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Posts Tagged ‘JOURNALISM’

TWO LIVES, TWO LEGACIES

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on August 24, 2015 at 12:32 am

Benjamin C. Bradlee and Richard M. Nixon.

Both men were driven to succeed.  And both achieved fame and power in doing so.

Bradlee made his name in journalism.

Benjamin C. Bradlee

Nixon made his in politics.

Richard M. Nixon

Both served in the United States Navy in the Pacific during World War II.

Both had strong connections to John F. Kennedy.

  • Bradlee knew him as a friend and reporter during JFK’s years as a Senator and President.
  • Nixon–as a Senator and later Vice President–knew Kennedy as a Senatorial colleague and as a political adversary, unsuccessfully contesting him for the Presidency in 1960.

For both, 1948 was a pivotal year.

  • Bradlee joined The Washington Post as a reporter.
  • Nixon, as a U.S. Representative, accused Algier Hiss, a former State Department official, of having been a Communist spy.  Hiss was eventually convicted of perjury and sent to prison.

Both attained their positions of maximum power in 1968.

  • Bradlee became executive editor of The Washington Post.
  • Nixon became the 37th President of the United States.

Bradlee made it his business to dig up the truth.  Nixon made it his business to distort the truth–or to conceal it when distortion wasn’t enough.

Nixon and Bradlee had their first major clash in 1971 with the Pentagon Papers, a secret government study of how the United States became enmeshed in the Vietnam war.

  • Although the Papers concerned events that had occurred during the Presidencies of John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, Nixon was outraged at their release by a former Defense Department analyst named Daniel Ellsburg.
  • Nixon ordered his Attorney General, John Mitchell, to enjoin The New York Times–which had begun publishing the study–from continuing to publish its revelations.
  • Bradlee, as executive editor of The Washington Post, urged his publisher, Katherine Graham, to take over where the Times had left off.
  • The controversey ended when the Supreme Court ruled, 6–3, that the government failed to meet the burden of proof required for prior restraint of the press.

In 1972, Bradlee and Nixon squared off for their most important battle–a “third-rate burglary” of the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate Hotel.

Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein and Benjamin C. Bradlee

  • Bradlee backed two young, aggressive reporters named Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, as they probed the burglary.
  • This led to their discovering a series of illegal dirty tricks the Nixon re-election campaign had aimed at various Democratic opponents.
  • The Post’s revelations led to the formation of the Senate Watergate Committee, the discovery of Nixon’s tape-recordings of his private–and criminal–conversations, and, finally, to Nixon’s own resignation in disgrace on August 9, 1974.
  • Bradlee was one of only four men who knew the identity of “Deep Throat,” Woodward and Bernstein’s famous undercover source, then-FBI Associate Director W. Mark Felt.  Felt outed himself in 2005.
  • Nixon, who died in 1994, never learned the identity of the most famous whistleblower in history.

Bradlee became an advocate for education and the study of history.

Nixon entered history as the only American President forced to resign from office.

Richard Nixon saying farewell at the White House

Bradlee became a media celebrity.  Nixon became a media target.

  • Bradlee was portrayed by Jason Robards in the hit 1976 film, All the President’s Men (for which he won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor).
  • Nixon was portrayed–in Oliver Stone’s 1995 drama, Nixon–by Anthony Hopkins.

Bradlee and Nixon each published a series of books.

  • Bradlee’s: That Special Grace and Conversations With Kennedy focused on his longtime friendship with John F. Kennedy.  A Good Life: Newspapering and Other Adventures was Bradlee’s memoirs.
  • Nixon’s:  Among his 11 titles: Six Crises; RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon; The Real War; Leaders; Real Peace; No More Vietnams; Beyond Peace.

After leaving the White House, Nixon worked hard behind-the-scenes to refashion himself into an elder statesman of the Republican Party.

  • Throughout the 1980s, he traveled the lecture circuit, wrote books, and met with many foreign leaders, especially those of Third World countries.
  • He supported Ronald Reagan for president in 1980, making television appearances portraying himself as the senior statesman above the fray.
  • For the rest of his life, he fought ferociously through the courts to prevent the release of most of the infamous “Watergate tapes” that chronicled his crimes as President.
  • Only since his death have many of these been made public.

Nixon died on April 22, 1994.

  • Eulogists at his funeral included President Bill Clinton and former Presidents Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, California Governor Pete Wilson and the Reverend Billy Graham.
  • Despite his efforts to portray himself as an elder statesman, Nixon could never erase his infamy as the only President to resign in disgrace.
  • To this day, he remains a nonperson within the Republican Party.  While numerous Republican Presidential candidates quote and identify themselves with Ronald Reagan, none has done the same with Nixon.

