.


KURTZ: It often seems like journalism on steroids, this constant flow of postings and items and video and re-tweeting that flashes across our computer screens, especially about politics. But are we gorging on empty calories?

To give you just a snapshot, let's look at one random morning this past Monday.

Politico's "44" column, 5:10 a.m., "President Obama has no public events scheduled for Monday, but Vice President Biden plan to meet in the morning with House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer."

"The New York Times Caucus" blog, here's Michael Shear at 7:24, posting video of "Saturday Night Live" poking fun at TSA security guards.

CNN's "Political Ticker," 9:22, "Sarah Palin released a sneak peek of her new book on Facebook."

CNN, 10:01 by Paul Steinhauser, "President Obama leads Palin by eight points in a hypothetical 2012 poll."

"New York Times," 12:33, "Michelle Obama gets a new communications director."

Politico at 12:47 has "Gibbs briefs. Asked if he is going to leave his job, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs says, 'I have spent very little time working on that.'"

So -- let me catch my breath here -- is this all journalistic verbiage worth it?

Joining us now, Paul Steinhauser, CNN deputy political director and write for the "CNN Political Ticker"; Ana Marie Cox, columnist for "GQ" magazine; and Michael Shear, of "The New York Times," the lead writer for "The Caucus Blog."

Michael Shear, when you are blogging, first at "The Washington Post," now at "The New York Times," do you ever feel that you're, to use a technical term, churning it out?

MICHAEL SHEAR, LEAD WRITER, "THE CAUCUS BLOG": Sure. I mean, look, of course. The pace -- and over the last two decades it's changed completely -- of what we do and how fast we do it --

KURTZ: In the last two weeks it's changed completely?

SHEAR: Exactly, the last couple of weeks. But I do think what we should be doing, what we're trying to do, especially, you know, where I am at The Times, and at The Post, and at other places as well, is trying to find a middle ground, trying to find some balance between just throwing everything we can up. And, at the same time, you know, you can't sort of lean back and stroke your chin and say, well, I'll get to that development some time, when it's --

KURTZ: Some time after lunch, right.

SHEAR: You know, so you can't do that.

KURTZ: Ana Marie Cox, we all like having instantaneous news. You press a button, you hit "refresh" and get it. But are we in danger of drowning in trivialities?

ANA MARIE COX, COLUMNIST, "GQ" MAGAZINE: I think so. One thing I want to say, I feel very lucky to work at a monthly right now. And another thing, when you called it journalism on steroids -- and we all know the side-effects of steroids. I mean, I think you lose, to use an unfortunately gendered term, some testicular fortitude when you are just churning things out like that.

I think that the problem is that you produce a lot of stuff that doesn't have a lot heft. You produce a lot of stuff that doesn't have the kind of, like, courage, let's say.

If you're busy keeping up with what isn't happening at the White House briefing, it keeps -- it takes you away from stuff that is happening.

KURTZ: Well, I personally needed to know that President Obama had no public schedule.


KURTZ: Paul Steinhauser, every bit of political news obviously can't get on CNN, but it can get on the CNN Ticker.

PAUL STEINHAUSER, DEPUTY POLITICAL DIRECTOR, CNN POLITICAL TICKER: And that's what it's for. It's for those political junkies that want to know everything. And you mentioned my poll -- I think -- I don't even remember who wrote the poll anymore, but of course we're going to put that out there. But --

KURTZ: Even though it's a hypothetical poll.

STEINHAUSER: Hypothetical.

KURTZ: Two years from now --


KURTZ: -- Palin may not be the nominee.

STEINHAUSER: There is a lot of interest --

KURTZ: A lot of clicks on that.

STEINHAUSER: A lot of clicks on that. A lot of clicks on Sarah Palin, of course.

But you're right, there are certain things we put on The Ticker that we will not put on CNN television.

KURTZ: Let me read something before you jump in from the "Columbia Journalism Review." This is a piece called "The Hamster Wheel" by Dean Starkman, and he's describing this phenomenon.

And he says, "The hamster wheel isn't speed, it's motion for motion's sake. The hamster wheel is volume without thought. It is a news panic, a lack of discipline, an inability to say no. The hamster wheel really is the mainstream media's undoing in real time, and they're doing it to themselves."

Now, obviously, you talked about the middle ground. But do you ever feel like well, why am I writing about this Obama speech, or that Senate vote, when everybody can get that elsewhere?

SHEAR: Of course. And that's the challenge of -- you know, of trying to find the heft that Ana Marie, you know, talked about.

On the other hand, think about sports for a minute; right? I mean, there's a lot of sports junkies out there who want the raw information, who want to know what the stats are of their favorite player, who want to know every game and what the outcome of every game is, even if the game is sort of irrelevant to the big, you know, sort of picture.

But in politics, you know, in the old days, we sort of kept all that information. We hoarded all of that.

Now, in a sense, what we've done, and what the Internet has forced us to do, is to kind of spray out there all of the minutia of political news. And somebody's -- you know, somebody's got to do it. Somebody's got to give it to them.

COX: I think it's no accident that two of the more -- two of the sort of rising stars in the blogosphere, and in politics, Nate Silver and Markos Moulitsas, actually have sports backgrounds. You know, Markos Moulitsas actually has an equally successful blog to "The Daily Kos" which is all based on sports teams.

And so that analogy is really accurate. And I think, also, the idea that you have to get all the stats out there, and then what becomes valuable is analysis.

