Saturday, July 08, 2017

The Pure and Mighty Rot


The best thing that nonagenarians do is reminisce. Surviving more or less alone most of the time provides ample opportunity for colorful memories.

My subconscious must have been working overtime, when I took off my headphones (from listening to a book) and somehow or other was reminded of Bernard Shaw, the great African-American journalist who personified dignity and unflappability as a CNN anchor during the late 20th century.

When I think of Bernard Shaw, I always think of John Holliman, a young agricultural stringer who got caught in Hurricane Gilbert, and did such a great job of on-site reporting, he was our eyes and ears at the bloody Tiananmen Square  massacre, and finally the old pro globe circler New Zealander Peter Arnett.  These three were on the roof of the nine story hotel in Baghdad from which they reported the shock and awe hellstorm of 90,000 tons of missiles and bombs that fell on Baghdad. 

They did it without the twitch of whisker--- except that I remember Shaw, the oldest of them, dived under a table at one point, then went to the basement only to return after he gave  out of  cheese-whiz with which he entertained  Saddam's lackeys who were also bunkered.

I was 66 at the time and I wondered to my sweetheart Betts, "what the hell that old man is doing over there ?!"  (Shaw had an interview with Saddam Hussein scheduled. He was a prescient fellow.)

In my apprenticeship as a reporter, I covered the poisoning death of 119 moonshine  enthusiasts at the hands of a dumb bootlegger who added a drum of methyl alcohol to his 
popskull white lightning for extra profit. I covered the Savage tornado near Warner Robins that killed 19 and damaged the airbase. I was the United Press reporter on the scene at the capitol for Georgia's two-governor / three-governor comic opera. I gathered quotes from every statehouse elected official the day that the school desegregation decision came down in 1953. 

But I never got my self a shot at a war, and looking back at CNN's preparation for the siege of Baghdad is very instructive. They had four redundant lines dedicated to relay audio and video when all the other journalists, wire services, papers and networks had  to depend on telephone lines--- which were a little less reliable than "iffy" during the bombardment, and the ensuing occupation.

I guess what I'm saying is that at that time as an old newshound and lover of journalism, I believed that John Holliman, Bernard Shaw and Peter Arnett  were the luckiest journalists on earth to be working for Ted Turner's CNN.

Now, the once- non-pariel diadem of news reporting is reduced to defending itself ON-AIR for having threatened-- in effect, extorted or blackmailed---a private citizen who bounces around  the Internet just like me.

It just makes me sad and angry. Not because of any difference in political opinion with  the Zucker-led  outfit, but because the recent history of the polluted information conduit is fulfilling a prophesy made by my dearest friend, the late Ray Moore.

"When professionals turn their backs on their craft to  hustle and grovel so as  to change or twist folks' minds, the whole world dies a little.... And a little more."

This isn't the first time that I'm glad I left journalism school and spent my last year and a half with philosophy and English composition professors.  It is  easier to dodge copious blame by association, because it's really getting hopelessly  dishonest out there, all the way to what used to be "The Top".

3 comments:

Vicki said...

<3 This makes me happy and sad at the same time.

MICHAEL R. ALLEN said...

This is the best I've read in quite some time. KUDOS to my Dad ! Way to go !

Courtney Allen said...

Once Political influence and celebrity invaded the Newsroom especially Electronic Media.
The "Rot" began Very revealing and loud disdain to what has happened to reporting .
Thanks for this perspective