Bradlee remained executive editor of The Washington Post until retiring in 1991. But he continued to serve as vice president-at-large until his death on October 21, 2014.

  • In 2007, he received the French Legion of Honor, the highest award given by the French government, at a ceremony in Paris.
  • In 2013, he was named as a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama. He was presented the medal at a White House ceremony on November 20, 2013.

TWO LIVES, TWO LEGACIES

In History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on October 28, 2014 at 1:04 am

Benjamin C. Bradlee and Richard M. Nixon.

Both men were driven to succeed.  And both achieved fame and power in doing so.

Bradlee made his name in journalism.

Benjamin C. Bradlee

Nixon made his in politics.

Richard M. Nixon

Both served in the United States Navy in the Pacific during World War II.

Both had strong connections to John F. Kennedy.

  • Bradlee knew him as a friend and reporter during JFK’s years as a Senator and President.
  • Nixon–as a Senator and later Vice President–knew Kennedy as a Senatorial colleague and as a political adversary, unsuccessfully contesting him for the Presidency in 1960.

For both, 1948 was a pivotal year.

  • Bradlee joined The Washington Post as a reporter.
  • Nixon, as a U.S. Representative, accused Algier Hiss, a former State Department official, of having been a Communist spy.  Hiss was eventually convicted of perjury and sent to prison.

Both attained their positions of maximum power in 1968.

  • Bradlee became executive editor of The Washington Post.
  • Nixon became the 37th President of the United States.

Bradlee made it his business to dig up the truth.  Nixon made it his business to distort the truth–or to conceal it when distortion wasn’t enough.

Nixon and Bradlee had their first major clash in 1971 with the Pentagon Papers, a secret government study of how the United States became enmeshed in the Vietnam war.

  • Although the Papers concerned events that had occurred during the Presidencies of John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, Nixon was outraged at their release by a former Defense Department analyst named Daniel Ellsburg.
  • Nixon ordered his Attorney General, John Mitchell, to enjoin The New York Times–which had begun publishing the study–from continuing to publish its revelations.
  • Bradlee, as executive editor of The Washington Post, urged his publisher, Katherine Graham, to take over where the Times had left off.
  • The controversey ended when the Supreme Court ruled, 6–3, that the government failed to meet the burden of proof required for prior restraint of the press.

In 1972, Bradlee and Nixon squared off for their most important battle–a “third-rate burglary” of the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate Hotel.

Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein and Benjamin C. Bradlee

  • Bradlee backed two young, aggressive reporters named Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, as they probed the burglary.
  • This led to their discovering a series of illegal dirty tricks the Nixon re-election campaign had aimed at various Democratic opponents.
  • The Post’s revelations led to the formation of the Senate Watergate Committee, the discovery of Nixon’s tape-recordings of his private–and criminal–conversations, and, finally, to Nixon’s own resignation in disgrace on August 9, 1974.
  • Bradlee was one of only four men who knew the identity of “Deep Throat,” Woodward and Bernstein’s famous undercover source, then-FBI Associate Director W. Mark Felt.  Felt outed himself in 2005.
  • Nixon, who died in 1994, never learned the identity of the most famous whistleblower in history.

Bradlee became an advocate for education and the study of history.

Nixon entered history as the only American President forced to resign from office.

 Richard Nixon saying farewell at the White House

Bradlee became a media celebrity.  Nixon became a media target.

  • Bradlee was portrayed by Academy Award-winning actor Jason Robarbs in the hit 1976 film, All the President’s Men.
  • Nixon was portrayed–in Oliver Stone’s 1995 drama, Nixon–by Anthony Hopkins.

Bradlee and Nixon each published a series of books.

  • Bradlee’s: That Special Grace and Conversations With Kennedy focused on his longtime friendship with John F. Kennedy.  A Good Life: Newspapering and Other Adventures was Bradlee’s memoirs.
  • Nixon’s:  Among his 11 titles: Six Crises; RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon; The Real War; Leaders; Real Peace; No More Vietnams; Beyond Peace.

After leaving the White House, Nixon worked hard behind-the-scenes to refashion himself into an elder statesman of the Republican Party.

  • Throughout the 1980s, he traveled the lecture circuit, wrote books, and met with many foreign leaders, especially those of Third World countries.
  • He supported Ronald Reagan for president in 1980, making television appearances portraying himself as the senior statesman above the fray. 
  • For the rest of his life, he fought ferociously through the courts to prevent the release of most of the infamous “Watergate tapes” that chronicled his crimes as President.
  • Only since his death have many of these been made public.

