News in 20th Century America; 21; Comp & Change #3
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 in 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 perfectly certain that none of the media is doing the best job it possibly could. I think that for informing the people in my judgment at any rate. The newspaper press and to some extent the magazine. News Press is doing a better job than radio and television are the voices that have Michel Charnley professor of journalism at the University of Minnesota one of the people whom you will hear today
speaking about the news media competition and change. On this edition of news in 20th century America this is the third of four programs on this subject. Now here is your host Glenn Phillips. The people you will hear today along with Professor Shanley RHP called him born news analyst surprise winning reporter from the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The air Huss United Nations reporter for the United Press International Howard K. Smith Washington reporter for the Columbia Broadcasting System. John Daly vice president in charge of news and special events at the American Broadcasting Company. Charles Slepian professor of education at New York University. And Chalmers Roberts reporter for The Washington Post in Washington D.C. all of the people whom we interviewed for this series of programs made observations regarding the unique role of the various media and whether they were accomplishing their
aim. One of the men Mitchell Charnley a professor of journalism at the University of Minnesota and author lecturer and long time observer of news organizations took a rather extensive look at all facets of the problems confronting journalists. These were his observations. Perfectly certain none of the media is doing the best job it possibly could. I think that for informing the people in my judgment at any rate the newspaper press and to some extent the magazine or news press is doing a better job than radio television are. This is not to deny that some elements in radio and television are doing absolutely superb jobs I think what the Columbia Broadcasting System does with it around the world correspondents. I
think some of those jobs are are outstandingly fine and so are some of the network local and domestic newscasts. Same has to be said. Some stations some of the individual stations I could name a great many many more than I have fingers and toes. But it has to be remembered that there are 4000 broadcasting stations in this country if you count all kinds of standard radio FM and TV and it's my. Solemn and sad judgment that they block of the stations themselves are not doing a satisfactory job and in some places cases are doing a totally irresponsible job in informing the people. One of the problems of course is one no one will ever find a way of liking
radio television. Each must try to give a summary of the news in a brief period. 15 minute. Radio newscast can offer no more than eight hundred words. A newspaper can offer a big metropolitan newspaper can offer as many as 100000. You couldn't possibly equal in eight hundred words what a newspaper can do with the space it has available. That is a fundamental problem of time available. More important than that is the fact that radio and television think of themselves and appropriately as entertainment media rather than news media that many people at the controls of the radio and television stations are interested far more in entertainment. And they aren't and that has led a good many
of the radio stations in particular and some of the television stations to act as though entertainment was the news function and this I do not believe. I don't believe you can get of responsible look at the news. If what you're trying to do is to people or make them laugh or appeal to their emotions. Especially unfortunate news handling by the broadcasters has been a recent. Trend toward what are called five minute newscasts in the first place a five minute newscast is never a five minute newscast it's a three minute newscast. And the second place to get anything more than a very few story is into the three minutes means that you get nothing but headlines headlines tell nobody anything. And
thirdly and this may be the very worst place too many people who are totally incompetent are handling our presenting too many radio stations announcers with no news training announcers who are sometimes built up by their management. News chief Mr New is himself that kind of thing. These are not news they sell like the news without understanding the news. I think their broadcast broadcasts often reveal less. I think this is a gross misrepresentation and I. I would like to see radio in particular go up to their responsibility not to call a news television. Still new enough so it hasn't learned all of what it can do some things it can do better than any other medium we've ever faced. This of course is
particularly true of sports events of spectacular of the kind of thing where the picture tells us much has words or perhaps more than words could tell. It is true that can be foreseen. Even here. Television will not do everything that can be done by a less timely a less speedy reporter that is television can tell us something about what's going on at the national political convention that nothing else can tell us. But all it can tell us unless it is subjected to the same kind of editing and reconsideration and balance that newspaper news for instance is subjected to. All I can tell most is what is happening in a specific instance at a specific place and this often is not the news and he was off on the balance of all of these things so television has some things to learn there too.
