Urban Confrontation; 37; The Printing Press vs. The Microphone: Getting Out the News
From Northeastern University the National Information Network presents urban confrontation. To electronic media have immense efficiency they can reach the listener or the viewer before the copy broken road halfway between the Telegraph writing and the line a time machine at the Soul they have this advantage of speed and a kind of vividness on the other hand the print media as it we've just heard has an advantage of being able to go into matters in more detail and possibly with more care. This week on urban confrontation Irwin beat him editor in chief of The Christian Science Monitor. Ross Hagen wing the news director for the Associated Press. And William Hillier public affairs director for Duff. ABC television in Boston this week program the printing press versus the microphone. Getting out. The news. Here is your host Joseph R. baby.
Joseph Pulitzer the late Dean of the American press once wrote that nothing less than the highest ideals the most scrupulous anxiety to do right and the most accurate knowledge will save journalism from a subservience to business interests seeking selfish ends. Now in this day of corporate journalism of vast newspaper chains where advertising fill 60 to 70 percent of newspapers when television stations are fighting for ratings and sponsors exert more and more of the influence over programming on television stations the question at the beginning of this program would seem to be an obvious one. Isn't there a danger Jonathan that the press both broadcast on Gutenberg may become the servant of the business interests. Well your quotation from Joe Prewitt and the addition to it about current interests and the percentage of advertising in newspapers leads me to my opinion. I think that the advertisers have very little influence indeed on the content of newspapers and virtually
none on the informational content of newspapers. There is a certain amount of promotional copy about travel and things like that where the influence of advertisers may be greater. But it is it is certainly not the case in their influence on the flow of the news or basically of editorial opinion. As a matter of fact in certain instances newspapers themselves are more powerful economic entities than some of their advertisers. Our one count of the Christian Science Monitor. I'm tempted to agree with you. If you're talking about papers like yours like the Christian Science Monitor or the New York Times The Washington Post the established papers but when you take the average middle sized or small city daily paper I wonder I wonder if there isn't a very sensitive nerve that is hit when an advertiser calls up and complains about an editorial. The Associated Press. Joe I would have to disagree with you. I have not directly connected with the
newspaper industry as a news service we merely serve them. But in my travels and I've been in Montana and Colorado and Georgia and Alabama and Massachusetts and I can find no evidence that there is due to advertiser influence on newspapers. Ross Perhaps we should go to that area where the most sensational accusations have been leveled in this respect. Television. WBEZ TV's Bill Hillier Well I think there are several points that have to be made here. First of all the broadcasters as you know are controlled by the FCC which means that we in effect have a higher authority and an enormous amount of our programming. I think that very few broadcast stations who would really dare let advertisers have that much control over their programming for reasons of law reasons of their license were also regulated by the Federal Trade Commission as the newspapers are. And it's quite explicit in broadcasting that anything where sponsors have any control has to be labeled as such.
