"Well, today Les and I had a long talk about it. He said, 'I'm getting killed out there!' because he made some 'naked news' jokes, or something," said Clooney, referring to the stir following Moonves' comments in a recent New York Times Magazine profile, in which he described how the new broadcast might look:
" 'On the one hand, we could have a newscast like 'The Big Breakfast' in England, where women give the news in lingerie. Or there's 'Naked News,' which is on cable in England. I saw a clip of it. It's a woman giving the news as she's getting undressed. And then, on the other hand, you could have two boring people behind a desk. Our newscast has to be somewhere in between.'"
"[Moonves] has an interesting take on" the predicament, says Clooney, "which is, it will go away if I don't make it somehow more palatable. And that's a dangerous place to go. Les is a dear friend, and I hope that making it more palatable doesn't mean making it more entertaining and less informative. I don't think so. He's a smart guy, and he's a pretty honorable guy, so I don't think he will. But those are always questions, and it's good that he sort of gets his feet held to the fire."
"He's in a tough spot," said Heslov. Clooney agreed, "because the news audience is diminishing, so what are you going to do?" At the same time, Clooney indicated that networks have an obligation to the public to provide news related to public policy. "There is also the FCC idea that you also owe information to the American people if you're going to use the public airwaves," he said.
Clooney seems genuinely concerned about the abdication of that responsibility. He was shocked at how "Network," a dark satire, was received by some of the young people who screened it: "They didn't think it was a comedy," he told us. "Because all the things that Paddy Chayevsky wrote about came true. ... The idea of the anchorman being a bigger news story than the news story. The idea of a reality show following terrorist groups around is not far-fetched. Sybil the Soothsayer is not [far-fetched] -- the idea that you would dress up news to look like entertainment. Or dress up entertainment to look like news."
Clooney insists that "Good Night, and Good Luck" "isn't an indictment of how things are done" by the media today, but was instead "intended to reflect a great moment in journalism, and to remind people of how well it can be done." Heslov agreed, acknowledging that the fragmentation of the news is one of the primary differences between Murrow's time and the present. "There's actually a lot of great journalism going on. I think it's different now," he said, "Because no one has an audience like Ed Murrow had back then -- 40 million people -- nobody has it. So it's harder."
The film was not intended to change journalism, says Clooney, who suggests that too often some in today's media "take a pass" on asking tough questions. "I think we're evolving," he said. "We used to burn witches at the stake, and then we had the Senate investigating people, and now we just have pundits being sort of unkind."