Posted in America, Politics, tagged America, Challenger Explosion, Hindenburg, John F. Kennedy, Journalism, Kennedy Inauguration, Politics, President Kennedy, Space Shuttle Challenger, Titanic on January 30, 2011 |
1 Comment »
It seems like every day you hear news stories about the anniversaries of an event. Recently, we were treated to stories about the 25th anniversary of the space shuttle Challenger explosion, and the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s inauguration. There have been countless others.
This kind of “anniversary journalism” is, in my view, lazy journalism. The ingredients of these stories are always the same. It has to be a round number anniversary — one year, 5 years, 10 years, 25 years. If the news story is on radio or TV, you play a clip of the recording of the event, and then you interview people who give their recollections and perhaps add a few recollections of your own. The stories are simple to prepare and simple to produce — and there are an enormous number of “round number” anniversaries of events to choose from.
In addition to being lazy journalism, I also think that, with rare exception, these stories are pointless because the events being remembered actually have no continuing cultural or historical significance. John F. Kennedy gave a memorable inaugural address, but his challenge to “Ask not what your country can do for you . . . ” obviously did not prevent the creation of our current political atmosphere that is so rife with pork barrel spending, earmarks, and special interest lobbying. Why is it important that we relive the Challenger disaster and see, again, the ugly photos of the mid-air explosion that took the lives of its crew? With all due respect to the crew members and their families, the reality is that the Challenger explosion did not change the focus or approach of the U.S. space program or have any other lasting impact. It was just a bad thing that happened 25 years ago that I would rather not remember. It has no more relevance to today’s America than the burning of the Hindenburg or the sinking of the Titanic.
We would be better served if our news media stopped its resort to these “anniversary stories” and instead focused on reporting the news about what is going on, today, in our country and in our world.
Read Full Post »
Some members of the press are raising questions about President Obama’s lack of formal, prime-time press conferences. Indeed, he has gone longer between such conferences than did President Bush before him. Most people probably will find this hard to believe, because President Obama seemingly has been all over the television screen since his inauguration. Most of his appearances, however, are through scripted speeches, “town halls,” one-on-one interviews, or other forms of media exposure that do not involve fielding live questions from skeptical reporters.
It’s odd that President Obama seems to be dodging formal press conferences. He obviously is an intelligent person, and his answers to questions typically are well-formulated. Of course, the danger of a press conference is that an unscripted answer might gin up a media firestorm that distracts the President until it dies down. Something like that happened at the President’s last formal press conference, when he said Cambridge police “acted stupidly” in their interaction with Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. The resulting controversy was not put to bed until after President Obama hosted an awkward “Beer Summit” at the White House. It may be that that experience caused the President to conclude that formal prime-time press conferences just aren’t worth it.
As a former journalist, I think such press conferences are worth it. I think it is good for the President to break out of controlled environments and meetings with nodding, sycophantic followers and face some tough and even oddball questions from the media. Presidents who are skillful in handling questions from the media — like President Kennedy — look sharp and at ease; their ability to deal with aggressive, probing questions with intelligence and humor inspire public confidence. Press conferences undoubtedly keep the President more on top of issues that are of current interest to the country, even if they aren’t particularly of interest to the President or his advisors. They also show that the President is not some remote, all-controlling figure, but a human being, elected to an important office, who is answerable to the public. If Presidents duck the press, they end up being depicted as out of touch — and maybe they are.
Read Full Post »
Posted in Growing Up, Politics, tagged assassination, Bobby Kennedy, George Wallace, Growing Up, Harvey Milk, Martin Luther King, President Bush, President Ford, President Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Work on March 30, 2009 |
Leave a Comment »
I saw on the RealClearPolitics website that today is the 28th anniversary of the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan. It sent a shiver down my spine and brought back some weird memories. President Reagan was shot during the first week I was on the job as the press secretary and legislative aide for Congressman Chalmers P. Wylie. The shooting happened not too far from our offices at the Rayburn House Office Building, and I had to write about the shooting for the Congressman’s weekly radio broadcast. Fortunately, the President was not fatally wounded, and his brave and uplifting reaction to the shooting — I recall he told his wife, “Honey, I forgot to duck” — helped everyone to get past a traumatic incident.
It seems odd now, but I grew up with political assassination attempts as a regular part of the landscape. President Kennedy was shot when I was in kindergarten; I remember the news coming over the loudspeaker system and my teacher crying. When I was 11, Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy were assassinated. Then George Wallace was shot, and there were two attempts on the life of President Ford, the killing of Harvey Milk, and finally the shooting of President Reagan. And then, seemingly as abruptly as they began . . . the shootings blessedly stopped. The worst incident that I can think of since the Reagan shooting was the recent Baghdad press conference where the Iraqi journalist threw his shoes at President Bush. This change obviously is a wonderful move in the right direction — but what caused it?
Read Full Post »