Edward R. Murrow

F for Effort

Fifty years ago, President John F. Kennedy had a great idea. He would create an agency, the Peace Corps, to send idealistic young Americans abroad to spread their wealthy nation’s know-how among the impoverished peoples of the world. Lately, public schools in the United States have taken JFK’s idea and turned it around. Why not invite the impoverished peoples of the world to come here to enlighten us? America is still the planet’s wealthiest country, but it is no longer, by international standards, a particularly well-educated one.

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The Idiot Box

It was a self-inflicted, eye-glazing marathon—50 hours in late August spent watching a full sampling of the Fox News lineup. Looking back, it seems like a nine-day hallucination of strident voices, blonde hair, and more pitchmen hawking gold coins than at any time since the heyday of King Midas. Why did I volunteer for this ordeal when a rational person would have been at the beach? Not to belabor the predictable liberal lament that Fox News fails to uphold the high TV journalistic traditions of Edward R. Murrow and Eliot Spitzer.

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Thomas Pain

Last April, when comedian Stephen Colbert appeared before the White House Correspondents' Association dinner and memorably lacerated the assembled reporters for having spent much of the last five years as lazy courtiers for the Bush administration, he exempted one person from his barbs: Helen Thomas, the 85-year-old columnist for Hearst Newspapers.

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Here it is, days after the exchange of vows, and I’m still groggy from having watched television’s coverage of the royal wedding. I thought the sun would never set on it. First there were all those preliminary “specials,” and then the day itself went on forever, a seeming eternity of coverage. From the dead of the night into the afternoon, the stalwarts of the news stayed on the job, really covering the whole occasion, like soot.

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The Powers That Be by David Halberstam (Knopf; $15) David Halberstam. Halberstam, that was what everybody called him (after all, it was his name). They always said what Halberstam needed was a good editor, his sentences ran on and on, he piled phrase upon phrase and clause upon clause, he used commas the way other men used periods.

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