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April 10, 2005 - "Bombs Away!" Target? Liberal Media

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World’s Laziest Journalist

April 10, 2005

By Bob Patterson


On April 18, 1945, columnist Ernie Pyle was killed in action in the Pacific Theater of World War II on the island of Ie Shima and, now, every year on that date National Columnists Day is observed.


Being Irish means you are interested in both sides of a dispute.  My Aunt D. loved a good lively discussion and she had a coworker with whom she would talk about controversial issues of the day.  On lunch break she’d say: “Let’s have an argument; pick the topic and tell me which side I take.”  Becoming a columnist merely continues the family tradition with the addition of the certitude of infallibility added to the mix.  We try to write these columns in a way that Aunt D. would approve.


Being a columnist means that the writer can indulge himself (and in certain notable exceptions to the general rule [the paucity of women columnists is a topic for another day] herself) by selecting only those topics that he (or she) finds interesting.  Which reminds us, a new edition of Bushworld ($15 paperback Berkley Trade) by Maureen Dowd has been published with extra material added.


When the information that a WWII B-17G bomber will be visiting the Torrance Airport on April 15-17 was received, we pounced on that like a cat finding catnip.  The airplane was used by General Eisenhower toward the end of the war and was an example of the type model designated: B-17G (the chin turret is the telltale clue revealing which particular model it is).  We not only decided immediately that we would devote some keystrokes to this photo opportunity in the South Bay area, we decided we would help the folks handling the publicity by passing along some media contact information (held over from the days when we did photo stringing for AP in LA) and also mentioned the feature story potential to a person who works for one of Just Above Sunset’s competitors (a well known daily newspaper with a home office on 43rd St.) in an effort to help get this event some notice in the media.


If it was a topic that we could keep to ourselves and use to make some freelance money, we would, but since this is an event that will thrive on a philosophy of “the more, the merrier,” we did what we could to attract attention to the event that will be held at  Torrance Airport/Zamperini Field, on April 15 -17.


[You don’t believe we could come up with something just as good that isn’t being publicized?  Can you name any High School in the US that has (or maybe by now it’s “had”) its own airfield?]


What gives a columnist the right to walk around dispensing opinions with the aura of “infallibility” from a liberal viewpoint?


Back when I first started to hang out with journalists known around the world, with the hope of becoming the next Walter Winchell or Herb Caen or (dare I say it) Ernie Pyle, one of the first things to be considered was: How do they build a readership? 


Someone (sorry fact checker it’s been about 40 years since the last chat I had in the AP lunchroom at 50 Rock) said that when the newspaper barons first got the circulation wars going, the challenge was not to write what would please readers who lunched with the publisher at the local country club.  The challenge was to get folks, hustling to and from work, to spend a few precious pennies to buy something that wasn’t a necessity of life, so the publishers hired feisty young reporters who could find and report on the stories that appealed to the man in the street. 


If you wanted to attract a circa 1900 audience of workers, you would have to run stories such as: Is a 12 hour work day for six days a week excessive?  If you want to get the approval your cronies at the country club (an admittedly niche audience) run a story on the topic: “When do you consider an excessive profit margin?”  (Isn’t the term “excessive profit margin,” an oxymoron for that audience?)  Which of those two topics will get the shop clerks and factory workers (such as employees of the Triangle Shirtwaist Company in the Asch building) really “fired up”?


In 1900, a worker in New York, had to be very careful where he or she stepped, because back then cars weren’t the norm.  Horses were everywhere, so you know what else was all over the place (is someone going to challenge this allegation and say “That’s a lot of crap!”?)  The streets of New York, in those days, closely resembled a politician’s campaign speech.


The publishers let the young liberal reporters go wild on topics that would draw a big audience, so, naturally, the topics were rather biased in the liberal direction.  The publishers reserved for themselves the right to make the editorial endorsements at election time.  In 1960, Richard Nixon, the Republican candidate for president, received a very high percentage of the publishers’ endorsements.  (As I recall a recent article said Nixon got more than 90% of the newspaper editorial endorsements that year.)