KURTZ: But now -- yes, but now we're talking about statistical analysis, where I think you are adding value. But what I am kind of focused on is where every -- not every, but many, many newspapers, television networks, magazines, have to have Web sites in which they feel compelled to keep you up to date on what's happening in real time.

Now, when you were blogging as Wonkette, you had to do 12 posts a day, right?

COX: Yes.

KURTZ: You had a quota system.

Now you're on Twitter. You have a 1.5 followers, which I'm very jealous of, by the way. You once wrote that you were doing 100 updates a day.

And my question is, why?

COX: Well, gosh, what I have to say is so important, Howie --


COX: -- that I cannot --

KURTZ: You described it as "a live feed from inside my head."

COX: Well, I mean and the thing is, like I guess I feel like on Twitter, people are free to opt out. You know, and I try to be very straightforward about, like, what I tweet about is not always going to be the news of the day, actually.

KURTZ: It may be a picture of your hair when you're waking up?

COX: It may be a picture of my -- it may be a picture of my bed head. It may be a picture of one of my cats. I mean, I try to keep it lively and interesting, but this is actually what I was going to say, and it sort of goes to this sports analogy a little bit, which is in addition to analysis, what becomes important is that, you know, the quality that I know we're all tired of hearing of, but -- hearing about, which is voice.

This is what all publications say they want. Every time I've ever interviewed for a job in the past 10 years, I've been told, "What we're really looking for is voice." And it's a tautology, but that -- when you can find it, that's what works.

KURTZ: That you have a sensibility that --

COX: Yes.

KURTZ: -- others don't have, and therefore, people would want to read you.

COX: But the --


COX: -- the problem is, like, if you go out looking for it, you're not always going to find it.

KURTZ: All right.

I'm wondering, though, Paul, about the hyper-competition in this atmosphere. Do you want to get your items up 20 minutes, 20 seconds before "Politico" or "Huffington Post" or "Talking Points Memo?" Is that part of what drives this?

STEINHAUSER: Of course. Of course. There's a lot of competition between the political blogs.

We want to get it right. We want to get it first, but we definitely want to get it right. And sometimes that means getting it second.

A case in point, last week, I actually -- I beat "Politico," which was nice. So I got the first excerpts of the Huckabee speech. But, you know, within two hours, they had something up and they went a step forward. They took it a step further than I did.

The same thing. I'll be watching the other blogs. If they get something up there, I'm going to want to confirm it as soon as possible and also try to advance it. So the competition if fierce.

KURTZ: But, of course, the thing that strikes me about that is if you did nothing and if "Politico" did nothing, eventually Mike Huckabee would give the speech and we would all know. So in other words, you're not prying out information that otherwise wouldn't become public. Maybe sometimes you are, but not in that instance.

On the other hand, you're saying there's always another -- a way to advance the story, at least another quarter inch.

STEINHAUSER: There's always something else you can find out from sources that will take the story a little bit further than somebody else.

SHEAR: Right. In a sense, it's about context, right? And when -- I mean you read that very damning list of posts that -- you know, that together --

KURTZ: I could have gone on and on.

SHEAR: Right. But --


SHEAR: And I --

KURTZ: That was just the morning.

SHEAR: And I think we all three and most of us would try to avoid the, you know, nothing is going on here post, right?


SHEAR: But I think there's a way, even in this sort of hyper- journalistic age, to take pieces of information that wouldn't necessarily rise to the level of a CNN story and add some context, add some analysis, add some, you know, quick sensibility, some voice, and put it out there, do it quickly, and provide value.

COX: Well, let me --

KURTZ: But what about the impact on reporting?

Let me just stay with Michael for one second.

Anita Dunn, the former White -- Obama White House communications director, said this to "The New Yorker": "Everything is rushed. When journalists call you, it's not because they're interested in having a discussion. They're interested in a response, and the need to file five times a day encourages this."


SHEAR: I think fair. And I -- you know, I mean I've talked to Anita a lot. I think that the one piece that she's leaving out and the one piece that is relevant here is that it's not a one-way street and that the rapid --


SHEAR: -- fire environment that we're in is also used by the political establishment, like Anita, when --

KURTZ: Who want to push things out.

SHEAR: -- who want to push things out, who don't maybe want to have a conversation with you, but want to, you know, leak excerpts of a speech, for example, to CNN so that they can get a jump on the early reaction.

KURTZ: Drive the conversation.

SHEAR: Exactly.

KURTZ: You live-blogged "The Ed Show." This is Ed Schultz on MSNBC.


KURTZ: And I went and counted 36 entries in one hour.

So my question is, were you sober?


COX: As far as I recall, although I can't really remember doing it, so I'm just going to go with yes.

You know, that stuff is also just a -- that is a voice thing. I mean, that -- what I'm blogging "The Ed Show," it is because I'm going to provide entertainment for people. And that's another side of this.

I mean, it is -- I mean, when I was at "Wonkette," I never did a post that was simply this is what is happening. It wasn't worth it. I mean, that's not why people came to the site. It was, here is a thing that's happening, and here's a weird aspect of it, or a funny aspect of it, or here's, like, a contradiction that I found in it.

KURTZ: Before we go to break, on Mike's point about the way in which politicians, political organizations, White House (INAUDIBLE) can use this environment to use CNN, "The New York Times," "The Daily Beast," where I work, to get things out.

STEINHAUSER: Oh, very much so. They have an agenda, and they want to get their message out, and the easiest way is to come tough.

