thumbnail of News in 20th Century America; 22; Comp & Change #4
Hide -
If this transcript has significant errors that should be corrected, let us know, so we can add it to FIX IT+
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. My present impression and I put it only as an impression because I haven't seen. A study of this subject and I'd like to see somebody do one. My present impression is that they are really very great deal. Of television reporting. Which has a tremendous access to the minds of its viewers and listeners. It is. Fragmentary. Too brief. And superficial. The voice is that of Roscoe Drummond Washington reporter for The New York Herald Tribune one of the people whom you will hear today speaking about the news media competition
and change. This is the last of four programs devoted to that subject on news and 20th century America. And now here is your host Glenn Phillips. What can television do in the news field that would be most beneficial to the American public. This was a question we asked frequently during the course of our interviews with journalists around the country educators editors reporters and radio people were as willing and eager to talk about the subject as were spokesmen for the television industry itself for better or worse. It was a favorite topic of conversation probably because television is the newest of the communications media and because its failures have been as spectacular as its successes. One answer to our question was given by Professor Charles Slepian of New York University what it could do Razor's but who question of the static of television is a medium in use.
I mean. I'm inclined to think that television has. Acted fairly resourceful with respect and I'm a little puzzled myself as to what the new distinctive resources of the medium lend themselves to in this context. I think that the departures from straight news broadcasting are the best and the most imaginative and the most promising available to us in television. I don't think really very much is added from the listeners point of view or of US point of view. When a running newscast is accompanied by flashes on the screen of the president in the White House or whatever it may be it's a visual accompaniment but it's not very much I think. What does excite me in terms of news in the broader sense of the consciousness of the significance of events as bearing upon life. Now the kinds of departures that for instance that Mario has made with see it now and is now making with little world.
It's these departures where the camera moves about and really gives a picture on the inside of something that is beyond sight and still reaches into the home. But I think there are fascinating possibilities of making of news something more than the bare reporting of events which to the average viewer or listener have no meaning until the close with the interpretation of what those events signify in the context of society and the interrelations of peoples. I think we've written numerous too likely and that sense is not in these days in this world. It cannot possibly be the mere reporting of facts and of events. It's what these events out front with in terms of the implications which brings new readers into the area of interpretation. In terms that I think were not true perhaps fifty or a hundred years ago which raises for the objective journalist a very difficult problem how far can you go beyond very reporting of
facts without becoming subjective. While at the same time one has to say how far can you go in the reporting the facts in conveying any meaning without becoming interpretive. I believe that interpretation of the news is an essential component of the news if it's to be understood and to have meaningful isness professor's statement of course made reference to Edward Merle's program small world. We commented to Professor statement that a number of programs like a small world have been dropped by the networks recently. We wonder why. To me it is precisely the indication of what I've already indicated that what goes in television Today's is what pays. Response his presence or his absence is the determinant of policy and I think this is one of the tragic days in the history of television. I for one would say that see it now justify the existence of the medium and the services that render to the people of America
and that is removal of the score that they couldn't get a sponsor. Precisely argues the lack of any understanding of the meaning of the public interest convenience and this as a day to which every licensee has jogged to a remove that was an act of gross irresponsibility. I mean money making petty fogging conception about which I can speak frankly without anger and distaste. This was to us an interesting response that could indicate a lack of sufficient courage on the part of the broadcaster. In speaking to Douglas Kater Washington editor for The Reporter magazine we asked him if he felt the broadcasters were not assuming in advance that audience response to news programs would be poor exactly the way the audience responds to the news and public service parts of the network cannot be put on the same standard as the response to them.