When the conservative talk show hosts babble on about “liberal media” bias, do they take into account the (no spin) factor that the publishers for these “liberal biased” newspapers may have consistently endorsed Republican candidates?  Hell, no.  Old talk show adage: Ignore any fact contrary to your point of view.


In the early days of television when stations started to look like a good investment, who had the money to acquire one? 


Radio had found its niche by offering “on the spot” reports that took the listeners to the action.  “This is London calling” and that sort of thing.  The pioneer radio journalists were often experienced newspaper reporters with good voices.  Television came along and put the radio news veterans in front of a camera and the influence of the print journalism philosophy continued to expand.  Liberal reporters were working for what kind of media owner?  The television station owners and newspaper publishers tended to handle the reporters with the attitude of an indulgent father: “Yes, yes, of course - now run along and play.”


When things started to get a little out of control for the owners and publishers, (cut costs, cut costs, cut costs!) a miracle occurred, conservative talk show hosts came along to convince listeners that the newspaper reporters were déclassé types who probably had read “Das Kapital.”  They also convinced their audience that they (the listeners) were just like the highly successful entrepreneurs such as the station owners and newspaper publishers (from fabulously wealthy families, perhaps?) and not like the unwashed rabble in the Democratic Party.  (In the land of equality, do you think the various conservative talk show hosts consider themselves to be the equal of a queer?)


The conservative talk show hosts have the “Liberal Media” in their sights, but are they using one of WWII’s famous Norden Bombsights?


Hey, if enough people start to buy my t-shirts advocating a third term for Dubya, this columnist (who, while singing, can change keys in the middle of a note) will dismiss objections to the conservative viewpoint immediately and will lead the chorus singing Money: That’s what I want.  Until then, look for my WWERMD or WWEPD bracelets.  (What would Edward R. Murrow do?  What would Enrie Pyle do?)


Meanwhile, in future installments of this weekly feature of Just Above Sunset, look for strong advocacy for such subjective items as Ford Cobras, B-17’s, Jack Kerouac, Hunter Thompson, a team with Mickey Mantle, Gene Woodling, and Hank Bauer in the outfield, Duane Eddy and his twangy guitar, Arthur Godfrey’s 50’s hit song Slap ‘er Down Again, Paw, the underground music scene in Coober Pedy, and the claim that Robert Newton gave the greatest movie portrayal of a pirate, ever PERIOD!  That’s what makes being a columnist worth the effort.


One of Edward R. Murrow’s WWII reports originated from a British bomber flying over Berlin.  “There was a quarter moon on the starboard beam and Jock’s quiet voice came through the intercom, ‘that’ll be flak ahead.’  We were approaching the enemy coast. The flak looked like a cigarette lighter in a dark room: one that won’t light – sparks but no flame- the sparks crackling just below the level of the cloud tops.”   Edward R. Murrow from his December 4, 1943 broadcast titled: “The Flight of D-Dog.”


If the disk jockey can dig out the soundtrack album (was there one?) for 12 O’clock High, we’ll rev up our engines and go on a milk run.  During the coming week, we’ll dip our toe into the cultural currents of Los Angeles, and report back next week.  Who knows, maybe we’ll have an Edward R. Murrow moment and be able to describe what it’s like to go up there in a four engine WWII bomber.  Until then, no matter if you are a columnist or a bomber crew, have a flak free week.


[Reminder for reader Jersey Bill: If you click on the underlined type, it will take you to another web page that has some additional relevant material.  Also, please send the URL for the Just Above Sunset homepage to as many of your friends and relatives as possible because the JAS Circulation Department has set an exorbitantly high goal for this month.  Thanks!]




Copyright © 2005 – Robert Patterson

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Murrow honored, sort of, on Hollywood Boulevard


Copyright © 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
The inclusion of any text from others is quotation
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