Nixon died on April 22, 1994.

  • Eulogists at his funeral included President Bill Clinton and former Presidents Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, California Governor Pete Wilson and the Reverend Billy Graham.
  • Despite his efforts to portray himself as an elder statesman, Nixon could never erase his infamy as the only President to resign in disgrace.
  • To this day, he remains a nonperson within the Republican Party.  While numerous Republican Presidential candidates quote and identify themselves with Ronald Reagan, none has done the same with Nixon.

Bradlee remained executive editor of The Washington Post until retiring in 1991.  But he continued to serve as vice president-at-large until his death on October 21, 2014.

  • In 2007, he received the French Legion of Honor, the highest award given by the French government, at a ceremony in Paris.
  • In 2013, he was named as a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama.  He was presented the medal at a White House ceremony on November 20, 2013.

CNN BECOMES TNN: TRAYVON NEWS NETWORK

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on July 23, 2013 at 1:35 am

Since June 10, CNN has carried one story above all others: The trial of self-appointed “neighborhood watchman” George Zimmerman for the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

On CNN, especially, the coverage of this trial has been overwhelming.

So much so that CNN–Cable News Network–could rightly be called TNN–Trayvon News Network.

There are several reasons for this, and they say as much–if not more–about the media as they do about the case itself.

First, there was a dead body in the story–the body of Travon Martin.  There’s a well-known saying in the news business: “If it bleeds, it leads.”  And nothing bleeds like the body of a dead teenager.

Second, the victim was not only dead, he was black.

Third, he died at the hands of a nominally-white man–George Zimmerman, the offspring of a German father and a Peruvian mother.

Although the vast majority of blacks in the United States are murdered by other blacks, it’s Politically Incorrect to say so.  On the other hand, it’s perfectly OK to create the impression that whites pose the greatest danger to blacks.

George Zimmerman

Fourth, the trial was televised.  There was absolutely no need for this.  It didn’t threaten to overturn existing law–as did Brown v. Board of Education, in which the Supreme Court struck down “separate but equal” public schools for blacks and whites.

This case proved the opening legal salvo in the history of the civil rights movement and ushered in a decade of activism and bloodshed as blacks sought to de-segregate the South.

Nor did the Zimmerman case even carry the weight of the 1985-6 Mafia Commission trial.  There Federal prosecutors convicted the heads of the five most powerful Mafia “families” in the country and sent them to prison.

While individual Mafiosi had been sent to prison, this was the first time the top leadership of all major Mafia “families” had been virtually wiped out.

It signaled a turning point in the fight against organized crime, with Federal investigators and prosecutors finally learning how to use the 10-year-old Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organization (RICO) Act to their advantage.

Fifth, televising the trial meant the networks–especially CNN–didn’t have to do anything.  They didn’t have to send reporters into the streets to dig up information.  All that was necessary was to let the camera show what was happening in the courtroom.

Sixth, when each day’s televised proceedings came to an end, CNN and other networks could easily round up a series of “talking heads” to pontificate on the meaning of it all. 

These people had no more idea than the average viewer of what impact–if any–that day’s events would have on the legal fate of George Zimmerman.

But it gave CNN a chance to use up airtime that could have otherwise gone on stories like the national debt, Detroit declaring bankruptcy and the Supreme Court rejecting an Arizona law requiring voters to prove their citizenship.

Seventh, the networks could count on a controversial outcome no matter what the verdict.

If Zimmerman were convicted, his white supporters would be outraged and his black detractors overjoyed.  And if Zimmerman were acquitted–which is what actually happened–then the opposite reactions would occur.

Either way, there was certain to be angry demonstrators in the street.  For the networks this would hopefully include a full replay of the race riots which shook the nation following the police beating of Rodney King in 1992 and the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in 1968.

Eighth, if rioting erupted, CNN and other networks would rush news cameras to the scenes of carnage and claim they were doing this “in the finest traditions of journalism” to keep the public fully informed.

In reality, they would be doing it to keep their ratings up.

If any of this seems familiar, it’s because–unfortunately–it is.

The 1995 O.J. Simpson trial set the standard for televised murder trials.

It came complete with a weak-kneed judge (Lance Ito), incompetent prosecutors (Christopher Darden and Marcia Clark), bizarre witnesses (Kato Kaelin) and grandstanding defense attorneys (Johnnie Cochran, F. Lee Bailey and Robert Kardashian).

