THE INTERVIEW: TINA BROWN: Tina and the Talk Show ; Ditching Magazines for Television, Englishwoman in New York Tina Brown Is Hosting High-Flying Guests from the Worlds of Media, Movies and Politics on Her CNBC Show Topic A. Raymond Snoddy Tunes In
Snoddy, Raymond, The Independent (London, England)
Tina Brown, the British magazine legend whose editorships of such US publishing institutions as Vanity Fair and The New Yorker made her the talk of Manhattan, has chosen to complete the final leg of her great transatlantic adventure by taking American citizenship.
'I think I started to become an American citizen in 9/11,' she says. 'I became a New Yorker that day, seriously became one, and I felt so strongly at that time and identified with it that I realised then it was only a matter of time before I became an American.' Relaxing in the Berkeley Hotel in London's Knightsbridge, the Maidenhead-born journalist is frank about where her national allegiances now rest.
Tina Brown CBE is back in Britain on a specific assignment. The publishing icon has reinvented herself as a television anchor and " application for American citizenship notwithstanding " her Berkshire roots leave her perfectly placed to cover the wedding of the year. Brown stands for the cameras against the backdrop of Windsor Great Park, meeting her good friend Stephen Fry, still in his wedding gear, and coaxing him into minor, charming indiscretions about the reception. Contrary to some press coverage, Fry reveals he has never seen his good friends, the Royals, looking so happy, and the Queen had naturally opened her speech by informing guests that Hedgehunter had won the Grand National. For her part, Brown informs her audience that Prince William was 'a heartthrob and impossibly handsome'.
For the rebirth of Brown, Topic A, CNBC's hour-long, magazine- style culture and politics programme " which goes out on Monday evenings in the UK " is a perfect vehicle. Explaining the strengths of the show, she says: 'I can go with the Pope as the lead and move to a new movie. It's an eclectic mix and I have always loved doing that. I love the chance to be able to give exposure to books, novels and writers that I believe in,' says the perfectly turned-out Brown.
'I can pick stuff and say read it, do it, watch it, see it. It's like being an editor. I choose the menu of the show.' And, yes, many of the guests are her friends plucked from one of the best address books in New York City. Simon Schama, her friend the historian, is a regular and you can also see the likes of Mort Zuckerman, the owner of the New York Daily News, and, in the early days of the show, her good friend Lord Black, the former owner of The Daily Telegraph, who is still her good friend, despite his troubles with financial regulators. 'I've always socialised with my work,' says Brown, who has lived in New York for more than 20 years.
She is the most high-profile of an elite band of British female talent (it also includes Anna Wintour and Glenda Bailey) who have blazed a trail in the ruthlessly competitive world of American magazines. As the wife of the revered former Sunday Times editor Sir Harold Evans (who has already taken US citizenship) Brown is also half of one of the most famous media couples to hail from British shores. In New York, Brown is still seen as British.
As well as her friends, she's also had the likes of Tony Blair and Senator John McCain in her New Jersey studio. On a recent show, she interviewed Cate Blanchett and signed off by gushing: 'You were terrific in The Aviator.'
Brown is the first to acknowledge that Topic A doesn't borrow much from the Jeremy Paxman school of television interviewing. 'It's a conversational show,' she says. 'It's a Sunday night relaxed show and, to be honest, I don't bother with people I am not interested in. I think Cate Blanchett is fantastic, and on my show I don't want to do a crappy starlet who I don't think is any good. The audience of the show is an upscale audience, so I am not going to do movies they are never going to see.'
Because CNBC is a cable channel, the audience is obviously small " precise figures are not instantly forthcoming " but she says Topic A has a strong following in Washington, as well as in the media world, and that its audience is growing. …