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Western Press and the Soviets

May 19, 1986

I want to commend Hough for his clarity and insight, and for having the courage to say what he said in his article.

It is obvious the media have a bad case of the "Chicken Little" syndrome. Newsmen justify their knee-jerk hysteria by promising us that eventually they will get the story right. But what happens in the meantime can be disastrous.

What would have happened if panic had spread across the international border? Who would have been responsible? Obviously there were two separate disasters going on at Chernobyl--one the spread of radioactivity, and the other the spread of panic. For our part we should not remain smug. Television is a technology as dangerous in its own way as nuclear power.

I have to disagree with Hough on one point, however, his assessment of diplomatic sources being at the cause. I believe the problem is more deeply rooted in the media itself.

Recently Howard Rosenberg ran an article in the Calendar section of your paper, featuring President Reagan as a television anchorman. Surely the President is a media master, but he achieves this not by controlling and directing news content as such, but by emulating the familiar journalistic excess--react first, and reason later.

The President is our "favorite anchorman" because he has the power to make news. He directs his attention at Libya, and everyone forgets Nicaragua. He faces unpleasant realities at an economic summit by talking terrorism. If in the past the press was too hard on Richard Nixon, it is now too soft on Reagan. He has clearly beat them at their own game, in so far as journalism is a game, a propaganda tool.

The press should soon take stock of itself. The present methods of reporting and presentation are irresponsible and dangerous, particularly concerning the television industry.



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