With that, his staff whips up a h uge research report, com- anyone who matters has gone before the camera with Rose
piling hundreds of pages of articles, interviews, book reviews, for a civil yet engrossing chat—presidents, secretaries of
political analysis, historical context and biography for their state, Pulitzer Prize-winning authors, Oscar winners, hip-hop
boss to soak in over the weekend. Yet, for Rose it’s not sim- artists and, once for CBS News Nightwatch, Charles Manson.
ply about the research. No, the essence of his journalism is The latter effort won Rose an Emmy, and subsequently, he’s
the art of the conversation. So he spends just as much time also won the George Peabody Broadcasting Award and a
obsessing over how to engage the former world leader in CableACE Award.
a way that he’s never been engaged before. For Gorbachev, At the moment, however, he’s not reflecting upon the past.
Rose calls up his longtime friends New Yorker editor David Not when he has so much going on right now. He’s speaking
Remnick, who is a former Moscow correspondent for The with such anticipation about his next interviews that you’d
Washington Post and the Pulitzer-winning author of Lenin’s think he was lining up a chat with another head of state. But
Tomb, and New York Times executive editor Bill Keller, he isn’t. He’s due to speak with the Dixie Chicks that day, and
a former Moscow bureau chief for the Times, to gain more then fly to California to tape a show with Clint Eastwood.
insight for his interview.
Come Monday, Gorbachev’s people se em
to have a change of heart. They may back out.
Rose and his team go into full-court press, be- Rose speaks with such anticipation
cause when you’re this close to getting the get, about his next interview that you’d think
the meek and faint-of-heart need not apply.
“Instead of him coming to the studio,” they he was lining up a chat with another
ask, “would Charlie come to his hotel room?” head of state. But he isn’t. He’s due to
Of course he would. And he did. The resulting interview has Rose beaming with pride on speak with the Dixie Chicks that day.
this day. In the end, he opened up Gorbachev
as a human being first, and as a world leader
second. Gorbachev engages. He reveals. In fact, he admits “The Dixie Chicks have so many fascinating components,”
that—as great a global impact as he had in dismantling the Rose says. “There are the political controversies. But there’s
Soviet Union and communism—he may have been wrong. also the music; they’re quite a good act and are at the forefront
“It was very turbulent,” Gorbachev tells Rose on camera, of country music today. And Clint Eastwood? I can’t think of
about perestroika. “It was like lava from a volcano that was many people whom I admire more. He’s a great American,
very difficult to manage. ... We should have reformed the making great movies. To think of going from Mystic River to
union. The people wanted it. The referendum showed that Million Dollar Baby to Flags of Our Fathers—all after turning
people wanted the union to be preserved, but in a reformed 60? I can’t think of anyone who’s done that. I can’t think of
way. So we started doing that, but too late.” anyone who’s grown more creatively in the public spotlight
At the moment, Rose had what he seeks in all interviews: for so many years.”
unguarded honesty. That’s when you realize it’s not really about the subject
“He wanted to reform the Communist Party,” Rose says, matter. Rose could book the janitor in his studio building for
still glowing in the moment. “He wanted to dismantle it. And, the next show and somehow he’d find something fascinating to
now, he has regrets. He tried to change too much and the sys- discuss—he’d bring an understanding about that janitor’s life
tem wasn’t ready for it. That’s powerful.” that we, the audience, never would have grasped before. That’s
the Studs Terkel in him, to perceive that the real compelling
Nights at the Round Table factor within the interview isn’t the stature of the person but
the humanity within. At least, that’s how Rose has pursued
owerful is the word that comes to mind when it his craft throughout his entire professional career. But don’t
Pcomes to Rose’s interviews—not to mention poi- make the mistake of calling him a professional.
gnant, funny, surprising and shocking. For the bet- “A professional?” he says, with incredulity. “‘Professional’
ter part of four decades, the law-school grad turned to me sounds like a golfer or some kind of professor who’s had
Emmy Award-winning journalist has invested his career in a distinguished career. What I’m doing is a job, and it’s a job
trying to perfect a dialogue. His show is one of the last of its that I love. I come into work thinking about how I can do my
breed, really—one devoted to what today’s frenzied, 24/7 job better every day. It’s not just about interviewing. It’s about
news cycle is dismissing, the long-form interview. But audi- engagement and the arrangement of ideas. It’s about having
ences haven’t dismissed the long form, nor Charlie Rose: Now a discussion that audiences can be challenged by and get in-in its 16th year, The Charlie Rose Show is seen on more than terested in and be entertained by. I’m not a professional inter-
200 PBS-affiliated stations, and pretty much a Who’s Who of viewer. I’m more engaged by the conversations of our time.”