I think the other thing too the Pulitzer statement bothers me because when you talk about ratings and sponsorship I wonder if these have to be negative things whether they're not positive things. After all in order to do our job in the community and in the country we need money. In order to get our message across and trying to accomplish things we need an audience. So why shouldn't we try and get sponsors why shouldn't we try and get ratings particular in the area of public affairs. You don't live in a vacuum right. Exactly. Let me give a few specifics. Irwin County I have been kept a little finger in the electronics side of journalism for a long time and for some 9000 years once a week I took part in a discussion program on a local television station here the discussion program where four newspaper editors in Boston each week took part in a half hour program which was at all times sponsored. At no time over the 19 years that we were on the air did the sponsor ever say a single thing about the content of the program. We were totally
and completely free at all times and and it we would have not gone on had there been any effort by the sponsors to influence the program. We did this for a year or so in New York. At that point a sponsor wanted to shift one of the members of the cast of one an editor of a famous New York newspaper whom he the sponsor didn't like. We refused to let him do this. After a suitable 13 week period he unsponsored and that was his privilege too. But we weren't going to let him touch the content all the personnel the program and he didn't. I may say also coming back to the newspaper side that I had been involved in newspapers for are still larger than the 19 years that I did a television program and that I know that there are instances down through the years where newspaper advertisers have tried to control and influence the content of his papers. But this is not a generalization which applies in any significant degree to the daily newspapers of today I may say in general I think the
newspaper is more valuable to the advertiser even than the advertiser is to the newspaper. You're quoting Pulitzer his newspaper in St. Louis the post is back and has been notably independent. I remember a time when they got into Iraq with an important local advertiser and they refused to accept that that advertisers copy until the advertiser saw the light and retracted the position which he had held. In short newspapers today are not in a weak position viz of the advertisers they're irrelevantly strong position even in the places you mention. And I don't want to whitewash newspapers you talk about various medium sized cities mainly these are cities where the newspaper is now the only newspaper in that community. The only morning of the only evening this phenomenon has come about that newspaper has a very considerable power in the community and also newspapers in this country contrasting to newspapers in some other countries are almost entirely owned by newspaper money a newspaper isn't owned by a steel
combine or an oil petroleum company or anything like that. They are owned by themselves. They have a basic economic independence and this is very much different than the situation in France once upon a time when the steel magnates owned apart powerful newspaper or in other countries where this has been the case. Newspapers in this country are basically independent and of course that's the way it ought to be. I wonder when Callum from the Christian Science Monitor You mention the economic independence of the American newspaper. Well let's talk about the economic viability of the of Archimedes paper in the past few years many big city dailies have closed down. For instance New York which once boasted more than 20 daily newspapers now has three. And New York is only one city this is happening all over the country or one. The question is can the American public depend on the old free enterprise system to serve up the very best and accurate news coverage.
If there is very very little competition between the newspapers left Ross Sagan The Associated Press Joe I would say that the competition is just as strong as it ever was if not stronger because of the competition maybe not between the newspapers and between newspapers and television and radio. And I think they fight tooth and nail I don't think there's been a lessening in that respect. I would agree with that and I would also agree that some newspapers have been under severe economic stress in recent years. The situation in New York to which you refer is well known. There have been come bindings of newspapers and things of that sort but the newspapers that survive by and large are as I've said earlier you know fairly strong economic position and able to maintain themselves. And as Ross has said no newspaper is really a monopoly on the flow of the news. There are other sources of oil and different versions of news I would like to emphasize here the difference between the kind of news
and the way in which news is presented through the printed medium which is in one form and through the radio or television media which are different that each has a different function to perform and even a difference between radio and television and therefore I would think that there is a basic competition as well as a basic collaboration the sort of thing that the newspaper does is somewhat different from the sort of thing that radio television do we are talking with our Wendy Kalam editor in chief of The Christian Science Monitor. Ross Hagen unleavened news director for the Associated Press and Bill Hillier public affairs director of Boston's WBEZ TV. We're talking about the mass media and its impact on society. What about the accuracy of these various news media. Is the print media as accurate as the broadcast media. Bill Bill here WBEZ TV I think in a way it it's better in one sense and not as good in another. Television is obviously more immediate. It can show you pictures
of things which seem to have more credibility. But on the other hand television is a it's a time medium you're you're dealing with a half hour newscast where you don't have the time to go into the depth in a story that you have the space in a newspaper to go into. So in that sense I think television may be weaker than the press because we don't get into enough depth we have to deal in headlines all the time. Hopefully our headlines are as accurate and we like to think sometimes more accurate. But I don't know what the newspaper men would say that all these things are different I don't think on grounds of accuracy that there is much to be said one way or the other as for one being more accurate than the other. The electronic media have immense efficiency. They can reach the listener or the viewer before the copy boy can run halfway between the Telegraph writing and the line a time machine. So they have this advantage of speed and a kind of vividness on the other hand the print media as it we've just heard has an advantage of being able to go into matters in more detail and possibly with more care. In addition the take it from the point of view of the
