Henry Kissinger: RIP for America’s First TV Diplomat

“Hang up the phone and come by my office now so we can chat.” Whenever I heard those words in that familiar German-inflected low register, I knew that it was time for a quick ride down the elevator at The Museum of Television & Radio in New York, then a brisk walk from there on 52nd Street to meet Henry Kissinger a few blocks away at his Park Avenue office.

Dr. Kissinger was a close friend of the museum’s founder, William S. Paley, the legendary chairman and CEO of CBS. He was an original member of its Board of Trustees, and remained involved in that capacity until his recent death at 100 years old. Kissinger was not just another name on the illustrious roster that graced our letterhead, either;  after all, he didn’t need to be there to burnish his resume.

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A Ray of Hope for Media Literacy

Although the tidal wave of misinformation continues unabated, the New Year already has seen one ray of hope. In early January, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed the first-in-the-nation law that requires public schools to teach media literacy at all grade levels – K-12.

Murphy noted in his signing statement: “Our democracy remains under sustained attack through the proliferation of misinformation that is eroding the role of truth in our political and civic discourse. It is our responsibility to ensure our nation’s future leaders are equipped with the tools necessary to identify fact from fiction.”

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Let C-SPAN Have Unrestricted Camera Access to U.S. House Proceedings

After the chaotic process that led to the 15th-round election of Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) as the new Speaker of the House of Representatives, there is much talk about how much power he needed to give up in order to achieve his narrow-majority victory. But even with the new rule changes for the 118th Congress – such as allowing for a single member to make a motion to vacate, triggering a vote on retaining the Speaker – there is one clear power that Speaker McCarthy has not forfeited. That’s the power to let C-SPAN have unrestricted camera access to House proceedings, as it did during the dramatic events leading up to the final vote tally.

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The Censor’s Dilemma

Pity the plight of poor Anthony Comstock.  The man H.L. Mencken described as “the Copernicus of a quite new art and science,” who literally invented the profession of anti-obscenity crusader in the waning days of the 19th century, ultimately got, as legendary comic Rodney Dangerfield would say, “no respect, no respect at all.”  

As head of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice and special agent for the U.S. Post Office under a law that popularly bore his name, Comstock was, in Mencken’s words, the one “who first capitalized moral endeavor like baseball or the soap business, and made himself the first of its kept professors.”

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Why Distrust of News Needs More Sophisticated Analysis

With a start of a new year, some notable public attitudes about critical institutions seem to be on a downward trend.  These include traditional media, like newspapers, broadcast stations, and cable networks, which are often thrown together in opinion polls aimed at gaining key insight into their credibility with audiences of readers and viewers.

The Edelman Trust Barometer found only 46 percent of Americans trust traditional media.  This is the lowest number recorded since the data was first tracked two decades ago.  It found 58 percent of Americans believe that “most news organizations are more concerned with supporting one ideology or political position than with informing the public” and found over half also think that the Fourth Estate is “trying to mislead people by saying things they know are false or gross exaggerations.”

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First Amendment Still Shines During Toughest of Times

Two hundred and thirty-one years ago this week, Congress passed a collection of amendments to the U.S. Constitution, 10 of which would become the Bill of Rights.  Foremost in the Bill of Rights is the First Amendment, which allows Americans to worship how they please, speak their minds openly, and have their voices heard by their government.

Our Founding Fathers, in their infinite wisdom, also included in the First Amendment the right to a free press.  They understood that our democracy could not survive without the freedom to report the news without fear or favor.  The times may have changed; that principle has not.

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Early Voting Brings New Media Challenges In Advertising and Editorial Endorsements

From shifting commercial placements to premature newspaper endorsements, this year’s early balloting procedures are having a massive effect on media operations.  Political strategists are figuring out how and more importantly when to place ads in this unprecedented season of extensive early voting. 

The Halloween weekend deluge of campaign ads just before Election Day on Nov. 3 may be meaningless if up to half of voters have already cast their ballots.  In a related vein, the ripple effect of advertising decisions also affects ad timing for down-ballot races, where voters may need more coaxing.

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Ending the Media Versus Police Tumult

Whatever happens with police reform legislation in Congress, there is no reason to expect that protection of reporters and media will figure into the proposed “best practices” of how journalists should be treated during tense and often violent situations such as we’ve seen in the past month.  Generalized protections already exist in the First Amendment, but as the brutal incidents of the past month show, law enforcement officers can recklessly bypass those enshrined barriers.

A slew of reports – some of them admittedly self-pitying – emerged in recent weeks with frightening details about how print and electronic journalists have been attacked by law enforcement officers.  It appears that sometimes reporters were singled out as they sought to cover the protests and demonstrations that erupted around the world after George Floyd’s death-by-knee in Minneapolis.

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Big Media’s Now Moment

Amid the deadly coronavirus and unfolding social justice movement, America stands at a momentous crossroads.  Following the tragic death of George Floyd at the knees of the police, a multiethnic, multigenerational mass of righteous protest is demanding police reform in cities across the nation. 

Captains of industry, in response, have hedged their corporate reputations on hefty pledges to promote African-American economic equality.  In stark contrast, the president remains defiant to convention and defensive of status quo law and order.

Chronicling it all in real time for the world to see has been the mainstream media.  Broadcast and national cable, in particular, have experienced a renewed relevance and a reborn sense of mission as the justice movement gains more sweep, scale, and seriousness.  This has been especially meaningful for local TV, which needed to burnish its credentials with American viewers.  Like many in America, journalists have discovered what heretofore has been absent from countless reports of black death-by-police.  Transparency.  Equity.  Empathy.

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Broadcasting Today: Energized by Innovation

There is a saying that goes, “Everybody has a story to tell.”

My own NAB Show story began a decade ago – almost to this day, in fact – when I spoke at my first show as the new president and CEO.  On that morning, I shared the story of broadcasters’ unrelenting commitment to always be there for their communities … to inform them … and to help them.

It is a deep-rooted commitment that manifests itself in many ways that often go unnoticed – in ways that have become ingrained in everyday life for millions of Americans.

Our communities turn on the radio to find out what the weather is like before heading to work … to learn how to help their neighbors in need … or to listen to the great personalities who seem like old friends.  They turn on their televisions to watch their favorite local news anchor and to get an unbiased report of what is happening in their communities.

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