Posts Tagged ‘Hearst’

TIME WILL TELL

August 11, 2014

GEORGE WILL’S COLUMN ON NIXON EMPHASIZES THE ROLE OF  LAPSED TIME IN PROVIDING THE WHOLE TRUTH OF A HISTORICAL EVENT

As I read George Will’s latest column in the Sunday Ledger-Enquirer , I had to reflect on the experiences I  had in Dr. Craig Lloyd’s Columbus College’s (now Columbus State University) historiography class. When I researched for a paper on the role that yellow journalists William Randolph Hearst’s New York  Journal and Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World  newspapers played in starting the Spanish-American War, what really stood out was that, generally,  histories written contemporaneously could not be trusted as much as those written years or decades after the events depicted.

That doesn’t mean that contemporary history doesn’t have value. Many historians believe it  is very valuable, but new information revealed over the years can revise what was believed to be factual when written contemporaneously.

Now, forty years after Watergate, we learn why former President Richard Nixon risked his presidency by ordering that notorious burglary.  George Will reported in his column that ran in the Sunday Ledger-Enquirer that  Ken Hughes, who studied the Nixon tapes for more than ten years, points out in his book, Chasing Shadows: the Nixon Tapes, the Chennault Affair, and the Origins of Watergate, that “Nixon ordered the crime in 1971 hoping to prevent the public  knowledge of a crime he committed in 1968.”  Will says Nixon’s prior crime in 1968 was to interfere, as a private citizen, with U.S. government diplomatic negotiations concerning the Vietnam War.  He said Nixon was worried that supposed documents in a safe in the Democratic headquarters would reveal “his role in sabotaging negotiations that might have shorten the war.” 

A lot of historical documents are sealed by public figures for opening at a future date after the owners of those documents have been dead for, say,  50 yearsSo, historically, the microscope of  time plays a big role in giving us the  whole truth about  historical events.

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Rupert and William Randolph

July 25, 2011

Being a retired broadcast journalist, it’s de rigueur that I comment on the News of the World fiasco in the UK.  No doubt it adds even more tarnish to the news industry, but it’s certainly not the first time that a news corporation put profits above ethics.

Time put Rupert Murdoch in the same category as William Randolph Hearst,  and that makes a lot of sense. Controlling information is the source of great power and influence.  And making a lot  money is a part of that  equation. Hearst, in large part,  achieved his power through yellow journalism with his  New York Journal. That paper was credited with playing a role in starting the Spanish-American War in 1898.  He ended up, like Murdoch, owning a lot of papers, magazines, a movie production company, and added broadcasting when it came along.  He basically lost control of his empire when he greatly over-extended it.

Murdoch’s power is basically the same as was Hearst’s, though on a global basis, it is probably much larger.  Just as Hearst relied on sensationalism with his New York Journal, Murdoch did the  same with News of the World.  Murdock’s biggest money-maker is not his papers, though, but his movie studio, 20th Century Fox.  His Fox network, with shows like American Idol, is very lucrative, and so is his  Fox News cable channel.  His problem is not the same as Hearst’s, though. It’s not that  he overextended, it’s that one of his high-profile newspapers got caught being unethical and illegal by allegedly hacking phone calls.  It may not be his downfall, but it has  definately damaged his brand’s reputation, and the value of News Corp has dropped since the scandal broke.

What does all of this do to the credibility of the journalism business?  Probably not much.  Its credibility had plummeted before this ever happened.  I suppose it has always been about the money, but there was a time when it was also about a lot more, especially doing the right thing for the common good.  Actually, though, it is also about more than the money, because, in my view, especially with people like Murdoch, it’s about influence.

There is  hope, though. There are still some old-fashioned, dedicated, ethical, and committed journalists. Name one, you might say. The first to come to  mind is Bill Moyers.