News in 20th Century America; Reporting the United Nations
The following program was produced and recorded by the University of Michigan Broadcasting Service undergrad in aid from the Educational Television and Radio Center in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters News 20th century America. A series of radio documents on the gathering writing and dissemination of news compiled from interviews with men and women who make news their business. The only time is when the U.N. has been completely covered by radio television press. The only times I have been. In times of conflict. In other words when the UN has been involved and what it was created to prevent. Well. It's because the public wants conflict. And is stirred by conflict. And a veto in the Security Council will catch their attention but not a unanimous vote. The voices that have polling Frederick's United Nations report are one of the people who day after day meet the challenge of telling the United Nations story to the people of America reporting the United Nations is today's edition of news in
20th century America. Now here is your host Glenn Philips behind the great glass facade on the East River where story is datelined United Nations New York originate. It is gathered a working press corps of nearly 600 men and women from the news media. They represent 32 countries with the largest from the United States and large groups from Great Britain Israel and Russia covering the United Nations is not an easy job for any journalist to find out about the problems and responsibilities of U.N. reporting. We talk with U.N. correspondents Pauline Fredrickson Pierre Huss to discuss other aspects of U.N. coverage we visited sig Mickelson vice president of the Columbia Broadcasting System and John Daley vice president of the American Broadcasting Company one of the veterans of U.N. reporting is Pierre Jay Haas of the United Press International. Mr. Haas has worked for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and for the United Press as
political reporter in London. He covered the rise of Hitler until it became evident that war between Germany and the United States was imminent. During the war he reported the North African campaign and the European campaign from D-Day to the war's end. After reporting the war crimes trials he came to the United Nations for the UPI reporting for radio and television is the national broadcasting company's representative Pauline Frederick. She became a news analyst for NBC in 953 following a distinguished career with the North American newspaper alliance. She was commentator for the American Broadcasting Company where she was the only woman to win the Dupont radio commentators award. She joined the United Nations press corps in 1947. Are there specific qualifications that a United Nations reporter must bring to his job. We address this question to both Mr. Haass and Ms Frederick's.
Well I would say that experience is the number one quality and qualification. In that experience I would list first of all experience as a newspaperman and at any time when I while he started out say in the local newspaper and then egg a little spell in foreign corresponding. Anyway I don't care where as long as he gets a little bit of the air bumps of the world and gets the sense and the feeling of say a diplomatic reporting which is of course the heart of the whole United Nations job along with the experience the better. And I should think that the most important quality is a good background of knowledge of world history and world economics and of course world politics.
It's Frederick's added this important qualification and understanding. Of human relations because my pet thesis is that international relations are human relations and in order to interpret what the United Nations is trying to do one has to get down to basic human problems. And you have to be able to get. Down to the basic issues involved facts involved. And more than that you have to try to get behind the scenes to find out. What caused the statement. Are the development. What are the problems and responsibilities involved in the daily work of the United Nations reporter Mr. Haass on that subject. They change from day to day. It is almost I would say no problem that doesn't that sooner or later hit you in the face. And the United Nations whether that means figuring out a way to cover outer space which is our latest
problem with you or if you wish to call it the latest headache to fights in Palestine or Formosa waters. And the question always is what will happen when such a problem comes to the United Nations. Each one will face a challenge with each one. A good report in the first place should always seek to promote and not to disturb international relations. And in that sense if you start here with the idea if you come here with the idea of say being a hatchet man and knocking down anything that comes along as a United States policy or say British policy generally it will get you into hot water and you'll be more like you'll be a marked man if you do that. As I say a steady diet in other words if you seek to slant the news at every turn what role does security
play in the job of United Nations reporter. We in general do not bump into these as much openly as you might as it might seem from the outside. The thing is that the United Nations you know is a public forum a world forum and the government as far as the debates are concerned and the public activities do not come here with secret problems and deals. In answering the question what safeguards do reporters have against coloration of news stories. Miss Frederick said well I don't know how much they try to guard against that. They're just convinced that their country is right. As we we are convinced our country is right. And it's a little difficult. To rise above that. Now in this country. Where we have freedom of speech and in countries where there is freedom of speech in press. It's easier for us to. Report
something that is not necessarily favorable to our side. So long it's as those as what we report. Are facts. But in countries where. The press is rigidly controlled. It's perfectly obvious that reporters cannot send back anything that would be detrimental because the first place it wouldn't even get out in the second place. Those reporters would be put in a very difficult light with their own government might even be recalled. How great is the problem of propaganda. We are running into that everywhere. You see the difficulty is that. The Cold War has made the United Nations something it was never intended to be. And that is near enough for fighting the Cold War rather than. A center for harmonizing actions. Consequently you have to look for. Propaganda and coloration in everything that is said. After you've covered the United Nations quite a long time it's very easy to spot a lot of that.