The case seemed to go on forever.  The primary jury was sworn in on November 2, 1994.  Opening statements began on January 24, 1995, and the trial dragged on until a “Not Guilty” verdict came on October 3, 1995

For those who enjoy wallowing in sensationalism, the case offered everything:

  • Interracial marriage;
  • A famous has-been football player;
  • Sexually-charged domestic abuse (in this case, black-on-white/male-on-female violence);
  • A dead, beautiful blonde;
  • Two grisly murders (those of Simpson’s ex-wife, Nicole, and a waiter-friend of hers, Ronald Goldman);
  • Allegations by Simpson’s lawyers that he was the target of white, racist police.

Since then, television networks have repeatedly sought stories that promise to deliver the thrills–if not actual news value–of the Simpson case.

The George Zimmerman trial didn’t offer the ratings voltage of the Simpson one.  But the networks did their best to make it happen.

MY APPROACH TO BLOGGING

In Politics, Social commentary on November 14, 2012 at 12:05 am

On November 13, I posted a column about Ann Coulter, entitled, “Tears for the Miss America Nazi.”

The same day, Dave, a conservative friend of mine who reads my blog, sent this email to a friend:

Warren,

This is the propaganda blog editor friend of mine in San Francisco that I talked about during my presentation last Thursday evening at the Opera House.

As you can see, he is a typical unbiased uournalist….As I said, I love the guy dearly and truly have the utmost respect for his ability and intellect (although it’s sometimes pointed). 

Nonetheless, I thought you and others would get a kick out of this blog.

I would suggest that you log onto his site and read some of his other postings.  You will then see why I am such an admirer….

* * * * *

As a result, I want to share my philosophy as a blogger with those of you who read my blog.

Many years ago I worked as an investigative reporter in Utah, covering local police and courts for a small Provo newspaper.

As a reporter, I adhered strictly to a policy of objectivity.  Generally, that meant reporting only what I knew to be true.  And in cases of crime-related stories, reporting only what I knew I could legally prove to be true.

In the latter case: You might feel absolutely certain that So-and-So committed a crime.  But if you want to avoid libel suits, you had better have the proof in legal documents.

And if you can find sources who are willing to back up those legal documents, so much the better.

Another thing: As a straight journalist, you have no right to inject your opinion into anything you write.

So if you write a story about a mayor or councilman you know–and can prove–is corrupt, you don’t have the right to add: “This guy needs to be tossed out of office and indicted.”

If you can find a prosecutor who’s willing to say that, fine.  Quote him.  But what you think of this official doesn’t matter.

As a blogger I operate in a slightly different way than I did as a straight journalist.  That is: I present the facts of a person or event as accurately as I can.

But, at the end, I take an editorial position by pointing out what these facts mean (at least to me) and offering, if possible, a remedy for that problem.

Take my column about Ann Coulter.

First I laid out her recent, public weeping over the re-election of President Obama.

Then I quoted comedian Bill Maher and political commentator Chris Matthews on their reactions to Coulter’s comments (“There is no hope”).

So far, I had adhered to journalistic principles of fairness and objectivity–who/what/when/where/how/why.

Only in the last six paragraph of my column did I venture an opinion.

First, I laid out the historical precedent for what I intended to recommend.  Then I offered the depressed Coulter an option she might not have considered.

Frankly, I don’t consider Ann Coulter a legitimate journalist.  She and Rush Limbaugh are the ultimate propaganda icons for the Republican party.

They make a career out of attacking the integrity and patriotism of anyone who dares to disagree with them.

For example: Take Coulter’s book Treason: Liberal Treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terrorism.

One of her heroes is  Senator Joseph R. McCarthy.  Yes, that McCarthy who:

  • Unleashed a wave of hysteria across America with his slanderous accusations of massive Communist infiltration of the Federal Government;
  • Left untold numbers of wrecked lives in his wake through slander-ruined careers;
  • Failed to uncover one actual Communist spy.

Coulter maintains that McCarthy was a true patriot, and that he–not his victims–was the true victim of history.

This is on a par with rewriting history as the son of Laventi Beria, Joseph Stalin’s infamous secret police chief, has attempted.  He insists that his father was a good man who was forced by Stalin to do bad things.

I am not a deeply religious man, but I believe that Jesus was right when he said: “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

I hugely admire those who make an honest effort to seek out the truth of events and speak it forcefully, without fear or favor.

And I despise those who ride to fame, power or wealth on a carpet of lies and evasions.

Although I have written heavily about the infamies of the Right, I realize there is plenty of stupidity and arrogance and criminality on the Left.