Professor Charlie commands the accomplishments and deplores the shortcomings of all the media. Looking further at radio and television we ask the cauldron born whether he felt these media were doing an adequate job as news disseminated. This was his unqualified reply. They're not doing an adequate job they're feeling their way. They can do infinitely more than they have been doing. They use these news clips which may entertain but which add nothing to information. They don't take the trouble to use maps as much as they should. They don't use diagrams. They don't use the various visual aids that every educator knows are so important and that could be used on television but are not. There are very few programs that take the trouble to prepare in ways that would give definite visual help to the looker in. They just let it go.
Do the best they can with a few film clips which are far less important than material that is specifically developed and organized for the purpose of illustrating the particular thing. We reminded Mr. called him born of an observation made by others that broadcasters should entertain well presenting the news. He said that that's true but they can entertain in an intelligent way. An example flashes in to my mind this morning I was looking at the Today programme and they had a Univac machine set up so that a light flash every time a child was born in the United States and another light flashed every time someone died. I think one was one was of one and a half seconds the other was of course much longer I think close to 10 seconds. But there was a visual example which you couldn't forget. You might forget the exact statistics but you realized the extent to which our population is increasing. And then they back that up with
another line of figures which showed how the population went up each time a child was born. And there you had a visual illustration of why we're going to reach. I think it was one hundred seventy five million people within a few days or was it within a few hours. But attenuate you did visualize from once the speed at which our population is growing because the difference in the birth statistics and the death statistics are very striking. Now there was an illustration of an intelligent use of visual material. Of course that Today programme is outstanding in its use of visual material. I think it does it more intelligently than any other program I know in the last decade with the rapid climb of television radio has lost much of its glamour like newspapers and news magazines radio tends to be taken for granted by the public. With television offering both sound and picture
is there still a place for radio particularly in the news field. Mr called him born again. Radio will always play. I think even a more important role than television Well perhaps I shouldn't say that because people are becoming more and more to look at television and we've got pretty close to 50 million television sets which is certainly an indication of how interesting television is growing. And of course television doesn't even need visual company and uses it of course constantly. But it could bring a button to the public just as quickly as radio could and I suppose in time it will. And on some stations I think they do. But generally speaking radio does have the advantage of if you're not going to use visual material. Well you've got your bulletin You can read it at the moment after derives the teletype whereas with television they always feel they should do something if they don't do any more than to show the desire of the man who reads the bulletin. That's the
visual side of it. And of course in some ways that's enough in some cases it's too much. Newspaper people by and large were more than willing to comment on the relative merits of the various media and not always to the detriment of radio and television. Carl Rowan of the Minneapolis Star Tribune had this to say in some respects they are to the limit of their technical capacity. For example some of the programs by Edward R. Murrow have been wonderful examples of electronic journalism. There have been. Some NBC programs lack which they've done a fine job of poring through the views and problems that beset us so as to give their viewers a little better understanding some of the documentary productions on local television stations have been good. I must point out however that these socially
responsible telecasts are so completely in the minority there are so few and so far between that I would never go so far as to say make the broad statement that they're doing all they can or should and this is in the public or social interest and in the second place I recognize that there are a great many limitations too. Possibility of radio and television stations in many respects they can never do what newspapers and magazines can do. Some of these major problems that we face whether we're talking about foreign affairs or the Communist threat or race relations or even subjects such as family life Pierre Haas United Nations reporter for the UPI assess the role of television and its possibilities in this matter. Well you take a you take a program like
say Meet the Press. I think a lot of people that feel that by watching that and by listening to it today they learned something because here is a conversational program which you find in this is aside from the fact that a statesman goes up and shoots his mouth off but he swears he won't talk to me and let me interview him. I think to the extent where the public will learn something it's good. That's the kind of program that I think is educational. I have seen some. Wonderful programs in that sense which sort of whip up the nose side of it or they cover what the news didn't cover say in them and I say see it now. That kind of program where you really get something out of it and they bring him and say like never before the camera and let him argue the point with the man who was interviewing him. That sort of thing is something that
television can do when they come in here and they film and they follow the proceedings say in the Security Council. They do make an attempt sometimes to explain the proceedings of the Security Council. But I'll tell you it is not easy to do. Nevertheless it is in an educational and a very good thing for them to make the public away. But what's going on and make the public sort of participate. In the activities here. The panel discussion program is a news dissemination method unique to radio and television broadcasters to whom we talk were generally agreed that such programs were ideal for giving balanced information to the public on issues of major importance. If so are there enough of them on the air. We ask Quincy how if he felt there were no I certainly don't.