But at the same time, as Mike said, you know, we're not just saying what they are giving us. We're giving a little context, as well. And most importantly, we're trying to keep them honest.

KURTZ: We will provide more context after this break, but I do need to take a break.

And when we come back, the media go wild over complaints about overly aggressive airport pat-downs.

Is this story worth that kind of altitude?


KURTZ: It began with one man's defiance of an airport security guard captured on video, posted on a blog, and trumpeted by "The Drudge Report." Then, other incidents surfaced, and before long, the tale of the TSA pat-downs took off like a supersonic jet. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KATIE COURIC, CBS: Tonight, airport security. Is it getting too personal?

BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC: The TSA is taking more heat tonight over this enhanced airline screening.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC: Enough is enough. As the busiest travel week of the year begins, these pictures of security pat-downs have people screaming.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're hearing from kids, cancer survivors, even senior citizens who say they were humiliated and worse by the TSA.

JUAN WILLIAMS, FOX NEWS: Prepare for a travel nightmare if you're getting on a plane to go see your family for Thanksgiving next week.


KURTZ: But is there less to this story than meets the eye?

All right. Ana Marie Cox, we're talking here about 98 or 99 percent of passengers never get this pat-down.

COX: Right.

KURTZ: I mean, they have to either opt out of their full-body scanners or set off the alarm some way. It's not even in use at two- thirds of the airports in America.

I say this story has been totally blown out of proportion. Tell me where I'm wrong.

COX: I can't tell you you're wrong, Howie.

I mean, there's one thing, like, as someone who considers herself a civil libertarian, like, I applaud the fact that people are really concerned about privacy issues and people are expressing concern about government intervention in their lives, and the balance between, you know, protection against terrorism and human dignity. But, however, I wish they would turn that sense of outrage to things that are -- that affect more people and that are deeper intrusions on civil liberties. This just doesn't really pass that test.

KURTZ: Well, let's have one stipulation, which is some of the individual instances where, you know, disabled people and a woman with a prosthetic breast have been, I would say, manhandled, are just horrifying.

COX: Yes.

KURTZ: But they're not necessarily the norm.

Every hour that I turn on cable news, Paul Steinhauser, I see this story, even if nothing new has happened in the past 24 four or 48 hours.

STEINHAUSER: Well, look at the climate it's in. The elections are over, so that political story is over.

There's kind of a bit of a vacuum right now. Also, this story is breaking just as the holiday travel season is beginning. So I think, you know, timing is one of the reasons why you're seeing it 24-7.

KURTZ: Also, Michael Shear, it's an easy story to cover in this sense -- every local paper, every local TV station can send a reporter, send a crew to the airport, interview some passengers. They're likely to find a few people who are outraged, and, boom, you pop it on the 6:00 news.

SHEAR: Sure. And I'll tell you that from the White House perspective, there's frustration because they see they can't really win with this story. If they're -- you know, they're not hard enough on security, they're not -- or they're too hard on security, and trying to find, you know, a balance where the coverage is -- you know, is going to hit that sweet spot for them has been tough.

COX: And I think another reason why it's a great story that really attracts a lot of attention and a lot of cable news attention is because there's no right answer. There's only outrage.

Like, I mean -- like, what you're supposed to do about is kind of up in the air. I mean, not a pun, but, like, I mean, I think, you know, the White House can't really roll back any of this stuff. People wouldn't want the kind of --

KURTZ: Well, the White House could change the policy if it wanted to.

COX: No. No, they can't. I think --


KURTZ: You think, politically, you're saying --

COX: I think pretty definitively, they cannot change the policy.

KURTZ: -- politically -- I mean, after all, it was less than a year ago that we had the Christmas Day underwear bomber.

COX: Right.

KURTZ: Politically --

COX: No, not the --

KURTZ: -- the administration can't take the risk of relaxing a policy that is ticking some people off.

COX: Not just politically they can't take that risk -- KURTZ: Yes, right.

COX: -- I think they would argue they can't take that risk because it is a national security issue. Now, you can make arguments. I tend to believe that the arguments that have been made in places like Wired's "Danger Room Blog," where they've said if you try to tackle security on a purely technological basis, it will never work. You will never get ahead of the terrorists completely. And that's something that we should come to grips with.

KURTZ: Well, let me --

COX: But that's not the argument we're having.

KURTZ: Let me come --

COX: We're still having an argument about, you know, prosthetic breasts.

KURTZ: Let me come back to our argument about the media and the way that this just took off, to use the inevitable aeronautical term.

There was this fellow, John Tyner, a software engineer in California. He had made a video of himself being hassled by a security guard where he uttered the famous comment, "Don't touch my junk or you'll be arrested."

And so the question is -- and then Drudge picks that up. And so, has Drudge become America's assignment editor? Because that's what enabled this to take off. And then there were other incidents and other videotapes.

STEINHAUSER: Well, technology sure has changed everything, because not only Drudge, but also, a lot of these videos started appearing on YouTube. Can you imagine this happening five years ago, before there was YouTube? We wouldn't have access to these videos.

KURTZ: And every local paper -- and some of these, as I say, are perfectly legitimate incidents of where I would be ticked off in looking at the way some poor bedraggled passenger was mistreated, potentially. But there's no such thing as a local story anymore. It's all on all of our blogs right away. It's on all of our cable news stations, and it ends up in our newspapers.

SHEAR: Right. And I think there's a psychic element -- a psyche. It's the psyche of the public. They know they're going to be waiting in these lines, especially, as Paul said --

COX: They already annoyed.

