Pierre Salinger -- ABC News's controversial American in Paris
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Just to make sure that there will be a controversy around publishing time, Mr. Salinger and his publishers are planning an American visit around publication date in the fall.Skip to next paragraph
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Pierre Salinger, according to Parisians, has taken to France like a duck (roasted, that is) takes to orange. "With my French background and my knowledge of the French language, I took a liking to Paris and decided to stay here," he says now. While he maintains an apartment in Paris, he and his wife also have a chateau in the Loire Valley. "But that is only a country house for weekends," he explains with lord-of- the manor casualness.
How does he like on-the-air reporting, as opposed to print news work?
"I still find it difficult," he confides. "I am not an actor. I probably had the greatest work problems in my life during my first year on TV. It was hard to adjust after 25 years in written journalism until I discovered that TV is basically a writer's business, too. If you write the words briefly and informatively, then deliver them reasonably well, the producers will always find the right pictures to put behind you."
Will Salinger remain in Paris permanently?
"I have a five-year contract, which i signed in September, which guarantees me staying here in Paris."
Does that mean politics is out for the future?
He shakes his head, almost sadly, and looks out through the huge French-doored window behind his desk: "No, that's over. I've done that."
Salinger's boss, Mr. Arledge, has been criticized in some professional news quarters for being too "entertainment-oriented." Has Salinger found that to be so?
Salinger's face flushes, and it is apparent that he is reacting to attacks not just upon a boss, but upon a friend.
"The man is a genius. He is one of the few people in television news who knows how to utilize the electronic capacity of TV to full advantage. He knows how to transmit the information he wants to in the best way possible.
"And on top of that, he has a real sense of what is news. It took him exactly one minute on the phone to give me the OK to go ahead with that hostage story."
Salinger believes the three-hour length of his Iranian documentary has broken ground for such thorough investigative work on TV in the future. He considers the recent five-hour CBS documentary on US defense a natural continuation of this kind of electronic reporting.
But how about French politics? The interview was conducted shortly after socialist Mitterrand had won a resounding victory. Is there something for the United States to fear in this leftist turn in French politics?
"It is clear that the French want a change. And Mitterrand, because of the size of his victory, can still choose to move in the direction of social democracy or further to the left. With a strong majority, it is going to be hard to tell the French people that he can't get his whole program through. And , let me tell you, that whole program is quite radical."
Salinger is very busy -- he is working on reports on Mitterrand and the new government at the same time he is preparing to fly to Poland to do a "20/20" piece on Roman Polanski, who is playing Mozart in a Polish version of "Amadeus." But he takes a few moments more to take me on a tour of the office, which is, in effect, a typical huge French apartment. In one of the back rooms there is a set which includes a desk and a sign in back with the word "Paris" for on-camera location identification.
As Pierre Salinger points it out, he says: "We try not to use that very much."
We shake hands and he walks me to the door of the elevator before I risk the rickety ride down to the street. While he seems to be completely at ease in his ABC News office, somehow I envision him as even more at ease at the gate to his Loire Valley chateau.