Saturday, March 17, 2012



William Safire wrote a wonderful novel, Scandalmonger, about the life and doings of Thomas Callendar, a newspaper writer, political hack, investigative journalist, gossip. Callendar broke the story of Alexander Hamilton's extra-marital affair and of Jefferson's dalliance with Sally Hemmings. However when he broke the Hamilton story he was essentially on Jefferson's payroll and when he broke the Hemmings story he was on the payroll of Jefferson's enemies and looking for revenge since he felt betrayed by Jefferson. All good stuff. Great story (and true), well written, fast-paced. Definitely worth a read.

This country has gone through many changes in how news and opinion is gathered, filtered and delivered. Telegraphs changed the pace at which stories could be transmitted. Radio changed it again, as did TV and the ability to put national news into the hands, ears and eyes of the nation. To me it's neither good nor bad, it just is. Because of that, I don't lament the passing of Cronkite and the others. They weren't angels, none of them were.

From Callendar to William Randolph Hearst and "Remember the Maine," to Dan Rather's (one or your grand old men) false story on George Bush's National Guard service, to the recent admission by This American Life that it's story on Apple's manufacturing practices was based on a source who regards his work as a "theatrical piece," and "is not journalism," (No I'm not making this up), there are plenty of examples that lead me to believe there was no golden age of journalism (or anything else for that matter). 

I think there is much greater benefit from having a wide diversity of opinions and news even though some (much?) of it is garbage. Nor do I feel much affinity for John Stewart and Steven Colbert. They'll have their day. America will tire of them, or some other way of delivering news will be invented and our children will talk about our quaint old-fashioned way of getting news.


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