SHEAR: -- you know, they're already annoyed, they're already frustrated.

STEINHAUSER: And they've got their cell phone cameras ready to go.

SHEAR: And they have this sort of fear that is probably, you know --

KURTZ: Unjustified?

SHEAR: -- unjustified, given the small number that are actually, you know, probably going to be subjected to this. But they get worked up because of the possibility that that could happen to them.

COX: And I would say, like, Drudge is less America's assignment editor than he is America's id. Like, he has this really well -- he can plug into those exact fears and insecurities that people have, and then that's what gets the traffic, that's what then gets these guys, like, working on it.

I mean --

KURTZ: Two-thirds of those surveyed in an ABC/"Washington Post" poll said they support the full-body scanners and the policy that goes with it. That's actually down from about 80 percent in a CBS poll just a few weeks ago, before this policy did get tightened up.

So I'm wondering about this sort of outrage we keep talking about. I see these headlines, you know, "Rage" and "Revolt" and so forth.

I mean, I think people are forming opinions, in part by the constant churn of coverage. I mean, it really seems to me this is a classic case where the media are taking a legitimate story and blowing it up into a, you know, monumental one.

STEINHAUSER: But that same poll, though, when they also asked about the actual physical searches, that if you decide not to go for the full scanner x-ray --


STEINHAUSER: -- I believe Americans were very divided on that one. It was about 50 percent opposed, 48 percent in favor. So, it seems they're a little more OK with the x-rays, the enhanced x-rays, but the actual physical searches, Americans seem to be divided.

COX: And also, I think Mike was -- we were talking about this in the green room, the churn of this actually forces you into a shorthand of coverage that means that the actual facts get distorted.

What were you saying?

SHEAR: Right, that people think that every time they go through the magnetometer, you know, that this is going to happen to them, because they don't quite get all the facts right. But I also think, you know, let's not be too quick to say this is just flat-out a stupid story. I mean, there is something, you know -- the example that --

KURTZ: I don't say it's a stupid story. I say it's an overblown story.

SHEAR: Yes, but the --

KURTZ: I mean, does it deserve to be on television every hour, and then repeatedly lead the network evening news and the network morning shows?


SHEAR: And the probably goes to Paul's point about the vacuum; right? I mean, you know, as you well know, Howie --

KURTZ: Thanksgiving week, nothing else going on --

SHEAR: -- nothing else going on.

KURTZ: Go to the airport.

COX: Something in Korea I heard, maybe.

KURTZ: All right. Well, you know, there are always --


SHEAR: -- tonight on the network news.

KURTZ: And, of course, there's Bristol Palin on "Dancing with the Stars." So it's not that there's nothing else going on.

We're going to have call it quits here.

Michael Shear, Paul Steinhauser, Ana Marie Cox, thanks for joining us.


KURTZ: Coming up in the second part of RELIABLE SOURCES, Rachael Ray is everywhere these days, from the Food Network, to running a magazine, to her syndicated daytime show.

What's her secret, and is she taking on too much?

Plus, "Elle" magazine says it's OK for female journalists to be sexy. But is that just an excuse for dressing them up in designer duds?



RACHAEL RAY, HOST, "RACHAEL RAY SHOW": Oh, wait until you taste these sweet potatoes. I've got about a half a stick of butter melting in there, and I'm going to add some sliced banana.

Don't worry, you won't taste it. You won't really know there's banana in there. It's just hanging out in the background. Now, you can add your sweet potatoes right to that conglomeration in the bottom. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: You may know her primarily from her work in the kitchen, the woman who can whip up a meal in front of the cameras in 30 minutes or lest. But Rachael Ray has made the transition to syndicated daytime host, where here menu is a lot more varied.

Here's some of what she's been cooking up.


RAY: I believe, especially in the school system, that a child should be able to get at least one fair meal a day.

BILL O'REILLY, FOX NEWS: All right. So you have a right to healthy food, you have a right to health -- do you have the right to a decent house.

RAY: I think --



DIANE SAWYER, ABC: George Stephanopoulos is far, far --

RAY: Healthy?

SAWYER: -- more disciplined, yes.

RAY: A healthy eater, even on set.

SAWYER: Yes. Charlie goes for the doughnuts. I go for the salt.



RAY: How did you eat when you were a kid?

WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'd say good and bad. But I grew up in the South. You know, and we loved fried foods.

I loved French fries and fried chicken and steak. And I'd eat a lot of things that, in the aggregate, were not good for me. And that's one of the reasons I wound up having heart surgery a few years ago.


KURTZ: Rachael Ray is everywhere these days, a multimedia maven on the move. But she slowed down long enough to visit with me here in the studio.


KURTZ: Rachael Ray, welcome.

RAY: Thank you so much for having me. I'm very excited to be here.

KURTZ: Well, we're excited to have you.

You became this cooking icon. You've got, what, 32 shows on the Food Network? You have cookbooks. You have a magazine.

Why did you decide to get into daytime television?

RAY: You know, because it was a lot of the same people from my old team, from the Scripps group in -- you know, in partnership with Harpo and with King World. It just seemed like, why not? You know?

Why not at least explore the opportunity and give it a try? And it's our fifth season now. I can't believe that, but it has already been five whole seasons.

KURTZ: When you have a guest like Bill O'Reilly on --

RAY: Yes?

KURTZ: -- do you enjoy talking politics?

