Thursday, August 24, 2006

In step with 'the last sage'

Schorr muses on news as he enters his ninth decade

It seems as if I've been listening to National Public Radio's Daniel Schorr forever. Schorr is about to turn 90. I'm a little younger. (smile) So, indeed, I have known the presence of this celebrated journalist all my life.

Schorr, the surviving member of Edward R. Murrow's legendary CBS team, was well into his news career when I was born. He eventually left CBS when, at the request of Ted Turner, Schorr helped to create the Cable News Network. He went on to work as CNN's senior correspondent. During my own career in public radio, the Schorr's familiar voice was ever-present.

Even as he approaches 90, Schorr shows no signs of letting up. The man described as "the last sage" took time out of his schedule recently to talk with Washington Jewish Week.

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Dennis Fermoyle said...

I was surprised that Daniel Schorr is still alive. So many from that generation of reporters have died, I would have just assumed that he was one of them. I know Walter Cronkite is still going strong, too. I saw him interviewed lately, and although he looked old, he still seemed as sharp as a tack. I think one of the great all-time media quotes involved him when Lyndon Johnson said about the Vietnam War, "If we've lost Walter Cronkite, we've lost the American people." (That quote isn't exact, but it's in the ballgame.) When I think of people like Cronkite, Schorr, and Dan Rather, I do have to admit that CBS was just a tad on the left side of the political spectrum.

Deb S. said...

Dennis: Daniel Schorr has been with NPR (National Public Radio) since the mid-1980s. So you think Cronkite, Schorr and Rather - along with CBS - were "just a tad on the left side of the political spectrum"? Interesting.

I've always found coverage by Cronkite and Schorr to be balanced. When it comes to Rather, I definitely think his coverage leans to the left a bit, but I see nothing wrong with that. His reporting, generally speaking, is balanced. Rather just has a little more "attitude" than most CBS anchors and correspondents.

My view of CBS News is that it is moderate. As you probably know, it has a huge following of viewers 50 and over. During the William S. Paley days (Paley developed CBS radio and TV news), CBS was known as the "Tiffany Network." Among many, it maintains that image to this day.

You can hear Schorr on NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered and other news programs.

Rose said...

I don't know this person. He is very old and still in media. I can't recall ever seeing him. He is 90 and still working. If I live for almost 50 years to see that age that would be a blessing.

Deb S. said...

Rose: I like Daniel Schorr because, in my opinion, he tells it like it is - with little to no hype. I think he represents the best in journalism of his generation, and he's perfectly suited for NPR.

I've been telling my dad that he has a future in radio. Dad thinks he's too old at age 70. Just wait until I show him the Daniel Schorr article! :-)

Dennis Fermoyle said...

Deb, I don't think there is a balanced television network news organization. A few months ago, the top news story of the day was some conflict between President Bush and the Democrats in Congress. I can't remember what exactly the conflict was about. I watched Special Report With Brit Hume on Fox News, and then when that was over, I flipped over and caught CBS. They were both talking about the same story, but it would have been hard to believe it. Their presentations of "the facts" were completely different. I came away from that feeling like neither news organization made any attempt to be "balanced" on this story.

Fox News is the absolute worst. At least the other networks make an attempt to look fair, but they don't even do that. Their morning show is absolutely ridiculous. They have some substitute hosts who aren't too bad (Tiki Barber is excellent), but their main hosts--Bryan Kilmeade, Steve Doocy, and E. D. Hill--are going to make me throw something through my TV screen one of these days. What I find most offensive about Fox is that they call themselves "fair and balanced." That wouldn't be so bad if they made SOME ATTEMPT to be that, but they don't. They have every right to have a news network with a conservative slant as a balance against all the liberal ones, but "fair and balanced"? Puh-lease!

Deb S. said...

Dennis: I don't think there is a balanced news organization...period! Even the most esteemed newspapers have their biases - mostly because reporters and editors, like anyone else, are human. If you want unbiased coverage, you're going to need an android like Data (Star Trek-Next Generation)!

You have to understand something, particularly when it comes to television news. It is first, and foremost, entertainment.

What you see on the air is what people want. I bet you don't believe me. Let me relay to you one of my professional experiences.

I worked in TV news - for an NBC affiliate - for 11 years. At the time I was hired, the station was #3 in the market. I think they had the best news product in town, but audiences gravitated toward stations that had "happy news," which was popular in the '70s and '80s.

During my fifth year with the station, Pulitzer sold it to an out-of-town conglomerate, Multimedia, which produced, among other syndicated programs, the Sally Jesse Raphael Show.

The new Multimedia management team arrived and directed news writers, producers and assignment editors to change the style of the newscasts. I call it "flash and trash." Those of us who were news veterans didn't think the change would fly with our Midwest audience. We were wrong.

The station flew to the number #1 spotand has remained there for some 20 years. Being #1 translates into millions (or even billions) of dollars in advertising revenues.

You and I are in agreement about Fox News. But my dad loves it! Obviously, Dad's not alone because Fox is alive and well.

My favorite TV news network is NBC.
I also like public broadcasting (NPR and PBS).

In all fairness, I think we view news as fair and balanced if the stories are in agreement with our personal beliefs. We think the coverage is biased if there is something in the coverage we don't agree with. If anyone wants to find stories that mirrors their beliefs or value systems, they should stick to the editorial pages or op-ed pieces.

A couple of other things related to news and advertising. A typical 30-minute TV newscast only has about 10 to 12 minutes of news. The rest of the time is taken up by sports, weather and, of course, COMMERCIALS. I think more commercials are running now than they did 10 years ago.

In the typical daily newspaper, about 16 percent of the paper is devoted to news. The bulk of the rest of the space goes to ADVERTISING.

Dennis, when you're ready to start your second career, you should start up your own newspaper or go into broadcasting. ;-)

Dennis Fermoyle said...

I definitely believe you when you say that TV news is predominantly entertainment. I watch a lot of news, and I'd have to be a fool not to see that. In fact, I watch Fox as much as I do because I find it the most entertaining news network. I do think Special Report With Brit Hume is a good news program, but of course, you have to be aware of the conservative bias. My favorite program is the Sunday morning program on ABC with George Stephanopoulus (spelling is butchered, I'm sure). On that one, you've got to be aware of the liberal bias. Entertainment definitely plays a role in this one, though. I love their "funnies" segment at the end of the show every week.

Deb S. said...

Dennis: I see journalism in your Fox News. ;-)