1. TV news reporting must be "factual, impartial, free and fearless. It cannot permit itself to be dominated or even remotely to be associated with any group or faction of special interest, any political party or any government."
2. While analyzing and explaining news developments, "it must not confuse news reporting with personal opinion of a commentator who, after all, is expressing only his own thoughts and analysis."
3. Local, regional and national news "must never be neglected or overlooked."
4. News must be reported from "all sections" of the world, regarding a larger staff of trained reporters with expertise in foreign languages.
5. TV news cameras "must have the right to cover news wherever it happens, here at home or overseas."
6. "A good reporter does not seek to fake or exaggerate his story. He gets the news as it happens, and reports the truth, the whole truth. That is his job."
Politics is part of the cultural history not only of this country but of television, and so I've spent a fair amount of time on it. I've tried, however, to keep my distance when it comes to ideological interjections, although I've got a fair number of opinions (as anyone who knows me can attest). Having said this, I find it interesting that fully three of Hagerty's six points deal with the importance of neutral and objective reporting. Now, without injecting any partisanship, I think we can all agree on the importance of this, and I hope we can also acknowledge that, no matter which side of the political fence you stand on, television news falls woefully short not only in this area but on all of Hagerty's points.
|Hagerty served as head of|
ABC News from 61-63
This isn't the place to debate solutions to the situation, of course, but one further point before we move on: Hagerty's first point, that the news must be kept separate from special interests, is one reason why Reuven Frank, as producer of NBC's Huntley-Brinkley Report, kept it commercial-free in its early years. Frank understood that a news program had to avoid even the hint of a conflict of interest. Considering the amount of influence sponsors exercised over programs in the early days of TV, it's no wonder Frank wanted to keep the news free of such entanglements. Of course, today the bottom line in TV news is not journalism so much as the network's profit-loss statement. So I guess none of us should be surprised.
Substitute "Vietnam" for "Algeria" and you've got almost a perfect match, don't you think? Resist conscription, i.e. the draft? Check. Defy the President? Check. Sinners or saviors? That's the question people would be asking here in a few years. Certainly this country had problems in 1961; the civil rights movement was in full swing, and there was nothing tranquil about that. And yet, Americans watching this show might well have thought that the French were going mad, the Republic was teetering on the brink, and the children were lunatics running the asylum. Thank God it couldn't happen here.
Life magazine celebrates its 25th anniversary on Thursday night with a 90-minute star-studded extravaganza on NBC, hosted by Bob Hope. It's truly a moment in time; for two decades the famed weekly picture magazine had chronicled our times, portraying life in all its various shapes, sizes and (eventually) colors. And here it is being feted by the very medium that is inexorably taking its place. Exotic images of foreign lands, the pomp and pageantry of coronations, the breathtaking drama of sporting events - all of this had made Life a staple of American households. But now you can see all that on television, except for the color (and that's coming soon enough), and these pictures move!
Soon enough Life would be gone. It folded in 1972, came back as a monthly in 1978, folded again in 2000, tried one further comeback as a Sunday newspaper supplement in 2004, and finally folded for good in 2007. And the medium that took its place, television, now finds itself in the same position in relation to the internet. Am I the only one who finds this moment ironic?
On the cover this week are the stars of CBS's Candid Camera. If the smiles in the picture look somewhat forced, there's a good reason for it.
Candid Camera premiered on radio in 1947, where it was known as Candid Microphone. It made the transition to television the next year where it remained, off and on, until 2004. Candid Camera was an early form of reality television, but rather than the celebrity horror shows of today, I think you could describe it as being more like America's Funniest Home Videos. For those of you unfamiliar with it, the premise was simple: an ordinary person walks into a seemingly normal situation, which rapidly becomes completely abnormal. For example, a gas station attendant* fills the tank of a car, but no matter how long he's at it the tank never fills up. The car is found to have a fake tank in it, but not before the surprised attendant is told, "Smile - you're on Candid Camera!"
The picture on the cover is taken from Camera's 1960-67 run on CBS. The balding man in the background, looking as if he desperately wants to be seen, is Candid Camera creator Allen Funt. He's being blocked by the legendary Arthur Godfrey, who at this time is co-host of the program. The woman to the left is the singer-actress Dorothy Collins, who often appeared as the person who introduces the unsuspecting victim into the extraordinary situation (for example, she drove the car to the gas station in the prank listed above).
Candid Camera was Funt's baby through and through, but Godfrey was a known commodity to CBS and sponsors, and it might well be that the network thought he would be more likely to attract viewers than Funt alone. It was a relationship doomed from the start; Godfrey's ego demanded a large role, and he saw the program as a vehicle for his folksy humor and commentary, and yet at heart the show was nothing more than a collection of videos requiring basic introductions.
Funt, no shrinking violet himself, resisted Godfrey's efforts to put himself at the center of the show. He told a San Francisco interviewer "that Candid Camera would be much better if Godfrey didn't talk too much" and added that "if the Godfrey problem can't be solved, the Candid Camera company has another similar show in the works and ready to put on the air." In one instance, Funt was said to have become so fed up with Godfrey that he stormed off the set during rehearsal, refusing to take part in the show's taping. In the end, Funt won out. Godfrey disappeared after the first season, replaced by Garry Moore's sidekick Durward Kirby (Camera had for several years been a regular feature of Moore's variety show).
Here's a clip from the Godfrey-Funt season of Candid Camera:
Isn't this a terrible cartoon rendition of The Flintstones? Fred and Wilma aren't bad, but Barney is terrible. And who's that kid supposed to be? It's not Bamm-Bamm.
I don't know where this came from; it's clearly not a network advertisement, although The Flintstones were in first-run on ABC. I can only think that the ad came from WTCN, and despite what I've said about it, local ads like this are one of the charms of TV Guides of this era. It's the opposite of the slick, packaged material we're so used to seeing in publication nowadays. Considering ABC's status as the number-three network of the time (by a wide margin), I wouldn't be surprised if most of its affiliates were on their own when it came to this kind of advertising.
Speaking of advertising, let's close with this note, a very clever, very funny TV Guide parody by Checkboard Square, makers of Chex cereals. (Click on each image to enlarge.)
It's not only an ingenious way to advertise Chex, but a brilliant, meticulously done spoof of television and TV Guide itself. The shows themselves are great (My Three Chex, starring Claude Grains; movies including A Star is Corn and King Corn), but best of all is the care with which the TV Guide layout was duplicated. Had to have been done with the magazine's cooperation, don't you think? I wonder how many people, gradually flipping through the pages, actually thought this was legit?