Not since David Letterman’s Late Show featured Dan Rather singing backup with R.E.M. on ”What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?” has CBS News so blatantly courted Gen-Xers. Now the Eye network has signed former MTV newswoman Alison Stewart as a correspondent. Her first gig: the fledgling newsmag Coast to Coast (premiering Jan. 15, 9-10 p.m.). While Stewart’s speech still carries a few traces of MTV (”I’ve been stupid busy,” she says, sitting down to lunch at a Manhattan restaurant), she seems to be settling into the establishment:
— Why did you decide to leave MTV?
I turned 30, and it just felt like the breaking point. I cannot say anything bad about MTV, but it’s perpetually 15 to 25. As I got older, it was like a gorgeous pair of shoes you love, but they don’t fit anymore, and you keep squeezing your feet in there until you get bunions.
— Did other networks woo you?
There was interest from Fox After Breakfast, Good Morning America, and Dateline NBC, but CBS seemed like the right move for me. They didn’t have any prejudice about where I came from. I’m lucky I don’t have an MTV stamp on my forehead.
— Did you experience any corporate culture shock going from ultrahip MTV to geriatric CBS?
MTV is owned by Viacom. Hello! They have Blockbuster, Paramount. There is a corporate culture there. Just because it’s in Chuck Taylors doesn’t mean it’s not there. Actually, I got a lot of comfort out of the fact that CBS is the Murder, She’s Old network, because they don’t have a youth ghetto to put me in. It’s not like I’ll be covering school fashion.
— Have you met Dan Rather?
The second day, at a fancy dinner. He’s very charming. I behaved — I didn’t say ”What’s the frequency, Dan?”
— How about Andy Rooney?
Yes, but I don’t think he knew who I was. He probably thought I was going to serve him a roll.
— Did you feel like you were the Jan Brady of MTV News and Tabitha Soren was Marcia?
That’s close, but I’m not as whiny as Jan. It was hard watching great interviews always pass by [my] office. That was part of my decision to leave.
— Did you always want to be a journalist?
I wanted to be a politician. It still might happen. I’ve never smoked pot, so I’m the one person who could still be President. It’s like me and a nun in Wisconsin.