The Control Room

How Television Calls the Shots in Presidential Elections

About The Book

"Thirty-five years ago, sad to say, CBS, NBC, and ABC created the modern New Hampshire primary." So says The Control Room, a gritty look at how network news has come to dominate every stage of presidential selection from the earliest announcements to the final swearing in. As we embark on another of the quadrennial circuses that determine how the world's most powerful country passes its crown, The Control Room shows us who really cracks the whip.
Martin Plissner, former political director of CBS News, has played a central role in the network coverage of every presidential campaign since 1964. Now, drawing on his intimate knowledge of life inside the control room, he provides a lively and authoritative account of the ways television has come to dominate presidential politics in the final third of the twentieth century. Blending personal anecdotes with fascinating mini-histories, Plissner shows how all the elements of the contest for national power in America -- the primaries, the conventions, and the final counting of the ballots -- are shaped by the struggle among the networks for supremacy in viewership and breaking news on ever-dwindling budgets.
How did Ross Perot trounce both George Bush and Bill Clinton in primaries he never entered? And how did Pat Buchanan's far-right call to arms become the main event at the 1992 Republican National Convention? Why did the country expect a Carter-Reagan photo finish in 1980 and a Clinton landslide in 1996 -- neither of which happened? The answers to all of these questions begin in the network control rooms.
As the race for the White House heads toward a new century, Plissner reveals how television news coverage will decide who gets attention and when, who is on the rise and who is down the chute, when the race begins and when it ends, and what you care about when you vote for president. "The men and women who call the shots at the network news divisions do have an agenda," writes Plissner. Find out what it is in this fascinating insider's report.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Free Press (August 4, 1999)
  • Length: 256 pages
  • ISBN13: 9780684871417

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Raves and Reviews

Walter Cronkite (CBS) The Control Room brought back so many memories, and revealed so much I never knew, that I have found it hard to put down. It is a fine story and invaluable history lesson. For the buffs, here is the fascinating inside story of politics and television as told by a talented researcher-reporter who observed, indeed participated in, almost every step of the mating dance. For historians, the book is an invaluable documented source on how television forever changed the very fundamentals of our election process.

Diane Sawyer (ABC) Marty Plissner is a political sharpshooter -- daring, surprising, provoking sleepy journalists to pay attention. And he always finds that bullseye where polls, politics and people meet.

Robert Novak (CNN) If anybody had any doubts about the impact of the television industry on whom we elect as presidents, this book will dispel them. Marty Plissner was present as a TV insider from the beginning, and he tells the story with verve and insight.

E. J. Dionne Jr., author of Why Americans Hate Politics and They Only Look Dead Marty Plissner knows more than anyone about the long, strange, and fascinating courtship between television and politics. Thank goodness he has given us this book. It?s serious, it?s fun, and it?s essential.

Mark Shields (PBS) Somewhere there may be somebody who knows more about national politics than Marty Plissner does. And there may also be somebody who knows more about television than does Marty Plissner. But you can be sure there is nobody anywhere who knows more about both American politics and television than Marty Plissner -- and nobody writes more knowledgeably and insightfully about the stormy shotgun marriage of American television and American politics than Marty Plissner.

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