Skip to Content

White House correspondent speaks to ABC 17 News for “This Week”

Bill Plante is the White House correspondent for CBS News.

The veteran journalist agreed to visit with me during his recent visit to mid-Missouri to receive MU School of Journalism’s Missouri Honor Medal for Distinguished Service in Journalism.

I start our conversation for “This Week” by asking him what’s changed in journalism since he started at CBS News more than 50 years ago.

This is a transcript of his response, followed by our conversation:

Bill Plante: A great deal has changed. I started 51 years ago at CBS News. In those days you had news in the morning and news in the evening. Now you have news 24/7. That’s the big change. It’s for the better in many ways, but it also has totally changed the way we deliver the news and it’s changed the nature of the news that you get because you can’t be sure anymore, depending on where it comes from whether it’s been carefully check. So you’ve got to be aware of what the source is and whether you believe it.

Joey Parker: You’ve covered 4 administrations, at least. Which White House administration has been the most free flowing with information, and which has not.

Bill Plante: I’ll tell you what. From the first White House administration I’ve covered, which is Ronald Reagan’s to this one, president Obama’s, each one has been successively less open with the press because they can. They now have the tools, which everyone else has to get information out. And so they use them, and give us less. It’s a natural tendency. It doesn’t matter whether they’re Democrats or Republicans, they want to shape their own story. We want to get the story behind what they’re saying.

Joey Parker: Do you think that’s going to change?

Bill Plante: No. It’s going to, the gap, is going to keep on narrowing. Again, the public has to understand where the information is coming from and judge it accordingly.

Joey Parker: You’ve seen a lot of presidential races, I have to ask you right now where we stand…what do you think of the 2016 presidential election, how it’s shaping up so far?

Bill Plante: This is totally different than anything I’ve ever seen, and I have covered every race since I think 1968 when I was out actually as a junior guy covering Richard Nixon. So, this is totally different. It represents the revolt of the people. The support for Donald Trump and Ben Carson is really about, as the posters will tell you, people feeling politicians have failed them and politics in general, as usually practiced, have failed them. “Maybe it’s time for somebody from outside.” That’s what this is about. Is it going to go away by the time we get a nominee? I think so, but I’m not sure.

Joey Parker: I had the privilege of meeting and chatting with Coretta Scott King. You were there for the (original) march in Selma. What stands out about that, first the original march and then the anniversary?

Bill Plante: When I was at CBS News, early in my career, I was sent down to Selma, Alabama, to cover Dr. King’s voter registration event. The idea of registering a lot of black voters at the time was absolutely anathema to the white population of Selma, cause it would have upset their political order. So, they did everything they could to keep black people from registering to vote. It resulted in, there were a lot of brutal tactics. By the way, the one reason why the movement chose Selma was because of Sheriff Jim Clark who was completely obstructionist and who beat people with night sticks and put them in jail. That helped bring attention to their campaign. When I went back 50 years later of course, the whole tenure had changed, but there still was a certain separation between black and white. It hasn’t gone away.

Joey Parker: This honor you’re getting, here at the University of Missouri; what does that mean to you?

Bill Plante: I am completely overwhelmed. I never expected anything like this. It seems to be that the other people who were being honored have done bigger things for journalism than I have, but I am very pleased to be getting it.

Joey Parker: Well, we really appreciate what you’ve done for journalism.

Bill Plante: Thank you, Joey.

Joey Parker: Thank you.

Article Topic Follows: News

Jump to comments ↓

ABC 17 News Team


ABC 17 News is committed to providing a forum for civil and constructive conversation.

Please keep your comments respectful and relevant. You can review our Community Guidelines by clicking here

If you would like to share a story idea, please submit it here.

Skip to content