Tina Brown’s always been a deft hunter of the powerful, reinventing magazine-making as a party the reader wouldn’t otherwise be invited to. Sans masthead, she still gets invitations (a fact she stresses endlessly in her Times of London column), and people still pop by her maisonette on East 57th.
But with Topic [A], her CNBC boutique TV show (in an odd departure from programming norms, it will air quarterly), the rest of us finally got an invitation to sit at the table and watch Tina’s formidable, if twittering, hostess skills when faced with a Dickensian grouch like Conrad Black, or Queen Noor, who looked like she wasn’t used to being interrupted. With her head-of-the-class questions, Tina seemed to be competing with her guests for airtime and cultural-cred points.
Still, Topic [A], which promised, “Reports of intelligence on television now confirmed,” was more a display of social connections kept afloat by Tina’s furiously paddling flattery than of Bill O’Reilly–like confrontation.
His introduction: “The Daddy Cool of American business.”
On the Internet bubble: “You’ve come out of it extremely well.”
On politics: “Who is the Barry Diller of the Democratic Party?”
On entertainment: “You’re the king of entertainment.”
His introduction: “The 900-pound gorilla of cable news.”
On royalty: “You’re the king of cable now. You are the man.”
Howard Stringer, Sony CEO
On business: “You’ve been extremely successful in the way you’ve run the studio.”
Conrad Black, press baron
On publishing: “Your magazine in London, The Spectator, is wildly amusing.”
On book publishing: “You’ve just written this book about Roosevelt. It’s amazing, it’s over 700 pages!”