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10 Plus 1: The Buks Stops Here

Producer Jennifer Buksbaum started at CBS News in 1989, then left television for the New York Daily News. She returned to CBS in 1996, first at "48 Hours," then joined the Northeast Bureau in 1999 – where she's covered major stories from Elian Gonzalez to the 2000 and 2004 Presidential Elections to the death of Pope John Paul II and the installation of Pope Benedict XVI. Below, Jennifer explains why television news is in her blood, why she isn't a blog reader and why she'd like to see less of "The Big Get."

What do you do at CBS News?

I am a producer in the Northeast Bureau which is based at the Broadcast Center in New York. I put pieces together for different broadcasts like the "Evening News" and the "Early Show." I also go out in the field and am part of the team that helps get CBS on the air from various remote locations, which is what I'm doing in the above picture. That photo was taken on 9/11 and it shows me loaded down with a cell phone in one ear, a walkie-talkie, a pager (no Blackberries back then) and a wireless IFB (stands for Interruptible Fold Back) which allows me to hear what's being said on air. You can usually tell who the producer is in a group of TV people by the number of devices on their belt and how many phone conversations they can carry on simultaneously.
What single issue should be covered more at CBS News?
In a half-hour show, I think it's hard to point at any issue and say we don't do enough on it. I think we should occasionally take the time to really go in depth on a particular issue or issues. If there's a major news event, then we should devote the whole half-hour to the issues that relate to that event. We shouldn't do this every day obviously, only when warranted. But I think it would be both satisfying to viewers as well as the people putting the stories together. Believe me, we're just as frustrated by limitations of the one to two minute news package as you are.
Give us a great behind the scenes story.
I realize it's sort of a cop out, but I can't. Most of them involve way too much swearing during the event and way too much drinking afterwards.
Have you ever been assigned a story you objected to? How did you deal with it?
Yes, of course. What to do? After you fail to convince the people who assigned you the story that they're wrong and you're right and that the story shouldn't be done, you do it. After all, you work for them. I've never felt so strongly that I had to actually refuse an assignment. I just hold my nose while I'm doing it.
If you were not in news, what would you be doing?
In a perfect world, I'd be the NFL commissioner. But since that's highly unlikely, I'd probably work in sports covering football and golf. (Note for Sean McManus: Any openings at NFL Today?)
Do you read blogs? If so, which ones? If not, what do you read on the Internet?
Frankly, I don't read blogs. I might sound like a luddite, but who are these people? Why should I spend time reading the musings of people who may be sitting around in their bathrobes and who are accountable to no one but themselves? I read many newspapers on the Internet, along with National Journal's Hotline, Slate and any other e-mags on politics.
What's the last really great book or movie you found?
Finding time to read? Fat chance. I'm the mother of a four and half month old baby. So there's virtually no time to read for pleasure and you can forget going out to see a movie. But for the really desperate: Goodnight Moon is still a classic. And I finally saw "Napoleon Dynamite" on cable the other night. I wouldn't call it great, but it was a perfect, quirky diversion from poopy diapers and bottles.
What is your first memory of TV news?
My father worked in television news for nearly 30 years, most of them at CBS and I remember his trip to China with Richard Nixon in 1972. It was the first time American networks broadcast live from that Communist country, including a live remote from the Great Wall. Before that, my parents apparently woke me up in 1969 to watch Neil Armstrong walk on the moon, but unfortunately I don't remember watching it at all.
If you could change one thing about the profession of journalism, what would it be?
I wish there was more emphasis on old-fashioned reporting and less emphasis on getting "The Big Get" – landing the big interview with someone who's in the middle of their 15 minutes of fame.
Who is the most fascinating person you've covered and who is the biggest jerk?
By far the most fascinating person I've met is my friend, Christopher Whitcomb. I met Chris in 1999 covering the ongoing fallout from the siege of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas. At the time, he had been a sniper on the FBI's elite Hostage Rescue Team and for 40-plus days he had Davidian leader David Koresh in the crosshairs of his rifle.

Six years later when we visited the site of the burned out building, Chris described the agony of watching fire that broke out on the final day of the standoff. Here was a man who was trained to kill people but was never given the order to take out Koresh and I think he's still wonders if he had been given that order, would those kids have lived? Chris left the FBI in 2001 and we became close friends after that. He is quite the Renaissance man: he's had three books published, plays a mean guitar, and has started his own security consulting firm. Most importantly, he introduced me to the man who would become my husband.

As for jerks… sorry, I'm not naming names, but in general anyone with a posse, a group of handlers or an entourage usually qualifies for that status in my book.

Why did you come back to television after being in print for several years?
I'd like to say that it was because I felt that television was a more important medium for news, that there were more resources devoted to television news than print journalism and that in many cases pictures are more powerful than words. I believe all that, but in reality I came back to television because at the same time I applied for a job as a reporter at the Boston Globe, I applied for a job as a producer for the Washington Bureau of British television Channel Four, ITN. I didn't get the job at the Globe, so it was back to TV for me. As haphazard as that sounds, I think my heart was always in television. My father worked in the business for 30 years and I grew up around CBS News. It's my home away from home. Many of the people who I work with now worked with my father and they're part of my extended family. Television news is in my blood.
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