Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Edward R Murrow's prescient critique nails Fox News

Murrow would never have claimed to have been a 'visionary' - he would have found the very idea preposterous - quite plainly, that is a trite and virtually now meaningless sobriquet awarded to him, and others of his ilk, by today's phalanx of inarticulate and vocabulary anemic 'anchors' (the prefix 'news' having been dropped years ago): he would, though, lament just how commoditised what comes from TV and radio, and to a degree print journalism, and which tries to pass itself off as 'news', has become.

In contrast to Murrow, we now live in an era where the ability to read from an Autocue is the sole prerequisite and qualification for a news reader: any actual pretensions or genuine skills in being a journalist have either been largely lost to runners & researchers capable only of a Google search, or quietly forgotten and consigned to the sands of time.

Today, no better illustration exists of just how much meaningful news has been devalued than the hack performances broadcast by Fox News - and by meaningful, I mean reportage which has a valid point (and not merely a cheap partisan puff piece) and is both even-handed and balanced; that which seeks honestly to inform, rather than merely to entertain with gossip about supposed 'celebrities'.

So, the next time you're patience and attention span get the better of you, and you find yourself speeding on autopilot through the channels on your TV remote, and then end up watching, for any length of time, Fox News, just think about the words Murrow gave in his address at the RTNDA Convention, Chicago, October 15, 1958, where he could have been describing Fox News, and their approach to all they produce:

"I am entirely persuaded that the American public is more reasonable, restrained and more mature than most of our industry's [i.e. news] program planners believe. Their fear of controversy is not warranted by the evidence. I have reason to know, as do many of you, that when the evidence on a controversial subject is fairly and calmly presented, the public recognizes it for what it is--an effort to illuminate rather than to agitate."

And later, from that same speech (president Eisenhower's again all too prescient comments on Habeas Corpus making a mockery of the Bush-Cheney doctrine - certainly as it appertains to human rights [Gitmo], notwithstaning), here's David Strathairn in the role of Murrow:

There's much to miss about Edward R Murrow: primarily, though not restricted to, his values and skills as dyed-in-the-wool newsman.

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