RAY: Absolutely. I love having Bill O'Reilly on. I think he's a fantastic guest. He's full of energy. And I --

KURTZ: You didn't walk off.

RAY: No, I didn't walk off.

KURTZ: There was nothing he said you didn't like, like on "The View"?

RAY: No. You know, I love having a great debate. And, you know, the fun of the daytime show is that all of the things I do as a hobby when I'm not cooking, you know, I get to bring into my life at work. You know, I am a CNN junkie, a news junkie, et al.

KURTZ: I was going to ask you about the CNN junkie thing, because they have medicine for that.

RAY: Yes.


KURTZ: So you watch a lot of CNN?

RAY: I watch a little bit of everybody. But, you know, I probably watch a little more CNN than the rest.

But, you know, I'm a voracious reader, and I love to watch news programming. And, you know, I like to be a part of the world I live in, you know. So I think it's part of everybody's responsibility, but especially people that, you know, work in the public.

KURTZ: Work in front of a camera, yes.

RAY: You know, you should be aware of what's going on at least. So, yes, I love it when we have people like Bill O'Reilly on.

KURTZ: Now, you've also had Brian Williams. You've had Diane Sawyer. I mean, these are people I want to get on my program.

Do you do the booking yourself? Do you have to call up these people?

RAY: You know, we all work very closely. And it's more like, you know, a family around the dinner table sort of a thing. Yes, we all discuss who is coming on. And, you know, I can't think of anyone we really say no to.

But there are certain people that, you know, we would really like to have, news people, on, because it gives us a chance in our show that's largely about, you know, cooking, and the little things in life, to talk about bigger issues and get to know people that give us our news in a human way. What are they like when they're not telling us the news of the world?

KURTZ: What is Bill O'Reilly really like?

RAY: Well, you know, it builds an intimacy for them with their audience because, you know, journalists have to remain unbiased, but you can talk about what's in their refrigerator, your -- you know, do they pack snacks for the airplane? You know, things that make them human.

And it builds a stronger intimacy between them and their audience. It gives them an opportunity for people to see them as someone other than just the person delivering the news.

KURTZ: Right. They're not somebody reading off a prompter. Some people out there might disagree with the unbiased part, but that's another debate.


KURTZ: Now, do you do a lot of preparation for these interviews, or do you come out with 50 blue cards, or do you just kind of wing it?

RAY: You know, I have a card each time that has just got five or six key words on it. But it's a largely unscripted show. We just go out and chat, really.

KURTZ: I have no blue cards for you. This is all (INAUDIBLE).

(LAUGHTER) KURTZ: Now, is it kind of understood when someone comes on your daytime program that you're going to be nice, you're not going to interrogate them, or sometimes it can get a little --

RAY: It's a very -- you know what? It's a friendly atmosphere. And I think that, you know, when you're sitting at a kitchen table and people have their guard put down, sometimes they will saying something that, you know, otherwise, if they had their guard up, they might not.

KURTZ: Right.

RAY: Yes, but nobody -- I mean, let's be honest, nobody comes on my show shaking in their boots. You know? They come over to get the snacks in the green room and just see what's cooking, and --


KURTZ: Right

RAY: They put us in their lineup of media for that day so they can get fed, probably.

KURTZ: But if I ever come on, I'm going to be a little wary, because now I know the secret, which is, you want to get them to relax, and then maybe they --

RAY: That's right.

KURTZ: -- say something that's impolitic.

RAY: That's right.

KURTZ: Let's talk about your background, because it has been written about many times. I mean, you started at Macy's, in the candy counter, and then you managed the fresh foods division.

RAY: Yes.

KURTZ: And then you moved to Albany and you were a buyer and a chef at a gourmet market there. And the local CBS station had you do a weekly cooking segment.

And then?

RAY: They came to report on a cooking class, and I taught the class so that I could move more groceries. People weren't buying the groceries I was trying to sell them. And, you know, I just sort of problem-solved it.

You know, it's the capital, Albany, and everybody, has one or two jobs, and no one knew how to cook. So I thought if we taught them how to cook, we could therefore sell more groceries.

KURTZ: But after that relatively modest start, I mean, bam, to quote your colleague, Emeril, did you, even in those days, sort of hunger for a TV career? Was it something you thought about? RAY: No, never. No, no, no.

And I think that's why it sort of never scared me to take a chance like trying a daytime show or trying another type of show on Food channel -- you know, the Food Network or the Cooking Channel, because, A, it was never in my mind, or, you know, on my wish list to end up on television. And B, if you're not afraid of where you come from, you're not afraid of going back to it. So, you know, it's very liberating.

KURTZ: You mean you think this could all end tomorrow?

RAY: Even if it did, it's an enormous amount of fun I've had. And I've loved every step along the way, with the exception of being a dish machine operator, that brought me to hear. So the worst that can happen is to go back to some of those other phases and other jobs. And I love them all, so it's very kind of liberating.

KURTZ: A dish machine operator?

RAY: That was my first job, DMO, dish machine operator.

KURTZ: Well, I scooped ice-cream at Baskin-Robbins when I was in high school.

RAY: I had to wait two years, two summers, before I could scoop the ice-cream.


KURTZ: Now, some of your critics, particularly in the early years, said you weren't a classic chef, and you had --

RAY: I'm not a chef. They're absolutely correct.

KURTZ: But you are somebody who knows a lot about cooking.

RAY: Yes. I know how to make dinner, yes.

