Monday, July 18, 2011
The News Business: What Else is New?
In the late 1970's I worked at a highly respected newspaper called The Washington Star, a worthy competitor to the Washington Post for 126 years before being demolished by a new owner. Early one morning, during the Carter administration, I arrived at work and found everyone in the newsroom running around crazily, behaving as if Chicken Little's prediction were about to come true. It seemed that "someone" had authorized an early morning banner headline saying the president's brother, Billy Carter, had been admitted to the alcohol unit of Walter Reed Hospital in the middle of the night. In the light of day, however, it turned out not to be that Billy Carter. Uh oh.
Rushing into our esteemed Editor-in-Chief's office to commiserate about the error, I asked whose heads would roll. He laughed and said it was not a mistake at all and that he knew all along it was a different Billy Carter. Far from being upset, he was elated, explaining, "There's an article about our 'goof' on the front page of the Post, and we're all over the morning TV talk shows! The story's gone national! We'll sell some papers today, you can be sure of that!"
Nobody went to jail for that fib, or for any of the other lies and misdemeanors that surely took place daily. What is the world coming to when even our scoundrels are expected to be honest?