Tag Archives: journalists

Daniel Schorr, a real journalist

Reading obits of Daniel Schorr, the independent-minded journalist who had the courage to defy the powerful (he was on the Nixon enemies list), I remember how Schorr stood up to Ted Turner in the early days of CNN.

When I joined CNN in April of 1981 I was worried that Turner, loud-mouthed and erratic, would do something so embarrassing that it would ruin the credibility of the fledgling all-news experiment. Soon after I joined, Turner almost succeeded in doing that. He did an on-air editorial in which he said that the producers of the movie “Taxi Driver” should be put on trial for John Hinckley’s shooting of President Reagan. Turner’s logic was a bit skewed. He said the producers were at fault because their movie had inspired Hinckley: “The people responsible for this movie should be just as much on trial as John Hinckley himself … Write your Congressman and your Senator right away, and tell him that you want something done.”

Just when I thought CNN’s reputation would be destroyed by this nutty comment by its owner, to its credit CNN ran an on-air reply by CNN commentator Schorr contradicting Turner. Schorr said having Congress take action against film producers could violate First Amendment protections against government censorship.

Schorr had a checkered career, and not everything he did was above criticism, but standing up to his boss at CNN was an example of Schorr at his best. He spoke truth to power, and in that he was a real journalist.

(Photo: NY1)


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BP oil disaster: it’s not about Obama

All the instant media reactions to Obama’s oil speech missed an essential point: this isn’t about him. The question is not whether he is tough enough on BP, nor whether his Oval Office address will help him or hurt him. It’s not about whether he’s going to be seen as another “weak” President like Jimmy Carter. The question is: Did his speech help us as a nation solve our energy problem?

Obama actually said things that make sense. He outlined a plan to clean up the BP-caused mess, compensate victims, and protect the Gulf Coast environment. More importantly, he reminded us that we can’t go on any longer delaying an energy program to get off oil.

But because news media reports focused so much on the politics — whether his speech helped him or hurt him, and how politicians reacted – they didn’t fully report, in depth and contextually, what he actually said. The lead item this morning on the first page of nytimes.com was a so-called “news analysis” (meaning commentary) instead of a factual report that might have helped readers understand what he actually said and what the background is. This “news analysis” said he was “fighting his own powerlessness.” What’s the basis for saying that? None was given, and in any case that’s not the main point.

It’s true that people are fascinated by how well or how badly a President is doing, and it’s easy for lazy journalists to find plenty of people to quote about that, but that doesn’t mean news media should fixate on our leader’s ups and downs. Ultimately it doesn’t matter if Obama is doing well or not. What matters is whether we as a nation are doing well. That’s what journalists should use as their frame of reference. They should quote informed, impartial experts on how the clean-up plan will work. And they should do hard-hitting, investigative reporting on how much we are being hurt by Congress’s failure to enact a comprehensive energy plan.

(White House photo.)

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Filed under BP, BP oil, news media