Stahl on Grand-parenting and Journalism

Leslie Stahl.
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By Cassandra Reinhart, Special to the Independent

Leslie Stahl.
Lesley Stahl

Veteran broadcast journalist Lesley Stahl, a White House correspondent for CBS News during three presidencies and a 25-year “60 Minutes” correspondent, spoke Friday evening at the Norman P. Murray Community Center in Mission Viejo about her new book and the state of journalism in America today.

She is on a national book tour promoting her book, “Becoming Grandma: the Joys and Science of the New Grandparenting.”

Q: Tell us about how your book came about, and how it felt when you first picked up and held your first grandchild?

LS: It was the most unexpected, transcendental, and enormous physical emotion. I wanted to know what that was. It was one of the reasons I wrote the book. So I interviewed a neurobiologist, who told me there are brain pathways, when you pick up your grandchild your brain is activated and it leads to a waterfall in your body of a hormone called oxytocin. That is a bonding hormone and it gives you a feeling of ecstasy and total joy, and that is what I was feeling. The pathway in the brain for romantic love is the same pathway, so what I discovered is that we literally and emotionally fall in love with our grandchildren.

Q: So that is why the title includes the joy and science of grand-parenting?

LS: I looked into the science a lot, and kind of looked at this like it was a “60 Minutes” project. One of the things I discovered is that in the animal world, for most animals when a female will no longer reproduce they die; that’s it. There are only three animals on this planet that have grandmothers. Whales, elephants and humans. So the anthropologists were trying to find out why don’t apes have grandmothers, and why the humans? They studied it and settled on a theory. To babysit. When we turned into agricultural creatures, both parents went into the fields and planted, and the grandmother stayed back. Today in other societies the grandmother is raising the children, parts of India and parts of China. My theory is if you don’t live in the same city as your grandchildren you literally crave them. We are meant to be in their lives, as animals, to actually raise them or help raise them.

Q: Some of your advice for grandmothers is ‘hold your tongue and walk on eggshells.’ Share what you mean.

LS: They don’t want us to second guess, unless they are doing something seriously wrong. We do not fit the image of our grandmothers. The big, big reason there is new grand-parenting is our kids. They need us. They need us financially, and if we are anywhere close to them they need us for childcare. Which is criminally expensive and it can cost as much as college. Our children are inviting us to do more than in the past. In terms of money, grandparents today are spending seven times more on their grandchildren than just 10 years ago. I am talking about big items, like medical care. I have had so many grandparents say, I bought the house, or we pay the rent. This is happening all over the country to grandparents who can and can’t afford it.

Q: As a veteran journalist, and in the era of “fake news,” and a president who criticizes even our most reputable national journalists, how can people get credible real news, and what is the future of journalism today?


LS: Watch “60 Minutes!” (Laughs.) This is something everyone I know in the media talk about a lot. One of the sad things that has happened over the last 30 years or so, instead of journalism there is “media.” In “media,” there is.. over here…the late Bill O’Reilly, and over here Chris Matthews. My point is they are in “the media.” Gossip columns are in the media, sports people, people with outrageous opinions are in the media. So the mainline journalists who strive to do a straight objective job get tossed in the salad bowl and are tainted with this image that we either have an opinion, or if we don’t we are lying. It has hurt us in terms of the public’s trust and admiration. I am watching the reporters in Washington who thought during this campaign they didn’t have much of a role in getting information to the public, I am watching them have a role, do their jobs, and ignore the insults. Everyone has to find the news outlet that they trust. Online there are many news outlets that are playing it straight. What is happening is everyone is tuning in to the opinion they like. This is not helping; you are not getting the opposing views. We have to push ourselves to find the middle ground, listen to both sides. It is not a happy time for journalists. There is a lot of straight and good journalists, and I am very proud of my colleagues.

Stahl’s book, “Becoming Grandma: the Joys and Science of the New Grandparenting” is available on

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