I’ve just been to see the above film and recommend it. It seems to have a fair bit of verisimilitude. For those that don’t know, it’s about the role of CBS news and what we now call ‘current affairs’ in the downfall of Joe McCarthy. At a time when people are being deported from this country without even knowing what is being alleged against them, it’s a pretty apposite film for today.
What struck and shocked me however is the assertiveness of the CBS TV programs. I presume the representation of them is either adapted or word for word from transcripts since Joe McCarthy is played by himself from old footage. But at least as represented in the film, what CBS put to air was not so much documentary information about what a shonk McCarthy was for their viewers to decide what they thought. It was ‘crusading journalism’ (to use an expression in the film).
A good portion of the gravity of the programs came from the anchorman’s editorialising and telling the audience where he stood rather than simply giving him the facts, or perhaps listing a set of questions that should be answered, or that were not being answered.
Now I guess there’s nothing wrong with journos having views and values and defending them. But ultimately the media is on much stronger ground when it plays to its core function of choosing stories that are important to report, choosing what angles are important in the story, doing it’s best to get at the facts and reporting them .
In the case of this story it’s hard not to sympathise with the journos and they were courageous in what they did. But the form in which they chose to do it was not far from the style ultimately adopted by A Current Affair a few decades later Mike Willisee was a good man to have on ‘your side’.
Likewise, while Media Watch is a good program, the perverse pleasure it takes in subjecting the reptiles of the press to the same kind of heavy handed editorialising that they themselves dish out, the way in which Media Watch reduces everything to catchy entertainment detracts a great deal from the gravity and worth of the program.