…Ted Koppel, Edward R. Murrow and Daniel Schorr Weigh In
Yesterday on CNN’s Reliable Sources, host Howard Kurtz found former ABC newsman Ted Koppel warning of the demise of the Fourth Estate, claiming that most media sources “are desperate to turn a buck,” and are “busy chasing popcorn rather than steak & potato news.” Citing widespread coverage of the Charlie Sheen meltdown, Koppel certainly had plenty of raw material to back up his claim that journalism was circling the drain, and to conclude that “in a democracy, an uniformed electorate is a great danger.”
The Koppel interview caught my attention. I’ve long bemoaned the degradation of journalistic craftsmanship, having dealt with it on a first-hand basis. For example, I once asked a wire service reporter for his source related to an accusation against one of my clients, and his response to me was…a competing wire service. (Names withheld to avoid retribution.)
So with Koppel’s CNN appearance as my news hook, and armed with a backpack of my own PR war stories, I set out to research the journalistic craftsmanship topic, beginning with its patron saint: Edward R. Murrow. And that’s pretty much where my research, as well as my enthusiasm for blogging on the topic ended.
Here’s what Morrow had to say in 1958 in his “wires and lights” speech before the Radio and Television News Directors Association in Chicago, blasting TV’s emphasis on entertainment and commercialism at the expense of public interest:
“During the daily peak viewing periods, television in the main insulates us from the realities of the world in which we live. If this state of affairs continues, we may alter an advertising slogan to read: Look now, pay later.”
Apparently, the demise of journalistic craftsmanship is a protracted affair, and something we shouldn’t fret over, or waste too many blog pixels writing about.
But there was an upside to exploration of the topic. My Edward R. Murrow research led me to check out one of his respected journalism compatriots, Daniel Schorr, who died last year at age 93. (Chain-smoker Morrow died at age 57.) A hard-nosed news reporter who covered the news until the day he died, Schorr posted his first message on Twitter in February 2009. In fact, there’s a neat video of Schorr’s introduction to Twitter on the NPR website.
If Twitter made sense to news veteran Daniel Schorr (who compared it to the Agora in ancient Greece), then Pulitzer Prize winning Tweets may someday be part of journalism’s future.