http://www.amazon.com/Historical-Present-Uses-Abuses-Past/dp/0878059857

http://www.nationmultimedia.com/2006/03/15/opinion/opinion_20002744.php

Above are two links (I think the second is correct) of guys that I shared a summer with working at Time Inc. where we had been invited as the editors of our student papers to experience the range of Time’s publications. The third of us has a common name such that I don’t find a link on Google to track his subsequent activities. The three were Lou Kraar and Ed Yoder who were co-editors back in 1955-56 of the North Carolina Daily Tar Heel and Keith Johnson of the Cornell Sun. Each of the three went on to distinguished careers in journalism — respectively starting at the Wall St. Journal, the leading North Carolina paper, and the old NY Herald Tribune. As the chair of the Yale Daily News, I alone did not pursue journalism, although it has always been an interesting field for me, but rather ended up (most happily) as a philosophy teacher. On retirement from that activity, I have returned to blogging.

Personally I was the odd man out of this distinguished group. I could do the job, but one of my stints that summer writing short stories of enterprise for Fortune Magazine introduced me to some warm and supportive guys who nevertheless made it clear — with novels half finished in their bottom drawers — that they were only sticking with the job to retain their substantial retirement benefits. Such made me think out what I would be doing for a lifetime. It could be a most exciting life, as Lou Kraar’s seems to have been per the obituary notice on the website above. Or it could be dull and frustrating. As I watch various media types performing, I see the pattern that might have afflicted me. When reporters or commentators stray from their corporate party line to reporting things as they really are, they all too often get bumped out of their slots and reassigned to boring sidelines. One can be a prize winner and still suffer this fate. The media are not the sources of truth that they once were.

This is not to say that all journalism in the 20th century was benign. Time’s slogan was “fair, not objective journalism.” It was clear that Harry Luce in those days had his own version of reality, particularly relating to things Chinese — he had been the child of China missionaries and would blue pencil any Time Inc. reports stemming from that source. The NY Times was doing “all the news that’s fit to print,” which may be a slogan stretched these days a bit with its departures into the worlds of gossip and bloody ‘human interest’ stuff.

My general observation, sadly enough, is that what is now filtering through to the American public is much edited with ‘don’t go there’ directives which are threatening the very fabric of our democracy. We were manifestly tricked into buying the disastrous Iraq war by individuals determined to go there whatever the cost. One need not detail all the well known names of media folks who did not dig deep into the obvious distortions being put forth to justify ‘shock and awe.’

I am writing now before dawn on a day that we should be giving thanks for the good things that have benefited us this past year. I fear that far too many people — both here and over there under our guns — have little or nothing for which to give thanks and one senses that many Americans are fearful about their futures.

May our media people begin to tell things as they really are? We need the truth unvarnished if we are to dig ourselves out of the hole into which our leaders have thrust us. Hopefully, even with much grief in store, we will truly have some things next year for which we can give thanks.

On a personal note, at my age one is almost reluctant to check out people one knew years ago — was saddened to learn that Lou had recently died and had lived only a few blocks away from us in the Upper West Side of Manhattan — we never met again and perhaps would not have recognized each other.

On another note, things have radically changed for women. Back in the 1950s at Time Inc. they were allowed to be researchers, but not writers. Two Radcliff grads had functioned as my ‘big sister’ researchers as I wrote the stories for Fortune. They would do the bulk of the work and I would write a finished version which either could have done just as well. Caroline Bird (Born Female), the mother of one of my wife’s college roommates, was one of the few women journalists of that day. Her father had been the editor of a paper in Puerto Rico, which probably laid a basis for her entry into this mainly male domain.

Some things do get better for which we can give thanks today.

“A war is just if there is no alternative, and the resort to arms is legitimate if they represent your last hope.” (Livy cited by Machiavelli)

Ed Kent 212-665-8535 (voice mail only) [blind copies]
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