SOLOMON: Some Media Scenes We'd Like to See
Mad Magazine used to dramatize hard-to-imagine events in a section called "Scenes We'd Like to See." In this fanciful feature, TV commercials disclosed the negative aspects of products, and politicians spoke with unflinching candor instead of foggy rhetoric. The imaginary scenarios were as appealing as they were unlikely.These days, while many professions are undermined by large gaps between routine pretenses and unspoken truths, perhaps none is more full of holes than journalism. So, here are some Media Scenes We'd Like to See in 1998:* Superstar Anchors Turn Over New Leaf"We've been troubled by the descent of television news into a lucrative swamp of celebrity obsessions and sensationalism," said a joint statement by Tom Brokaw, Peter Jennings and Dan Rather. "Year after year, we continued to be part of the problem. So, we will donate most of our accumulated wealth to a trust fund for independent journalism. And from now on, we'll do what's right, even if that means getting fired by the network brass. There are more important things in life than retaining a multimillion-dollar salary."* Famed Columnist Rejects Racial PastCommentator George Will, who was a speech-writer for Jesse Helms before becoming a nationally syndicated columnist 25 years ago, is now repudiating Sen. Helms and apologizing for their past association. "I was blinded by my own ambition and ideology," said Will. "What's worse, during the past quarter century, I allowed racial biases to influence many of my columns and TV appearances. I deeply regret that I have ranted about low-income black people and their 'pathologies' without questioning my own."* Panel of Journalists Decries Coverage of PalestiniansAn ad hoc committee of reporters, editors and pundits, led by New York Times columnist A.M. Rosenthal, lamented the treatment of Palestinian people in America's news media. "I have had a personal awakening on this score," Rosenthal proclaimed. "Now I can see that my fervent support for the state of Israel led me to lose touch with the profound principle that everyone deserves full human rights."* Newspaper Publisher Vows Rewrite of AutobiographyThe longtime owner of the Washington Post Co. shocked colleagues and friends by announcing plans to revise her autobiography in the interests of accuracy. Katharine Graham's book "Personal History" won wide acclaim in early 1997 -- but, according to a new statement released by the author, "most of the reviewers and interviewers were unabashed sycophants." Citing examples of what she called "shamelessly self-serving content," Graham was particularly critical of the book's failure to admit that her close friendships with powerful individuals -- such as tycoon Warren Buffett and government officials Robert McNamara and Henry Kissinger -- impaired the independence of her employees at The Washington Post and Newsweek.* C-Span Host Thanks Author for Setting Record StraightBrian Lamb, the founder of C-SPAN and a prominent host on the cable network, expressed appreciation to author James Ledbetter for exposing a skeleton in Lamb's closet. Published in late 1997, Ledbetter's book -- titled "Made Possible By ... " -- explains that Lamb worked for the Nixon administration and took part in efforts to "shut down public broadcasting." The book reports that Lamb participated in "several meetings to try to get a CPB (Corporation for Public Broadcasting) board that would respond more directly to White House orders." Now, Lamb says he's glad readers are learning about a period of opportunism that probably helped advance his career.* Heads of Npr and Pbs Condemn Commercial SlideThe presidents of National Public Radio and the Public Broadcasting Service announced that they no longer believe in taking money from big corporations. "We've come to understand that their financial embrace has imposed gradual -- and severe -- constraints," the leaders of NPR and PBS said. "Calling commercials 'enhanced underwriter credits' doesn't change the fact that you can't have truly public broadcasting when it's dependant on the likes of Archer Daniels Midland, General Electric and Mobil Oil."Of course, we shouldn't expect to see any such media scenes in the near future. But sometimes, it helps to dream out loud.Norman Solomon is a syndicated columnist. His most recent books are "Wizards of Media Oz" (co-authored with Jeff Cohen) and "The Trouble With Dilbert: How Corporate Culture Gets the Last Laugh."