Someone has said of course that speeches are made here at the U.N. not for one audience but for a number of audience audiences there and I had first of all for the. Audience right here in the general assembly there made for then for. An audience that might hear on radio or see on television. Made for the news papers. And they're made for home consumption. Mr. Haas again there's another aspect of the propaganda problem. I'll tell you that's where your experience comes in. You have a sixth sense you develop let's say a sixth sense which enables you to distinguish family say factual news and the propaganda. We had a special assembly last month and a special assembly dealt as you know with the crisis in Lebanon and Jordan. Well you're you may you may be sure that we got quite a bit of propaganda from both sides.
What you have to do is to try to sift the facts from the propaganda. And as I said any experienced newspaper man here can do it with his eyes shut. Miss Frederick sensor raises another problem of interest. How many of these speeches are given for the benefit of television cameras. Well I think quite a lot. I understand that sometimes the timing of speeches is arranged so as to get the best television coverage and certainly some of them are timed to try to get the afternoon paper headlines for the next morning paper headlines and so on. Newspaper headlines so that there is a very definite consciousness of the public beyond the chambers here. Of course this is propaganda but nevertheless it's a very important. Force that one has to take into consideration because you have correspondents here from all over the world and these speeches are
relayed by radio. Press wires to all parts of the world. And. To have delegates speak here. About something that he. Knows will not change any votes here does not mean that it's futile. Mr. Haas provides a comparison between an American reporter and one from another country and methods in reporting the factual knew. Now there is a essential difference between the American a border and the border sent here from say from Cairo. He seems to concentrate and to be interested only and his paper seems to expect only what we would call slanted news in their favor. And that comes in other words political propaganda for home consumption. And I might add they have good hunting here because you'd be surprised how many delegates come here from different countries different lands who are
interested only in making speeches for home consumption and consequently the two work hand in hand. And you get nothing but a dissemination of propaganda. Through our travels and obtaining information for these programs there was never a middle road taken on the question is there any conflict between the news media is Fredericks with more optimistic in her observations than with Mr. Haas. Well I don't think there's any particular conflict between the two. I think that television and radio have an immediacy. But newspapers are the media of record. You don't have nearly so much time on television and radio to develop a story. As there is space in newspapers to develop a story. Consequently. About all you can do and maybe on television except for the documentary shows is to give. The highlights of the development.
But to go into details you have to turn to your newspapers and it seems to me that the two complement one another and one of those who looks at television reporting and knows dissemination is not too much in store because unless they solve the problem of telling you something which you can which you can remember five seconds after they said it. And if they do confess can solve the problem of telling the news the way it should be told instead of giving us sort of a quick. Slam bang statement which I just can't follow the news on TV and as I say TV to me is in the news field not what I think it's cracked up to be. What is the feeling of newspaper people over the immediacy of live radio and television pick up during a United Nations meeting. We don't mind that at all the overall session is of been of benefit is beneficial to the newspaper in general. I'll tell you why. If they follow the Security Council the General
Assembly on television even during the most tense situation when the public was really interested in that sort of spices public interest because they don't understand what goes on they can look at television all day long and become confused more than ever. It has to be a newspaper which explains it to him and consequently that is not it where the competition comes in. That's the beneficial part of it where the competition comes in as say of the Eisenhower or Mr. That you have a shoulder holds a press conference a news conference and there is a a an important public announcement. Then we're up against it if television is in the conference because the moment it's announced it's out and I we're beaten no matter what we do. And again I say we have to rely then and leave it to interpretation and hope that the public will learn in looking at television listen the television didn't catch it. But nevertheless the spot knew that out. Well last week we had a case of a statesman who gave an off the record briefing
and admonished everybody who was there not to let this out even as background. It was a fairly good story it had to do with Morrie lo and behold on the following Sunday that statement was in front of a television camera which had it which claims to have 25 million viewers. Well he said everything exactly what he told us off the record in front of 25 million people. Now there's something that I touched on before which the part we were up against our radio television doing enough in the way of analytical or interpretive programming when of course we in the business always feel that they are not as we would like opportunities to do more. But that's up to the public. After all radio stations and and television stations are not an business for the love of it. They have to compete. With. Other stations to get public support because public
support means sponsorship. So consequently if the public is not interested. Particularly in interpretive programs. It's more interested in entertainment. What can the networks do and the stations. Mr. Haas explains what the new methods of newsgathering will do to the old method. You're going to be so far behind the nose that it's just hopeless. So you have to condition yourself to the new means of communication. A new means of communication are instantaneous and you have to sort of shoot from the hip. In other words are We used to take our time and cover story while we'd sit through the whole session or something like that has gone even the interpretive report it has to be more honest I was not quicker on the trigger. Leaving aside the agencies you still have to adjust yourself to the new age.