I don't think they are but again I wouldn't. I don't know that you could wholly criticize them for that. That is is wholly controversial subjects being treated well in any medium. I feel that we're living now in a kind of a backwash time not only in respect to controversy but everything. It's a long story but I would say that from around 900 12:00 to the mid 30s we were in a period of great cultural revival and activity in this country. And since then that has somewhat tapered off. And you can't single out any one region and say well why don't they publish better books why aren't the magazines more lively. What's the matter with radio and television. All of them are in the same sort of trough. On the other hand I think we do live in a time of Robuchon criticism when our literary critics our teachers the people who analyze society are quite sharp and quite keen much sharper than they were in the 20s though we are less good in the in the more creative
type of work of the Ernest Hemingway's the Scott Fitzgerald is to take the field of literature. And so I think we are in a time when when the more creative original type is just not so much in the ascendant and that's not on account of just radio and television. They are the they are one of the symptoms not one of the causes they are a symptom of this of this particular cultural period that we're in today which is is rather rather inert in certain respects but rather active in others I think in the in the clinical side of things. And that of course being a more or less of a highbrow intellectual type of pursuit is not felt so strongly in the mass media of any kind whether radio and television or anything else. But you recently had the Saturday Evening Post for example a series on on the eggheads or something like that with a lot of very very highbrow and very top level intellectuals writing for it. And you have had these wise men on the on the NBC. Television Network men of great distinction men like Robert Frost and that sort of thing.
Talking in the most direct and natural way about about themselves and their work but you'll notice that Robert Frost and cost and the most are as many as 70 or 80 he's And there are so many younger ones who qualify anymore and I think that that's really the root of it and television really reflected this is what CBS Washington correspondent Howard K. Smith Mr. Smith is himself a veteran of many Pinal program. Well I think that both types of programs the panel time and the press conference idea and the roundtable discussion are both very much needed indeed I think we should have more of both. It's very hard to predict how these programs are coming up. Sometimes I've participated in many of them sometimes you get an ideal personality there and you pick up three or four ideal newspaper men who know a lot about that man's topic and everything should work out but for some reason and other Perhaps the subject has ended just in the others haven't had a good night's sleep. It just doesn't work and you
can't tell why. Sometimes you get a subject who is not especially interesting but all of a sudden the thing blossoms up. I don't know the rules that regulate this but I think you just have to keep on trying. And I think both programs have great justification because both involve friction of minds and we need more friction of minds on television and on radio. What are the advantages to the news gatherer and to the public of the panel or round table type of program. We asked Mr. Colton Bourne an ABC vice president John Daly. First Mr. call from board. Well I think we used to have much more what we call the clambake getting three or four competent commentators to sit around the table and to discuss the big event that it just coming to the news that's for example. John Gunther Eugene Lyons and I went on the national broadcasting network within an hour after the Soviet Union had invaded after
Germany had invaded the Soviet Union in 1041 June 1941. I think it was and we discussed it and we had a difference of opinion. I said that they find it very difficult to conquer Russia. Gunter and Lyons who had been there just about as often as I had they didn't think so. They thought that Blair with his long list of conquests that were back of him at that time they thought that he'd drive into Russia. And the thing would be over in a few weeks. Well it happened that I was right that's no particular credit to me but just one of those things we like to remember where we were right much more than we like to remember where we were wrong. The answer given by John Daley to our question about the panel program coincided with Mr. Horn's view sometimes they're very fruitful. But I would much rather put reporters out on the basis
that you're working for a 15 minute television news show and you know that at most you can hope to have is four minutes. Now go get your story in four minutes. And it's amazing then how a trained reporter will leave all of the supererogation off in the corner somewhere and come up with the kind of good hard hitting journalism that can give you the full story in three or four minutes. Now in the half hour format tends to be a good deal of digression. You know they it's after all a presidential news conference. I covered the White House for four years and I can still remember cringing in my chair at some of the questions that were asked where it had no rhyme or reason at least to the presidential news conference either because they were so simple that the questioner should have been taken to three minutes to get the answer out of it. A simple text on civics or certainly out of the morning newspaper or you'd have questions asked about some local problem and east know