KURTZ: But, you know, you use expressions like "yummo." Did any of that carping bother you?

RAY: No, because I don't work for those people. You have to -- you know, I'm a waitress. I want to bring my customer what they want. And you have to recognize who and what you are in life. You know?

And I am what I am, you know, kind of Popeye-esque. And don't pretend to be something that you're not.

And so, you know, that, to me, ,doesn't even ring as a criticism. It's simply is the truth. I'm not a chef.

I teach people how to make dinner. And I'm proud of my food, and I'm proud of our products. I'm proud of everything that I'm associated with because it's value-oriented and it's designed to be accessible. You can go there. You can get there. You can close your eyes and see yourself doing anything we print in the magazine or put in a cookbook or put on air.

KURTZ: Right.

RAY: I like everything that I touch to be relatable.

KURTZ: Right. I mean, when I watch some of these very talented chefs on television, I mean, they make -- some of them make recipes that are so complicated, that I would never even think to attempt it. Not that I'm a great cook anyway. But you tried, obviously, to bring it to a level where the average person can actually make something.

RAY: Yes, or to have a conversation with someone that -- you know, if you're sitting next to Diane Sawyer, you know, I want to ask the questions that if you live next door to Diane Sawyer, that you might ask. If I travel somewhere -- and we print a travel story in the magazine -- I want you to be able to see yourself in those places or doing those things.

So it goes even beyond the cooking. We're there to be that conduit to the idea that you do not have to be rich to have a rich life, that every day can be adventurous, even if it's, you know, something as simple as making dinner that's outside of the ordinary. You know, it makes your life feel fuller.

KURTZ: Yes. No, you never seem like sort of a cookie-cutter TV star. You don't have a classic broadcast voice, for example.

RAY: No. I sound like a cartoon. Yes. Yes.


KURTZ: You're sometimes compared to Martha Stewart. She said on "Nightline," talking about your cookbook, that it's just a re-edit of all her older recipes, and "that's not good enough for me."

RAY: That was one specific book last year. The publishers did put out a "best of," sort of like a "best of" album.

KURTZ: Right.

RAY: But out of 18 books, that was, you know, the only "best of" collection. All of the other books are very unique. But again --

KURTZ: When Martha says, "Rachael is more of an entertainer," would you take exception to that?

RAY: Well, that's what Martha believes. And she should be allowed to say whatever she thinks.

You know, I've always considered it a great compliment to me, because Martha is talented and skilled in many, many, many circles that I am not. You know, she is proficient in many ways way beyond my expertise. And it's very flattering for me to be compared to somebody who is that successful, that skilled in many areas.

KURTZ: You're not a great decorator?

RAY: I am a good decorator, actually, in my home. But, you know, I'm a miserable baker. I'm not a very good crafter and all of that. And, you know, again --

KURTZ: See, I relaxed you and now you're telling me all of your weaknesses.

RAY: Yes. Oh, I have many.

KURTZ: I was taking a page from your menu.

RAY: And that's the point. And she is just saying what for her is the truth.

You know, not every kid on the playground is going to like you. You know? I mean, that just is what it is. And, you know, she is speaking her mind. And that's the truth for her.

I have nothing but respect for Martha. And she was, by the way, one of our greatest guests ever. She was on our show, and she killed it. She was hilarious and fantastic, and the audience loved her.


KURTZ: After the break, Rachael Ray weighs in on her relationship with Oprah and why she spent part of her summer on Capitol Hill.


KURTZ: More now of my sit-down with Rachael Ray.


KURTZ: "The New York Times" recently had this big spread about Oprah.

RAY: Yes, about --


KURTZ: And your picture is right there.

RAY: Yes.

KURTZ: It's about basically people who have been frequent guests on Oprah's program -- this is, of course, her last year on daytime TV -- who went on to fame and celebrity.

RAY: And -- you know, and how many more will there be from this season?

KURTZ: Right. RAY: We're all watching with bated breath, actually.

KURTZ: So how important was Oprah Winfrey to your emergence?

RAY: Hugely to the daytime show. Entering that realm, enormous, of course. You know?

And going on there, you know, several times was a wonderful awakening for me because I was, as many people -- you know, I had this -- she was this icon, you know. And I'd put her up on this great Oprah pedestal.

And getting to know her a little bit and being on that show, it was just so wonderful to get to know her. She is so fun and such a great person to be around. And she's so terrific at making you feel immediately relaxed and comfortable.

And to see the way she is with the audience when they go to commercial breaks and her demeanor with them and joking with them -- and, you know, we did this one thing where we were making a dinner party for one of her producers. And she was the bartender for the whole night. And I thought it was so wonderful and really cool of her that, you know, when we stopped tape, she was still mixing the pomegranate martinis and stuff. She's just such a down-to-earth, wonderful person.

KURTZ: So do you guys hang or is this more of a professional relationship?

RAY: We don't hang because we're in different cities and we both have a lot of work that we have to get done in a day. But, yes, we send each other notes throughout the year. I always remember, you know, her birthday and things like that. And, you know, she has been an enormous part of the evolution of our show and our -- and my life. Forever grateful for it.

KURTZ: Speaking of having a lot of work, I mean, as I mentioned, you know, you've got the cooking shows, you've got the daytime show, which is -- you know, can be a bit of a grind. Every day you've got to prepare, you've got guests, you've got the cookbooks, you've got the magazine.

Do you worry at all about spreading yourself too thin?