consumer. The consumer of radio and television is listening and viewing it comes and is gone. He doesn't have a chance to look back and check up his hearing and his eyesight may be very fallible this is often the case with human beings. He misunderstands what he hears or he sees. He can't take it at his own pace. The print medium has the great advantage of a product which is individualized to the consumer in the sense of the consumer being able to absorb it just as he wants to as much or as little of it as he wants. Re read ponder think it over. Figure it out. So I think we're essentially different forms of communication which strengthen and support one another. There is a kind of competition between them. I'd rush point out certainly but basically they have different functions to perform and I think that each helps the other. You hear how a football game came out by radio or television. You want to read an analysis about it and you buy the next morning's newspaper. I don't buy that or one that I'll tell you why it is fine to say
that the newspaper is tailored to the individual. If these individuals that you're talking about are of your generation but the coming generation the young generation has been raised in front of the television set that's undeniable they've done their homework in high school and college with the radio blaring in the background. That is undeniable on radio and television bring you news immediacy fast and that's what the younger generation wants. Now the question is can the Gutenberg press provide that isn't news immediacy and speed what the younger generation demands. Even though I work for a television station I wonder if actually what you're talking about time it isn't easier to pick up a newspaper in a magazine after a news broadcast is on at a certain time. And if you're not available at that time how can you get the news whereas a newspaper is available at any time. The circulation of newspapers is higher than it has ever been in history. The number of newspapers really hasn't declined all that much in the last 20 years about 700 daily newspapers the United States and this figure has been pretty pretty level despite some spectacular casualties
in places like New York and the circulation of these newspapers is at the highest point that it was. So people are turning to newspapers and want to read them along with their extremely avid turning to the electronic media which are vitally important part of present day communication and the news weeklies and the Monthly's and so on the periodicals to which you refer. I think there's a place in life for the printed word. At the daily at that weekly and at the monthly levels I think that the younger generation is and is interested in a version of the print medium which will be attuned to the thinking and the emotions and the attitudes of young people and can be. I think newspapers have got to change a good deal in order to perform their function in the years ahead. But I think they're capable of doing it. I don't think the printed word even the daily printed word is a thing of the past. I don't think it's going to vanish. And yet a recent study would seem to indicate that about 75 percent of the American people turn first to Walter Cronkite and Huntley-Brinkley show as their first source of news on a day to day
basis. Second well they might turn to that as a first source of news but if you would listen to Brinkley show any of those shows they'll give you 30 seconds on a story that will take a column in a newspaper sell certainly that if they just want to skim the top of the news their overall news certainly television goes in depth at times too. But no I can't agree at all that anything is going to supplant the newspaper and in our lifetime I just can't see it. After all we put out about three million words a day and I would say probably 80 percent of those go to the newspapers and 20 percent to the television and radio industry. And I just can't see that they people the general populace even the youngsters coming up are not going to want to read about fashions and maybe even read the funnies or maybe read about markets. There are many many things that the broadcast industry just can't touch. Joe your statistic amuses me. It's easier and I myself turn on the radio at
my bedside before I pad barefoot it down to the front door to pick up the paper on the doorstep. Do I therefore turn to the electronic media first. For my information I don't write literally. I do in terms of breadth of information I do not. So how do I end up in this market research poll I'm not quite sure. What about this bill heard it isn't TV the wave of the future here. Well obviously it has been in a lot of ways I think it is in terms of news I think eventually television is going to get into the kind of background news we're talking about so much here already in terms of the magazine shows that the major networks are doing in terms of documentaries that are getting better and better as time goes on in terms of informational programming. They get I think in the best McLuhan esque way you've got to understand that television started out I think as McLuhan himself says as the transmission of the printed word. And it's now beginning to discover really what it is and where it's going and far as I can see all the signs in the wind are towards more information what six years ago you had a 15 minute news broadcast on television. Now
you have at least on our station an hour and a half of news in the evening throughout the week you have an incredible amount of news information programs like the Today show are getting more and more popular as time goes on so I think people will turn to television for the background news also what I wonder is whether the newspapers are going to become more like magazines and less like newspapers precisely. And I have at no time contended in this program in my little back and forth with Irwin County that there will be less reading in the future. The contention is that in the future. Reading will continue but in depth and in in depth the magazines that come out weekly or monthly become part of our daily because the daily newspaper can provide these very same values and that is it for all the newspaper has to realize that radio and television can get there fastest with the bullet with a relatively brief account and occasionally with the documentary which is sometimes very vivid and very good and really magnificent but had here and gone this is alright. But the but there is something we don't each day in our newspaper sends out a team of reporters.