The murder mystery and the and the coming Comedy Hour. It's a different problem and it requires a different approach in the same way that the news of government in a newspaper cannot be treated in the same way that the news of the local murder or kidnapping can be treated different. New standards have to be taken. These are this is part of the the professional aspect of journalism that we don't follow simple rules that are unbending. And anybody who argues that we does it seems to me is ignoring the whole deeper meaning of journalism. The deeper meaning as Mr. Cater has just stated is becoming an increasing concern to journalism. Reporting in depth and analytical news writing are two more terms to describe the approach which seems to be demanded. What is causing this concern and how of the various media met the challenge. Here is Roscoe
Drummond. In many ways I think that the. Evolution and increase of the interpretive news story. And the. Role of the analytical columnists. And indeed the opinion columnists this development has been more or less. Contemporaneous with. Radio and TV news handling. Whether or not. There is a causal connection between the two. I'm not really certain because one reason for the interpretive news writing and for the. Increasing role of the columnist is the increasing complexity. Of. News out of Washington. The increasing lay pervasive role of the federal government in the lives. And the businesses and the pocketbooks of
all citizens so that the need for analytical news writing I think has been growing increasingly and I am not by any means persuaded although I wish we had more facts before us that. Television has. Met this need and this opportunity. As well as the newspapers. Nor with great originality. My present impression and I put it only as an impression because I haven't seen. A study of this subject and I'd like to see somebody do one. My present impression is that a very very great deal. Of television report. Which has a tremendous access to the minds of its viewers and listeners is. Fragmentary. Too brief.
And superficial. On the one hand we have the short straight newscast which can because of time limitation give only the basic ingredients of a news story. Then on the other hand there is the programme to which Professor sequin referred. Those explaining and exploring a particular event in greater detail. Could this type of program be a unique contribution the television can make to the news reporting for you. Question was asked of Merriman Smith Washington reporter for the United Press International. His feeling was this. It's certainly as if it doesn't oversimplify. Sometimes just quest for readability of understandability the quest for a lower fog index leads to oversimplification which is just as bad in my opinion over complication. I think that as the public has access to more and more information which it does every year. Slowly the public educates
itself to these complicated things and more important to the problem or the need for understanding. It's a slow process. Television can help a great deal by using the visual approach. Complicated problems I'm thinking of some shows like on the bush and particularly marvelous show 20th century but those are two prime examples and they all wide wide world show. I was sorry to see that we got. But those are some very quick examples of what television can do to say art here is an industry or here is a government or here is a human problem. NBC French had a marvelous show. Right the hype of the school integration. It took an hour to explain they didn't editorialize they did a little but not much. But this is the problem and
it's not all black and white. There are some gray areas in this thing and they did it visually and I watched some of the people involved tell on story it's very effective journalism. That's what we try and do in a written form but it's harder to do in a written form to let the people involved tell their story but on our TV show you can do it. The brevity of radio and television news programs cause much comment and speculation. Douglas cater spoke of this fact. I think this is one of the most serious problems in journalism today. Seems to me that in their brief period form of reporting the radio and more particularly particularly television times are doing more damage than they do good specifically this we have developed in recent decades acute public relation
public relations awareness among the politicians. McCarthy particularly was a genius in the uses of publicity. Fact my McCarthyism it seems to me might best be defined as publicity gone wild. He knew how to stage his stories so that he dominated the publicity media. The television nightly broadcast which is ridiculously show what an abbreviated is many times victimized by the politician in Washington who is prepared to stage a scene that has certain visual and and audio impact. Whether this politician is contributing anything useful to the discussion of important government matters seems to be beside the point. If he is willing to
create a ruckus to stage a tantrum to make a wild and dogmatic charge he gets the 30 seconds a minute or what have you of that particular 10 or 12 minute nightly news roundup. Where is the politician who is working hard and doing something affective about government in Washington may frequently never be heard from. And you realize that millions and millions of people are judging the conduct of government in Washington by what they hear or see on these abbreviated news programs. This to me is a danger it creates. It's it's the power of publicity to reform the thing which is being publicized and it and it can lead to a demagogue government can and has in various instances. This certainly presents a tremendous problem for the journalist and the public must be resolved.