RAY: You know, I don't because I'm focused on the job at hand whenever you get out of bed. You know, that's the way I was raised.

I like working a heavy workweek. I like going to bed feeling that I've earned that -- you know, that rest. And I would work myself just as hard were I, you know, waiting on tables or making TV shows. I like that feeling. I like being a little bit under the gun.

KURTZ: But there's a lot more responsibility on your shoulders, other people depending on you for employment, than when you were waiting tables. RAY: Yes, absolutely. But we have a really tight-knit group of people. And many of the people overlap.

You know, there is a lot of people from Food Network that also work on the daytime show. And we've -- in many cases, we've all known each other for years. And that touches on the big point. It's not all about me. And so it's all about this great group of people that's working really, really very hard, and my job is to let them do their jobs, largely.

KURTZ: Right. It's in the nature of television that the person who is in front of the camera gets all of the credit. But we all know that you can't do television without a lot of other people working very hard behind the scenes.

Now, all of the celebrities you've met and the success you've had traveling around the world, I mean, how does that not go to your head?

RAY: I live in the same place I lived 20 years ago, that I moved into for $575 a month rent-to-own. And, you know, when I met my husband --

KURTZ: You haven't bought a McMansion?

RAY: No. I bought the acreage next to my house to will (ph) it forever wild. And we put up a second structure out of reclaimed barn wood so we could have some friends over, you know, because I had one bathroom in this tiny little house.

But, no, I mean, again, it goes back to that, if you like where you come from, you're not really looking to get any place else. You know, I like where I live, in the Adirondacks. My husband and I have a nice little apartment in the city, in kind of a cozy neighborhood in Lower Manhattan. And, you know, I --

KURTZ: That keeps you grounded?

RAY: I like living that way. I like, you know, grocery shopping. I like cooking. I like hanging out at, you know, Target, or --

KURTZ: You don't have someone who grocery shops for you?

RAY: Gosh.

KURTZ: You go to Target? Rachael Ray goes to Target?

RAY: Of course. I love Target.

KURTZ: All right. That could be made into an ad.

Just briefly, you mentioned to me before we came on the air that you have been involved in lobbying for child nutrition legislation. So you also have a role -- you are trying to have your voice heard in Congress. RAY: Absolutely. That's how I spent a lot of last summer. And I felt really optimistic, you know, with the first lady's initiative, and President Clinton, who has been a part of our YUM-O! organization, my initiative for --

KURTZ: Your charity.

RAY: Yes, launched it with us.

I felt such great energy last summer, that we were really getting somewhere with the Child Nutrition Reauthorization, and the "health" and "hunger-free" language. There were so many great changes that were coming out of both the House and the Senate.

I was a little heartbroken when everybody stuck a pin in it and went home for elections. And now, you know, we're really pushing to get Senate 3307 through so that we get something done in this short amount of time that we have, the few weeks that we have.

But like everything else, you know, everything was sort of stuck on the back burner. So it's heartbreaking that --

KURTZ: All of these guys all ran for election, yes.

RAY: Yes. It's heartbreaking that we can't get it together just to lower our obesity rates and to feed hungry kids. We can't get it together on a couple of more pennies for school food. You know, it's -- that's a tough one.

KURTZ: It seems like an issue everyone should support, but, of course --

RAY: Exactly.

KURTZ: -- you're fighting for dollars against a lot of other causes.

RAY: And something so easy for everybody to get out, you know, and have a great moment about. But I still have my fingers crossed, and I met a lot of great people in both the House and the Senate. And hopefully they'll make time to get something done.

KURTZ: So since it's the season, I'll close by asking you, what am I going to do with all of the Thanksgiving leftovers?

RAY: Well --

KURTZ: Do you have a plan for that?

RAY: -- a lot of our food banks are empty, so that's a good thing to do. Take your kids out on a lesson if there is leftover shelf table products. Take them down to the food bank over the Thanksgiving weekend, let them see the face of hunger today. Give some food. And why don't you invite a neighbor over? Do something nice for somebody that did something nice for you. You know, make a casserole or something, and take it down the street to somebody who did something good for you.

That's what I like about this season, it gives everybody an opportunity to feel better. You know?

KURTZ: Well, if you were my neighbor, I'd definitely invite you over.

RAY: Thank you.

KURTZ: Rachael Ray, thanks very much for joining us.


KURTZ: Up next, Maureen Dowd, Dana Perino and other Washington power women get the glam treatment in the pages of "Elle" magazine. But do fashion spreads detract from their beltway reputations?



KURTZ: We're going to start this segment with some pictures -- pictures of women, pictures of professional women dressed in eye- catching outfits. Here, in the new "Elle" magazine, is Maureen Dowd.

"There are very few 'New York Times' scribes -- OK, none -- who can pull off four-inch-high candy red stilettos on or off a barstool," the magazine says. Former presidential press secretary Dana Perino is "the most fair and balanced pundit on Fox News, shown here in an Etcetera blouse." NBC's Savannah Guthrie in a Cynthia Steffe dress and Michael Kors watch, and CNN's Kathleen Parker. I don't know whose necklace that is.

So, does this sort of photo spread highlight their charms, or reduce them to eye candy?

Joining us now from New York is "Elle" magazine editor, Roberta Myers.

Robbie, welcome.


KURTZ: So why put Savannah Guthrie and Maureen Dowd in designer outfits? What point are you trying to make?