I don’t believe that any person, agency, political party or corporation has a monopoly on virtue or intelligence or judgment.

But it’s the Republicans who have dominated American politics, especially since the age of Ronald Reagan.   So I have written more on their maneuvers than those of the Democrats.

OBJECTIVE NEWS AND RELIGION DON’T MIX

In History, Politics, Social commentary on August 24, 2012 at 1:15 am

You expect this to happen every year, starting in early November.

Even the most hard-nosed reporters–including those for major TV networks–get misty-eyed as they speak wondrously about the Three Wise Men bringing gifts to a new-born infant in Bethlehem.

And how that child would grow up to be crucified and rise from the grave three days later.  And how, having taken upon himself the sins of humanity, he would become the long-awaited Savior of mankind.

There is, of course, nothing wrong with crediting this story to its ancient source, the Bible.  As in the phrase: “According to the Book of Matthew….”

But when you report as objective fact a fantastical story that cannot be objectively verified, you leave behind the world of journalism and enter that of theology.

Such as happened during the August 20 segment of ABC World News With Diane Sawyer.

Early in the broadcast, Jonathan Karl reported that a group of House Republicans had visited Israel in summer, 2011.  The trip was supposedly a “fact-finding” tour, including visits to Jewish holy sites and meetings with top Israeli officials.

But then, one night, several members of the delegation decided to mix alcohol with swimming at the Sea of Galilee.  Some jumped in fully-clothed.  One member peeled off all his clothes before plunging in.

Sea of Galilee

That member was Rep. Kevin Yoder, R-Kansas.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor had accompanied the Congressmen to Israel but wasn’t present at the late-night frolicking.  When he was told about it, he was furious.

“The Sea of Galilee is a popular tourist vacation spot in Israel,” continued Karl, “but also a place of great religious significance for Christians.”

So far, so good–that is, for reporting objectivity.  But then came this:

“It’s where Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount.  It’s where he fed 5,000 people with just five loaves of bread and two fish.  It’s where he walked on water.”

Click here: GOP Reacts After Skinny Dipping Incident in Israel | Video – ABC News

That would certainly have been appropriate for a Christian Sunday school class.  But it was totally inappropriate for a reporter who is supposed to stick to what can be objectively proved.

Where, for example, is the evidence that Jesus–or anyone–was able to feed “5,000 people with just five loaves of bread and two fish”?

How can we be factually certain that Jesus actually “walked on water”?

Karl would have been journalistically correct had he said: “According to the Bible,” Jesus performed such miracles.  Or if he had said: “Devout Christians believe” that Jesus fed 5,000 people or walked on water.

Of course, for devout Christians, such statements are those of fact.  For journalists striving for objectivity, such statements must be treated as subjective claims.

Because one man’s religious certainty can be another’s superstition.

Consider the following Q&A found at Catholic Answers Forums, which bills itself as “the largest Catholic Community on the Web.  Here you can join over 300,000 members from around the world discussing all things Catholic.

“Membership is open to all, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, who seek the Truth with Charity.”

On April 18, 2008, a member posted the following:

“A few days ago I came across some very interesting news.

“Everyone knows that after Jesus arose from the dead He Ascended into Heaven shortly afterwards, marking the fulfillment of His work on earth. I was always under the impression Mohammed ascended into Heaven when he was done preaching, in a way similar to Jesus.

“The place where Mohammed ascended was in central Jerusalem at a shrine called the Dome of the Rock (the gold dome you see in pictures).

Dome of the Rock

“It TURNS OUT that I was wrong this whole time, Mohammed did ascend to Heaven at the Dome, but it was not at the end of his life.

“According to Islamic history there was a time when he was in Saudi Arabia (Mecca) and a flying horse came and they flew off to Jerusalem, and from there the horse took him to Heaven to talk with the Prophets of the past. Afterwards they flew back to Mecca. This is the ‘ascension’….

“I think the Resurrection of Jesus and His Ascension is much more inspiring.”

Of course he did!  He was, after all, a Catholic–or at least a Christian–and he had probably heard the story of Jesus’ Resurrection as a child.  It was familiar to him.  And few people question what they feel comfortable with.

But if he had grown up a Muslim, he would have heard the story of Mohammed’s Ascension, and he would have felt comfortable with that from long familiarity.

Americans often complain about the lack of objectivity in the national news media.  It’s doubtful, however, that many complained about the utter lack of it in ABC’s report about the skinny-dipping Congressman.

In an age which pundits claim is witnessing a “clash of civilizations” between Christianity and Islam, members of both faiths would do well to remember that religious truth truly lies within the heart of the believer.

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