Do we need more responsible reporters Mr. Cater again more and more responsible more time for the contemplated of news broadcast and news analysis rather than this frantic frenetic type of new sound Roundup which is merely supposed to titillate the the the audience rather than to provide him any real understanding. The fear of which Mr. Cater spoke earlier is not shared by all journalists as this answer by Sylvia Porter would indicate Miss Porter is a nationally syndicated economic reporter. I think radio and television in the field of the dissemination of news have been superior and in some fields particularly in politics and military development. I myself when they had great events breaking has been to use a very trite expression practically glued. Because I couldn't get the newspaper for some hours and
I just couldn't wait to hear what people whom I had respect were going to tell me about this and many is the day that I have been driving out to the country where I've driven at 10 miles an hour to keep that radio going for as long as I could keep going to hear one commentator after the other so that I would not say it that way but in my particular case I feel that the printed word lasts longer. It gives me a chance to say something which remains. They are. It doesn't disappear into the air. And I feel that I have only that many hours to devote. And if it has to be a choice which it has to be if you're going to do a good job you have to spend time on it you don't knock these things off in five minutes you just don't. Looks like the easiest column or sounds like the simplest broadcast probably took in my case hours and hours and days and years of background at the same thing with common data. And so you can't do both. I say that you can
do both but one is going to suffer. I don't know anyone who is doing a good job of all those fields. This is asking too much. The consensus of these remarks and those heard on earlier programs is that the potential of both the radio and television in the news field is tremendous whether the possibilities are being realized to their fullest extent is a question which will be discussed for years to come wherever journalists educators or critics congregate. The editor of the Arkansas gives it to Harry Ashmore was asked Is television news coverage adequate. I doubt it any more than newspapers are about that headache with the word. Some things it seems to me they do very well. Beginning with radio its mission has changed greatly of course with the advent of television its resources have diminished financial resources and presumably its audience as well and its adversity it seems to me perhaps to improved in
some ways its news coverage local radio news. I find in my experience which is not too broad is generally inadequate and very poor. Network Radio News I think is consistently pretty good. I think that the five minute hourly spots at them some of the networks are doing their a very useful service. And I think that people can pick them up and not getting the complete news or getting headlines bulletins. A pretty good way to keep up through the day with what's going on if you have some interest in any given situation or even if you're just a fellow who likes to keep informed some of the radio commentary is very good I don't know how large the audience is television. He's still floundering badly and it's spot news presentation I think is grossly inadequate I think their 15 minute major network shows and the local TV shows are spotty adek with format. They give an illusion of completeness when obviously they
can't be complete when they editorialize and I have no objection to their doing and they do it in a very erratic fashion. On the other hand some of the most exciting journalism that's been developed lately are the major documentaries and occasionally the networks come up with the big Sunday shows. They see it now show that they did for a long time with CBS abandon much to my regret that some magnificent journalism in my opinion in DC's outlook has on occasion an excellent first rate journalism. Some of the discussion shows John I think could be classified as journalism a very valuable TV I think will improve. In that area. I'm not sure what it will do about spot news it certainly has not done well with it where it's doing a live coverage of some big event like a national convention. It's
extraordinarily impressive its sports coverage is magnificent when it does complete a complete live facial football game or whatever it is. Is great journalism and they have many competent people with the networks but I don't think you could safely make any firm judgment on network TV broadcasting at the moment because it's in a great state of flux and I'm sure there will be changes ahead which I had hoped would be for the better. Columnist Drew Pearson spoke chiefly of newspapers and their problems. When asked this question I do radio and television fit into the news picture he said. Well the same general line applies to radio and television except that too we. Fear. And I think with some justice that radio and television it isn't anywhere near nearly as courageous as newspapers are. Particularly television television and will not pioneer any story at all. They take the
warmed over stuff that the newspapers have already broken radios a little bit better but on radio they. The fact is I think it's very simple. Radio and Television is sponsored by a certain advertiser and those advertisers are timid. I would say in many cases they're cowardly. They don't want any news that's controversy. Now the newspaper. Story The newspaper column is not sponsored or supported by any one advertiser. It's supported by all the advertisers that it itself is not the best thing in the world but it's far better than to have one sponsor. Backing one commentator because that one sponsor is under a great deal of pressure on a certain group of women have to do is to bombard him with enough telephone calls or letters. And that commentator is cancelled. He's off the air. His
livelihood is gone. Now the managing editor of a newspaper is trained in a long school of hard knocks and the average newspaper editor believes in getting the news even though it costs him headaches and trouble and even a loss of revenue. There are exceptions to that rule but by and large the newspaper editors are pretty dedicated group. Now they take orders to some extent to a considerable extent from their publishers. And they're not entirely free. But the average newspaper editor is. Steeped in the tradition of a free press. If the observations of Mr. Pearson are correct one might justifiably wonder if the broadcasters are making the necessary strides toward more enlightened news programming policy. For this opinion we went to Minneapolis and the stock tribute here is that paper's executive editor William P. Stevens.