MYERS: Well, the point is, is that ever since Michelle Obama blew into Washington, D.C., with a very fresh and modern take on dressing -- I think that she's probably sort of the most modern first lady that we've had since Jackie O., and the one who is willing to wear designer clothes -- we don't think that just because you're an accomplished woman, that you necessarily have to play down your looks. And as you know, Howard, women in Washington still are thought to be notoriously bad dressers. So as a --

KURTZ: Oh, this is that old New York snobbery --

MYERS: Well --

KURTZ: -- you people in D.C. are stuck decades ago.

MYERS: Well, certainly, I would say that the women that we featured in "Elle" this month put the lie to that. However, it's true, I think, that there -- that a lot of Washington women, professional women, are stuck with an old idea about dressing, and this is what it is.

When women flooded into the workplace in the early and mid-'80s, the power suit was born. Well, what was that about? That was about women feeling that they needed to dress like a man, look like a man, have the silhouette of a man. I mean, they padded their shoulders, they had boxy jackets that they wore.

KURTZ: We're all tired of looking at that.

But let me turn the question around. I mean, there's nothing wrong with professional women looking fashionable. But don't these women that you have featured, don't they want to be known for their journalism and their commentary?

Do you now have to be glamorous, as well?

MYERS: Well, of course they do. But the point I want to make about the power suit is that women have moved on since 1985.

They've actually gotten their own power. There are more women than men in the workplace. Women don't have to dress like men anymore. Yet, it does seem that there are a lot of women who still feel the need to do that. So these women don't.

And why is that? That's because they're confident about who they are, that their styles of power, meaning the way that they do their work and the things that they've accomplished, really are kind of separated from, perhaps, something that they enjoy, which is fashion, which is not in any way as frivolous as everybody wants to make it out to be. Because there's nothing that sends a quicker message about who you are, what you're values are, who you identify with, than the way that you're dressed and your appearance.

And you could --

KURTZ: Let me turn you to another magazine, "GQ," because the Fox News anchor, Megyn Kelly, appeared in a very low-cut dress in the new issue, got a lot of attention on the Web.

Is that going too far?

MYERS: Again, you know, I'm not going to say what -- KURTZ: Oh, go ahead.

MYERS: Well, look, I mean she looks sexy. And certainly that's part of her brand, for lack of a better word. I think that -- I don't know how much blowback there is from her --

KURTZ: But there is this debate in television about whether female anchors, in particular, need to look sexy, or is that -- you know, should that have nothing to do with it -- with how good they are in front of a camera and reporting on stories?

MYERS: Well, I mean I don't think there's much of a debate that they need to look sexy. I don't think you look particularly professional if you dress like that on camera while you're doing your job. And I don't really see most female journalists going on camera looking as if, you know, they're just got out of the shower.

KURTZ: I'm realizing now that I should have gotten a much better outfit to do this interview. I'm feeling very badly about that.

MYERS: Well, no. I have to say, I think you look very natty.

KURTZ: Thank you. Thank you.

But is -- coming back to my question about where the lines are drawn, I mean, look, the outfits that you have some of these journalists and political women wearing in this new issue of "Elle," I mean, you know, people aren't wearing that to the office every day. Obviously, they're dressing up or being dressed up by you to be in a magazine.

MYERS: Well, people aren't wearing that to the office every day, maybe, in Washington. But our whole point is that women now dress for the job that they have.

A woman -- a powerful woman in Silicon Valley looks very different than a New York lawyer, looks very different than a lobbyist. And you will see these looks and these ideas about how you should dress and how it's OK to dress according to your tribe and those things that -- and that industry that you're in.

So, again, we find Washington, D.C., to be a much more interesting place, I think, sartorially, than a lot of people give it credit for. But, still, we are interested in the idea that women feel so much power and so much pressure in the ultimate power town to play down the fact that they're female, to play down the fact that they might be attractive and be interested in being attractive.

KURTZ: Well, obviously, you're pushing against that pressure with this issue. And it's a good thing to debate and something -- it's a debate that goes on, particularly in television, all the time.

Roberta Myers, thanks very much for joining us.

MYERS: Well, thanks. Thanks, Howard.

KURTZ: Still to come, can you have a presidential debate with no journalists? Newt Gingrich says it's time to sideline the press.


KURTZ: Before we go, NBC and Politico have scheduled the first Republican presidential debate at the Reagan Library next spring. Yes, just a few months from now.

In an interview with C-SPAN's Steve Scully, Newt Gingrich said the party, not the media, should organize such debates to avoid "gotcha" questions. And he had this to say about MSNBC --


NEWT GINGRICH (R), FMR. HOUSE SPEAKER: There's no possibility that I would ever go to a debate and have Olbermann or Chris Matthews asking questions. I watched the debate a couple of years ago, and it was embarrassment, because they were so relentlessly hostile and they were so left-wing, that every question they asked of the Republicans was designed to embarrass and divide the Republicans.


KURTZ: Well, Gingrich's memory is a bit faulty. Olbermann points out that he's never been a moderate at a GOP presidential debate. And the former House Speaker's suggestion to cut journalists out of the process strikes me as utterly self-serving. If the candidates can't stand up to a few TV anchors, how are they going to battle the terrorists?

But I agree with Gingrich on one thing -- 2012 debates next spring? Spare me. Way too soon.

Well, that's it for this edition of RELIABLE SOURCES.

I'm Howard Kurtz.

Join us again next Sunday morning, 11:00 a.m. Eastern, for another critical look at the media.

"STATE OF THE UNION" begins right now.