You have to be a scientist for example if you want to go to the United Nations partly in the near and the next 10 years I assure you that you better be a sort of an atomic scientist and an expert in outer space. Legal side and scientific side. Does the United Nations receive sufficient coverage both in quantity and in quality. The only times when the UN has been completely covered by radio television press. The only times I have been. In times of conflict. In other words when the UN has been involved and what it was created to prevent war there has been full and complete coverage here because the public. Was really interested. And I'm referring to the Korean crisis the Suez crisis the Hungarian crisis the Lebanon Jordan crisis. Now. Other times. There. Can be little
coverage or almost no coverage. And that isn't because editors and publishers feel that the U.N. isn't important. It's because the public wants conflict. And is stirred by conflict. And a veto in the Security Council will catch their attention. But not a unanimous vote. Our war are our threat of war will catch our attention but not reconciliation negotiation. And it seems to me it's terribly important. For the public to begin to understand that if they want to make. An organization like the United Nations really operate in the field in which it's supposed to operate. And that is as a conference table which is a substitute for the battlefield then they have got to be interested in what the U.N. was meant to do and that is negotiate reconcile settle disputes short of war. Because after all. The UN as I said before is dependent on public opinion. And. I don't absolve reporters and editors and publishers and networks
entirely from blame in this matter. But they cannot go beyond what the public demands. And if the public demands full coverage of the United Nations all the time they'll get it. So we see that the United Nations news coverage does not enjoy an exemption from criticism. Others have joined Miss Frederick's in the belief that the United Nations does not get adequate coverage except in times of conflict. Sigma Kosen vice president of CBS answers those critics. Oh of course it's not true. Now we have several correspondents or do you want every day we cover the United Nations every day not only when the General Assembly is in session but one is out of session as well we cover the U.N. just as we cover the House of Representatives the Senate of the United States in addition to which one the General Assembly is in session we carry a once weekly summary program about U.N. activities. Then John Daley vice president in charge of special events and public affairs at
ABC carried his observations further. The public interest convenience and necessity puts the responsibility upon us. To fully inform within our capacity and within the reasonable relationship of an overall programming better and accepting the responsibility to fully inform then we have to accept further the responsibility of an objective and complete and balanced report. This I think we do but we will always have gray areas in here for instance we were severely criticized by a prominent critic at the time of the Suez crisis because we didn't carry interminable hours of debate from the United Nations. I felt the critic in this case was completely wrong and we were right. This was a story of the invasion of Suez by the Israelis French and British. This was a story whose locals saw loci
the Suez Tel Aviv London Paris Washington and also the United Nations in New York. But this was only one facet of the story and we had to give much more of our energy and manpower and available time to covering the full story because it wasn't the United Nations that brought the cessation of Suez conflict. It was the word out of Washington from the president of the United States that wrote the cessation of that conflict. But I think it would be thought really bad reporting to put the kind of emphasis on that particular story which our critics wished us to I think we did a better report. We reminded Mr. Daily that his network had carried the United Nations activities during the middle eastern crises and ask him why in one case and not in the other. Because in the Middle East in crisis the whole hope of forestalling conflict armed conflict which was not yet in this way really
lay in the United Nations. We had not in the end in our hands a fait accompli of three powers moving in against another part their arms already in movement. We had in the in in the in the Middle Eastern crisis the hope that here in the United Nations and this was after all the principle dateline on that story was the United Nations. What you were getting out of Beirut was so-and-so shot if you had somebody else but they shot right back again and sitting there doing nothing and no moon is mad is when he and the rebels are up in the hills but everything that was happening was happening and the public reaction was keenly felt at the time of the United Nations crisis involving the Middle East in the summer of 1988 when the networks preempted many of the entertainment programs to bring its viewers and listeners the debate from the United Nations an event that could affect all our lives.
Miss Frederick said that the networks cannot go beyond what the public wants and that if the public demands full coverage of UN activities they will get it as an executive of the networks. Mr. Mickelson stated Well I don't think there's any great mystery about what happened or what the public attitude a story that type of coverage in the first place I should say that television coverage of that type of event should not be measured by the yard it shouldn't be measured in terms of the total quantity of output it should be measured in terms of the quality of the output and rather than a serious mature understanding way in which it presented to the public. As criticism poured into the networks and local stations alike a news magazine wrote a story on the subject which Mr. daily comments upon this. This is one in which one of the news magazines did a very sloppy job of reporting and I know how sloppy it was because I gave him the story and I think this is by and large the experience we will always have in which we can all expect to hear. And it's a particular case involving our affiliate in Cleveland for us.
