The Port Huron Town Hall Lecture Series kicked off its 64th season on October 1, welcoming a familiar face from television news journalism.
CBS news anchor and 60 Minutes correspondent Lesley Stahl kicked off the 2018-2019 season before a full house at the McMorran Place auditorium in downtown Port Huron.
With a dose of humor and straightforwardness, Stahl spoke about her more than 40 years in television journalism, where she has worked stories from Watergate to the current administration. She touched on her years as a White House correspondent, her 60 Minutes assignments, and commented on some of the most current news issues.
She also talked about what she called: “my favorite subject—being a grandmother.”
Stahl recalled her early days at CBS, when she was hired as part of an affirmative action move to add diversity to the newsroom. One of her earliest assignments was to report on, what was considered at the time to be, a small break-in at the 1972 Democratic Party headquarters at the Watergate complex in Washington DC.
At the arraignment of the burglary suspects, the only other reporter in court advised her to not let CBS News take the story away from her. That advice, from Bob Woodward of the Washington Post, proved to be wise and foretelling. Stahl covered the Watergate story through the legislative hearings to the resignation of President Richard Nixon.
Along with comments and anecdotes about her White House correspondent years covering every president from Jimmy Carter to George H.W. Bush, she also talked about her time being assigned to 60 Minutes. Calling the Sunday news magazine “objective,” and a “fair and balanced” example of the mainstream media, she explained that “people come on 60 Minutes because they know they will get a fair shake.”
But she also said the news program’s “two biggest challenges are getting CEOs on 60 Minutes and getting a politician to answer a question.”
As for today’s current news issues, she noted: “The #MeToo movement has changed everything.”
Marveling that the movement is only a year old, she said it is “historic because women feel safe enough to speak up” about sexual harassment. She noted that nine members of Congress have either resigned or declined to run for re-election due to sexual harassment charges and that major CEOs and others have also tumbled from power.
“It’s been profound, it’s been historic and sometimes it’s been unfair,” she said. “But the difference today is if a woman makes an accusation she has a tribe, the #MeToo tribe.”
She also pointed out that #MeToo has spilled over into the current Supreme Court nomination hearings of Brett Kavanaugh. And while that has made for compelling television, it has done little to bridge the partisan divide between Democrats and Republicans, with no real answer to the division in sight.
Away from politics, she pointed to her recent best-selling book “Becoming Grandma: The Joys and Science of the New Grandparenting,” as fueling her passion to address the concerns she has for her two granddaughters.
“I worry that they will never be free of Facebook and Twitter,” she said. That drew applause from the mostly grandparent-generation in the audience.
And she continued to rail about the current younger generation’s fascination with iphones.
“I want to start the Organization of Grandparents Against Social Media,” she said, which garnered even more applause.
“Of course,” she laughed, “the acronym for that would be ORGASM, so I’m not sure if that’s good or bad.” That got the most applause and laughter of the day.
Town Hall will continue in November with guest John Ratzenberger, better known as Cliff Clavin for 11 years on the TV series Cheers. Other presenters during the year include Marysville native and symphony orchestra violinist Caroline Goulding; best-selling author of “The Last Castle,” Denise Kiernan; and St. Clair’s Mike Emrick an NBC and NBCSN sports broadcaster. In addition, Town Hall will host a special event in December, welcoming best-selling author and columnist Mitch Albom to promote his new book “The Next Person You Meet in Heaven.”
For tickets to any of the upcoming Town Hall events, visit or contact the McMorran Place box office. Box office hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. The box office is closed on Saturdays and Sundays. For more information, call the box office at 810-985-6166 or visit the McMorran Place Website.