people of Missouri about which the president of the United States United States could have no knowledge. Very often your basic problem in that kind of program is to find men when you come to particular areas of public interest in which there is conflict either on a domestic or international bank to find enough men who are fully equipped to ask intelligently the kind of questions that need to be asked. If you have a Middle Eastern nation representative on now you should have four people who are experts in the Middle East. But if you've got any experts on the Middle East they're likely to be out in the Middle East right now so you when you start having to compromise and without this kind of knowledge of a well-equipped guest. Can shatter the will of the questioners very quickly because all you have to do is ask one stupid question and when they get through mopping the floor with you everybody who is on that questioning panel says we need a minute. I think the show's always do don't misunderstand me I always serve a useful purpose
because no matter how superficial the questioning may be the answer is going to happen are you going to learn something something will come out that will be beneficial. But I don't think that you can to your specific question say yes there are enough or no there is not enough. Charle sequined of New York University was more definitive in his answer and singled out a problem which confronts the broadcaster. It's the general theory of touching touchy subjects and I think that is reflected in not accidentally. Again look to your program schedules how many discussions from many sides are there in a given week on radio and television networks combined today. Well I don't know that you found the answer for yourself but it is a staggering fact that there is a mere handful of programming at any hour of the day in which two or more sides of a question.
But I'm not talking about interviews with the press where the interview man is read many press men asking many questions but is still only ONE point of view in urging from this man. How many times do we see two three men sitting around a table discussing significant questions. They are few in number and even those that the raw discuss sometimes questions that some would think would be to be be a trivia as compared with the major problems we have. We asked Dr. statement to what he attributed this fear on the part of the broadcasters. The fear I think is basically the result of. What is an increasing concern for broadcasters. Those at the controls namely the. The source of their revenue. Television particularly is enormously more expensive than radio and has put the broadcaster at the mercy of the sponsor. To an extent that didn't obtain one in radio although they did obtain indeed that too. But the higher expenses of
television made for a deference to the sponsor. But I think in spite of all that's been said about package programming and all the rest leaves the broadcast where he used to be and the radio days and as I complained of it that he is the licensee his is the responsibility to determine the flow of communication and in large measure many have abdicated that responsibility through fear of offense. We have heard discussed what radio and television have been able to do what their limitations are and what promise they hold for the future. What effect if they had on newspaper and magazine reporting and writing Chalmers Roberts of The Washington Post gave us this view. Well I think the news magazines as news magazines and radio and television all of which developed after newspapers to gather have had
and the fact they have tended to make the newspapers broaden their approach to the news and get away from who said what kind of reporting to something we call interpretive reporting which is perhaps an overused word that I can't think of any other on the radio they call it reporting in depth or something like that. I think the newspaper is here to stay because I found listening to the election returns as I have I think every time I watch them on radio or on TV or listen to them on radio you want to see it in print. You want to have time to think about it. The spoken word is a fleeting word. I think that newspapers have discovered that radio instead of herding them as I
thought it would original actually is help them in terms of newspaper circulation. It has changed the nature of writing somewhat. Thank you. By bringing on more so-called interpretive writing. Next week we will take a closer look at the question of competition between the media. Join us then. You have been listening to the news media competition and change one in a series of programs on news in 20th century America. In this series we explore all facets of the gathering writing and dissemination of news in this country today by means of recorded interviews with a leading news men and women consultant on this program was Kenneth Stewart of the journalism department of the University of Michigan and interviewers for the series were Glen Phillips and Ed Burroughs. News in 20th century America is produced by the University of Michigan broadcasting service under a grant and aid from the Educational
- News in 20th Century America
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- Comp & Change #3
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- 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.
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Identifier: 59-48-21 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
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