MEDIA UNBOUND: The Impact of Television Journalism on the Public by Stephan Lesher

MEDIA UNBOUND: The Impact of Television Journalism on the Public

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The sins of 60 Minutes and other affronts of TV news. Since Lesher launches this fusillade on a standing target by saying ""I don't think much can or should be done about it""--and concludes that ""At its best, journalism is a good-natured gossip""--one tends to wonder why bother? Especially if one has read Harry Stein's 1979 New York Times Magazine piece, ""How '60 Minutes' Makes News,"" to which Lesher adds only more-of-same. (Gary Paul Gates' 1978 Air Time: The Inside Story of TV News is another prime source.) Here, however, anything goes--as long as it's derogatory. A chapter that begins with the Janet Cooke case leads into 60 Minutes coverage of Three Mile Island (""A reportorial air of frigid cynicism often guarantees dramatic copy and success in journalism--but not necessarily good journalism""). A chapter entitled ""A Reporter Gets in the Way"" scores Walter Cronkite, and others, for taking it upon themselves to explain ""complicated or developing issues. . . to the unwashed."" (In a subsequent chapter: ""There is no more reason for Walter Cronkite to behave responsibly because he has talked to Presidents than there is for Henry Fonda because he has portrayed them."") Less bang-bang are the follow-throughs on some 60 Minutes excesses--like the vilification of Lt. Col. Anthony Herbert. But instead of honing in on who or what is responsible, Lesher is content to blame ""the nature of modern journalism."" Here and there, sensible interview quotes from Roger Mudd appear. Otherwise, interested readers had best stick with Erik Barnouw or Edwin Diamond for the issues, and any number of first-person chronicles for the actualities.

Pub Date: Sept. 13th, 1982
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin