Truth, Trump and Pizza…

einstein-on-truth

It’s interesting what stands out when you’re listening…

Last night I tuned in to The Gulf Screen Guild Theatre “Between Americans” (CBS, Original air date December 7, 1941) on WPFW- FM. The show had been written by Norman Corwin and was completed several days before its scheduled airdate – the day of the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

President Franklin Roosevelt had gotten word to William B. Lewis former VP of Programming for CBS several months earlier and asked for a show to be written about American values to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Bill of Rights. Corwin was reluctantly recruited. It’s a compelling listen…at least the part that was replayed last night and narrated by Orson Welles. The messages about the importance of the First Amendment, freedom of speech and freedom of the press are powerful…as is the definition of America as a series of communities and neighborhoods, working together through belief in common values. 63 million Americans listened across four networks (that’s an amazing 47%+ of the U.S. population of 133,402,000 that year).

Earlier in the day, I watched a wonderful film noir, Northside 777, starring Jimmy Stewart. In it, Stewart plays a Chicago reporter who follows the facts and moves from being certain of a convicted police-killer’s guilt to believing and proving his innocence. It’s a story about truth and the essential role of the press as Americans saw it in 1948, when the movie was made.

Fast forward to the present…

Continue reading “Truth, Trump and Pizza…”

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Freedom of the Press: An essential value

free-press

“Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.”                                                                      A.J. Liebling

Today’s headline – “Viral Fake Election News Outperformed Real News on Facebook in Final Months of the U.S. Election” – got me thinking about how we got to this dangerous place.

Many years ago, while in college, I remember a Sociology professor discussing then new statistics that showed, for the first time, more people were getting their news from TV than from newspapers. He made the point that TV news pieces were by definition brief and that the deeper analysis offered by newspapers would fade. He described this as a danger to democracy.

In those days, TV news departments were seen as a public service. As time went by, that value was decayed by networks and stations whose values shifted to profit as their business became more competitive.

Almost two decades ago, in 1999, Marc Gunther authored a report for the Nieman Foundation.  Titled, The Transformation of Network News: How Profitability Has Moved Networks Out of Hard News, Gunther opened the document with these words: Continue reading “Freedom of the Press: An essential value”

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