They draw together an analysis of a situation some of the problems in our urban crises these days and all that and write about it and in them and convey it to a reader in a way in which it can be done virtually or by image. Further I emphasize again any daily newspaper prints every day a great deal more than it expects any one reader to absorb. He takes his choice he has a right of choice. It's individualized to him and it's specialized. There are going to be more specialized daily newspapers in this country before we're through. The most impressive illustration is the Wall Street Journal which is the greatest success in the newspaper field of this generation. Why because it is specialized and it's very well done. My own newspaper tries to do in the field of general news something like what The Wall Street Journal does in the field of business and financial news. It is as legitimate on a daily basis as it is on the well-established weekly bases. So I like to say one other thing. The electronic media by definition
mass media. That's right it's all that's OK. They have to serve the largest possible audience. If I may say so the least common denominator of presentation is almost a requirement. The newspaper can specialize as I say one column one article will be about one subject that only a few people are as in another which another few are interested in this act of specialisation in a mass world in a society where under pressure of masses and when the individual seems overwhelmed and suppressed. I like great importance on the individualized zation of the product. It's one of our escapes from being overwhelmed in a mass society. You're very persuasive and yet I'm not persuaded and I'll tell you why. You described the situation as it exists now with television with radio I would say it doesn't even exist I would say there is a great deal of tailored programming even now all sorts of radio stations will play this program to all sorts of audiences a rock'n'roll crowd a Frank Sinatra crowd a talk radio format infinite
varieties of people will hear this program now with television that can't be the case because there are only two or three television stations in each city in the country. But I wonder whether community antenna television will not completely alter the picture isn't a true billiard from WBEZ that community antenna television UHF will provide. No numerous channels through which all sorts of specialized information can be sent from weather reports stations that give only weather reports to classical music stations which give only concerts who don't pay for the community antenna systems that have been set up in many cities notably a city like Seattle Washington are highly successful on a subscription basis they don't. They only rating they need is the same kind of writing a newspaper reads. Whether someone buys a service or not they don't care what they watch once they bought it and they have a choice of several channels on this they have a UHF channels. I think this particular system I think it has a choice of 20 channels where you can sit and watch the stock market report on one channel you can sit and watch the AP wire on
another channel. And there's another thing that that is in the wind there's a system that RCA has just developed called the home fax system which is an electronic printout system which I think is very interesting when we talk about media say we take the Huntley and Brinkley report and there's a story you want more information on this system which can be adapted to any local television system not even a cable system. You can dial more information and have it printed out as an article so that I wonder if in the future we might see a combination of the media in this way. Pollster George Gallup said at an Associated Press managing editors Association meeting and he condemned the lack of professionalism of some electronic media reporters. And Richard Wilson of college publication has mentioned recently the report Tauriel real of some of our day is becoming a vehicle for the prejudices of the reporter. While I can. George Gallup said this was a result of a poll or did he make this as a statement did you say and this was in a speech before the managing editors
Association a preemie. That's correct. Right. Well of course everybody has his own opinion as far as accuracy is concerned I think that one is as accurate as the other. Objectivity I suppose or maybe some questions could be brought there since you only have three major networks and you have probably a hundred and some odd newspapers covering an event like the Democratic convention. I believe it was David Brinkley that said that no man could be objective in his reporting that the public should not expect newspapers or television to be objective. Oh of course nobody can be totally objective I suppose but I disagree with the premise that you shouldn't try to be totally objective I don't think that anybody should try to inject an opinion in a straight news story. But I don't think that either broadcast generally or newspapers. Try to distort. I think that they may over epicycles and the stress of competition but I don't