It happened that the previous night when actually the Middle Eastern debate was coming really to grip. We canceled two hours of commercial programming and stayed at the United Nations and the next day WWF called me to find out what we were going to do about the next day session which knocked off and nor did I find out we were going to carry it. Now he called me for this reason the night before when we had preempted two hours of entertainment programming and stayed with the United Nations debate. There had been a steady stream of complaining cause. Why are you canceling my favorite program to put on this dull debate from the United Nations. And Mr Hanrahan who runs the station was so nonplussed by this. And it would have gotten out around Cleveland he issued a statement saying in all of his years in industry this perhaps had shaken him warning us that he should have a relatively steady stream of complaining calls because he was doing the kind of important public service
that this medium needed to do whenever he had the opportunity. They played this handrail here statement in a box on the front page the next morning their switchboard was jammed up so that you couldn't get through or where thousands of people don't listen to these malcontents we want the United do. And that's why they called me to make sure they were going to get the next day. Now this I think is substantially what happened. We as professional newsman I listen the United Nations and get to the bottom of the daylights out of me. But I wouldn't be doing anything but listening to it and I certainly willing to admit that the public is not going to be sitting tensely on the edge of a chair high in high excitement through all this any more than they are to convention for instance convention but I'm sure they want to see the process is and they want it to be there on the scene and have the actual experience of the sense of participation in matters of great moment. I don't think criticism is just applied to newspapers give
coverage in quiet times with radio and television. Speaking generally most newspapers get their coverage of the United Nations with very few exceptions from the Press Association. They get the a wire from AP and UPI we get exactly the same wires and we put exactly the same elements of news coverage in quiet times and UN into our own news shows. Now if you're demanding special programming I think that you probably both of you would help my management put me away in a in a padded cell if I came up with an hour of special programming on it every day. Debating on whether whether or not we already introduced shall move grow oil into you know ridiculous ridiculous when the newspaper begins to play a United Nations story. You will usually find that we've either begun playing it heavily just before or at the same time they start to play. The news media are on the scene to disseminate information regarding the United Nations.
But does the responsibility lie ultimately with them. Mr. Fredericks gave us this inclusive answer. Every organization devoted to the public good every educational group every newspaper every radio station every television network has a responsibility. You and I as a responsible. To try to. Bring people to the realization that. They brought in this into this well to try to work out their differences so that they can live in some sense of neighborliness or at least with tolerance for one another. It is a sobering thought that in this United Nations building may lie the hope of mankind for a peaceful tomorrow. As Mr. Fredericks has said it is the duty and responsibility of every one of us as citizens of America and the world to be sure that we are fully and adequately informed in the activities and
objectives of the United Nations. The press radio and television stands by ready to meet these demands. You have been listening to reporting the United Nations. One of a series of programs on news in 20th century America in the series we explore all facets of the gathering writing and dissemination of news in this country today by means of recorded interviews with leading news men and women interviewers for this series are Glenn Philips and Ed Burrows consultant for this program was Kenneth Stewart of the University of Michigan Department of journalism. On today's program you heard the voices of Pauline Frederick's NPR Huss United Nations reporters. Sig Mickelson vice president of CBS and John Daley vice president of ABC News in 20th century America is produced by the University of Michigan broadcasting service under a grant in aid from the Educational Television and Radio Center in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters.
Larry Jones speaking this is the NEA E.B. Radio Network.
- News in 20th Century America
- Reporting the United Nations
- Producing Organization
- University of Michigan
- National Association of Educational Broadcasters
- Contributing Organization
- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
- AAPB ID
- Episode Description
- This third episode of the series examines how journalists cover events at the United Nations.
- Series Description
- News in 20th Century America is a radio series on the gathering, writing, and dissemination of news. Each episode addresses a specific topic in the news industry, and features interviews with men and women who make news their business. This program is produced by the University of Michigan Broadcasting Service in cooperation with the National Association of Educational Broadcasters.
- Media type
Host: Phillips, Glenn
Interviewee: Mickelson, Sig
Interviewee: Daly, John Charles, 1914-1991
Interviewee: Fredericks, Pauline
Interviewee: Huss, Pierre J. (Pierre John), 1903-
Producing Organization: University of Michigan
Producing Organization: National Association of Educational Broadcasters
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 59-48-3 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
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- Chicago: “News in 20th Century America; Reporting the United Nations,” University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed March 1, 2024, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-9882ph6z.
- MLA: “News in 20th Century America; Reporting the United Nations.” University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. March 1, 2024. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-9882ph6z>.
- APA: News in 20th Century America; Reporting the United Nations. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-9882ph6z