I think the networks have made some interesting moves in that direction but I am dismayed. That many stations that have very high listenership are a combination of jazz records of one kind or another. Rock n Roll or whatever the current phrase is. Plus what is known as the five minute news broadcast which is inevitably accompanied by a lot of yak about how you get the news first. They never comment on whether you get the news at all. They merely comment that you get it first. You then get one scratchy bulletin off a press service. You then get a commercial. They then throw on things like an astrologer from Hollywood. Or a gossip columnist cracks from New York or what some guy says is an exclusive hair raising scoop from
Washington. And these things are put together into a three and a half minute mess that does not represent news reportage. And it is labeled news and sold as news. And the public cannot be expected to respect good news reporting when this sort of thing is being done by radio stations under the guise of being adequate reportage. The economy of operations is always a factor in news coverage by a small station. What if anything can be done again Mr Stevens. Well of course the first thing they could do would be to broadcast what they get. Economies a factor in anybody's publication. The I do now. I do not think that the spoken word. Usually has a chance for the analysis that the printed word has and the basic reason for this is that the spoken word
demands that the person listening wants to hear precisely what he is now listening to and therefore continues to listen. Our problem in the printed word is that he starts to look at it doesn't like it and skips. But this is his violation and one which we can possibly cure by the right kind of editing in the spoken word. A person at can be a very expert radio announcer and talk perhaps as fast as one hundred seventy five words a minute. And I don't know that I was going that fast at that point. I suspect that probably my pace on this answer sation because I'm trying to think some of it out as I go along. Maybe more nearly a hundred hundred words a minute. Well anyone can read 200 words a minute and a normally well educated person can read 400 words a minute. And some people can get to get up to speeds of 600
700 words a minute and it simply isn't economical use of your own time if you are seeking information to try to get it from radio newscasters. I'm talking now about enough information on any one subject. So that what you learn has depth. It has an adequate amount of explanation. It has adequate background and you come away being an informed instead of a person who has heard a bullet. This is a great problem for radio and television to do simply because of the speed of communication. And it is it is. This is not something that exists only to the newspaper it's a distinction between the spoken and listened to Word and the seen and read word. When a person is reading you can stop and go back and say wait a minute what did that mean. Or if he hits an unfamiliar word he can stop and look it up. Or you
can figure out from the context what the word may have meant. But if he hears an unfamiliar word on the air and the man keeps on talking he has no point of reference. He can't go back. And these are limitations which make the present ation of difficulty. Of complicated of unfamiliar information extremely hard to do in the spoken media. After listening to these comments by Mr Stevens we wondered if competition between the media should in his opinion concern as it all was competence rather than competition the key to any true analysis of the news media. I'm not concerned about competition between the media. It doesn't seem to me that this this is that this is an argument that is worth wasting any time on at all. The fact is that radio exists and television exists and newspapers exist and picture magazines exist and and people are going to turn where they get
what they want. The question that we've been discussing is not the competition between the media but the adequacy with which the various media find it possible to do a superb job of bringing information about international affairs to people who wish to be informed. There has certainly been no time in history when it has been more imperative that we be well-informed to meet the problems confronting it. This is the responsibility of publishers editors reporters broadcasters and the judge ruled public as well. It is everyone's responsibility to see that the ability of the various media to do a superb job of bringing information to the people be maintained and strengthened. You have been listening to the news media competition and change one in a series of programmes 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 leading news men and women interviewers for the series are Glenn Phillips and Ed Burroughs serving as consultant on today's program was Professor Kenneth Stewart of the University of Michigan Department of journalism news in 20th century America is produced by the University of Michigan broadcasting service under a grant from the Educational Television and Radio Center in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters. Larry Jones speaking. This is the ABC radio network.
News in 20th Century America
Episode Number
Comp & Change #4
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, or if you have concerns about this record, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/500-st7dwk7h).
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
Embed Code
Copy and paste this HTML to include AAPB content on your blog or webpage.
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 59-48-22 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:45
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Chicago: “News in 20th Century America; 22; Comp & Change #4,” University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed April 25, 2024,
MLA: “News in 20th Century America; 22; Comp & Change #4.” University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. April 25, 2024. <>.
APA: News in 20th Century America; 22; Comp & Change #4. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from