think it's a deliberate thing. I think this is attempting to make a distinction between the media is a little artificial let me point out that a substantial proportion of the news broadcast by the electronic media comes from exactly the same source as a News printed by newspapers exactly added presently. That's right after they brought are not able to broadcast as much of it because they don't have the same kind of a facility that a the print medium has but it's exactly from the same source. Bill alien may disagree with me on this and I don't mean to be particularly critical but I think that the the electronic media have some distance to go to develop the kind of training of reporters and the kind of maintenance of rigorous control of reporters that are customary in a responsible newspaper city when they report or a newspaper soon goes through a long period of training. It's a tough experience and there is there is a steady and constant discipline. Now I may be ignorant of the conditions in the radio or television news. But from my point of view they need more of the kind of traditional rigor which applies in
a newspaper office and I think they will probably get it as time goes on in connection with their own reporting which from my point of view is somewhat more vulnerable than typical newspaper reporting. Having said at the beginning of all that a lot of it is just exactly the same. Ermine I would like to comment on that if I may. Of course we have people that call stories to us from both newspapers and radio and television and I have noticed that increasingly the calls are coming from the radio and television people who are becoming increasingly responsible. Yes and I think that the NEWSROOM salaries in radio and television are comparable if not a good bit higher than they are in a lot of newspapers now. I'm not talking about the major metropolitan daily I'm talking about the hinterland newspapers the smaller days which depend on one or two men to put out the newspaper and a lot of times they'll have their third man who would be their reporter is probably some kid going to school and just working part time or something. And so I think that from the
reliability standpoint they're fast approaching an equal basis. This is the point at which I should break in to ask whether we're not describing a drift of talent away from newspaper journalism toward broadcast journalism which will ultimately yield this trite phrase coming true about the electronic media meaning being the world of the future that where all the top people going from journalism schools Missouri's School of Journalism Columbia School of Journalism particularly at a time when at this very moment 75 percent of the funds in the Columbia School of Journalism are now being spent in the broadcasting section. Fred W. friendly gentleman is impact quite considerable. Bill here are the is the elite the talent drifting your way. I really couldn't tell you generally in the industry I know we happen to have two graduates of Fred Fuentes program master's program at Columbia who have drifted to WBEZ if that's any indication in the winds. I think the press people could probably tell you more generally what's happening we most of our people are journalism graduates from the major schools of
journalism who have trusted in the broadcasting and usually stay in it or one guy think we're each getting our share and I'm glad of it and I'm glad that there are more opportunities for people who want to get into the communications business. I don't know but what the sit of the elite from these schools go into public relations about which the least said the better. But I think that we're doing their share and we have to keep on pressing as has been said to pay them better salaries and make their opportunities more interesting you know awarding him to get a chance to get their teeth into something. And I must say I think that the opportunities for young people who have aptitudes in this direction are as great today as they were have been probably substantially greater. It would seem here at the end of the program that there is success ahead for the communications media success because there are men such as yourselves that the helm alert to the dangers but also alert to the potential of the mass media in this last third of our 20th century. Gentlemen thank you.
Northeastern University has dropped you. Erwin de canim editor in chief of The Christian Science Monitor Ross Hagen at New England news director for the Associated Press and William Hillier public affairs director for WBEZ television in Boston. Today's program the printing press versus the microphones getting out the new. The views and opinions expressed on the preceding program. Were not necessarily those of Northeastern University or dissertation questions I asked were the moderators method of presenting many sides of today's topic. Your program host has been jealous of our behavior Director Department of radio production. This week's program was produced by Peter Lamb. Directed by Susan Epstein. With technical supervision by Todd baker's. Executive producer for urban confrontation in his theater last. Urban confrontation is produced for the division of instructional communications at the nation's largest private university. Northeastern University. Requests for a tape recorded copy of any program in this
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