Bernie Shaw Dead At 82, Remarkable Newsman And Perfect Rolemodel For Journalists

When it comes to television news reporters there is a special mantle on which I place Bernie Shaw.  The famed newsman died today at the age of 82.

If you are my age and enjoy politics the memory of Bernie Shaw and his remarkable work on CNN will easily come to mind.  One of the shows he worked on, and in time would be joined by the equally professional Judy Woodruff, was Inside Politics.  With deep analysis and pointed interviews, the show was designed to not only report on the current events with politicians but look ahead and try to better determine what might next be occurring in the world of politics.  I absolutely loved the show and recorded it each day so I could watch it later in the evening.

I have always felt the question asked by Shaw in a 1988 presidential debate of Democratic nominee Mike Dukakis was not only perfectly aimed but one that allowed the nation insight into the candidate. The death penalty was an issue, and while it might be termed startling to have it asked of a candidate in the way Shaw did, the deer in the headlight’s response from the nominee did aid the nation in making an electoral decision. The question was whether Dukakis would support the death penalty should his wife, Kitty, be raped and murdered. Dukakis responded with “No, I don’t, Bernard, and I think you know that I’ve opposed the death penalty during all of my life. I don’t see any evidence that it’s a deterrent and I think there are better and more effective ways to deal with violent crime.”   While I supported Dukakis and opposed the death penalty it was very clear from his response the election was over.  

Over the years I commented on Shaw and in 1988 noted as the race for Wisconsin’s First Assembly seat grew more intense, and the GOP made it historic for that time by throwing over $50,000 into the Republican’s campaign, I started to stress out. I had started to work in Representative Lary Swoboda’s office the year prior as his Administrative Assistant, By the morning before the election, I was ill to my stomach and spent the day at my home in Madison.  While drinking tea and eating soft foods I watched Bernie Shaw on CNN and knew the polls would be dreadful for the Dukakis campaign.  But on Election Night I was back in the First Assembly District where we secured a comfortable victory.

In 2006, I noted how I felt when Bernie Shaw had left CNN years prior as if  I had lost a friend.  The well-respected reporter, along with his co-anchor Judy Woodruff, made politics and campaigns pop and sizzle with insight and energy on the first all-news cable network.  Their program “Inside Politics” was truly must-see TV.  CNN has changed over the years because of downsizing and altering its news focus, and as a result, the caliber of its political reporting has suffered.

I am hoping that in newsrooms tonight in America there is the memory of the work Bernie Shaw provided our nation, and then use those recollections as a template on how news should be gathered and reported.

Joseph Lindsley Is Modern-Day Edward R. Murrow, Listen To Ukraine Reporting From”Edge Of The Free World”

“Not even for a second could I imagine abandoning the country in that moment, especially as a journalist,” Joe Lindsley said.

If you know of my deep respect for the wartime reporting of Edward R. Murrow on the radio it will be clear that I do not place the headline on this post lightly. Having first listened to the recordings as a teenager of Murrow painting epic-sized images over the airwaves of the carnage and fear from WWII, and then over the past decades as I studied various aspects of history allows me to properly conclude that Joseph Lindsley now walks in Murrow’s shoes.  If you know of and listen to the Ukraine-based reporter you already likely agree with my assessment.  If you are not aware of Lindsley’s work, please continue reading.

The reason I write today is due to Lindsley’s latest on-air coverage provided this morning on WGN radio’s Bob Sirott morning show. Listen to it here. The obvious nerves and stress and fast pacing of his words and details are a stark reminder of the work that today placed him in the heart of the battle.  The bombed and shelled buildings which are rubble around him and the warnings that are given about when to stay indoors are underscored by his descriptions from “the edge of the free world”.  Safety in Ukraine is termed by this reporter as “Russian roulette, if it hits your building it hits your building”.

Like most people who were born after WWII, it is hard to truly understand the fear and uncertainty that was engendered from that international calamity, or the way radio news announcers like Charles Collingwood, Bill Shirer, and of course, Edward Murrow reported the grit and hardness of scenes in Europe as Germany destroyed the social fabric. Many of us likely recall the scenes from the television show The Waltons, sitting around the living room radio hearing about Hitler’s military might and the rise of Nazism. Their dread and powerlessness were best registered on the face of Grandma. But that same sense of over-powering emotions has come through the radio over the past six months as Lindsley gives his accounts of Russian aggression in Ukraine.

Listening to Edward Murrow’s recordings at least 25 years after they were reported from Europe while enjoying my larger bedroom back home after my brother left home, further confirmed why radio enthralled me. Now many a weekday morning as I listen to Lindsley from Ukraine on WGN I find that same intimacy with the medium to be again as strong as I know it was for the listeners around the world who heard Murrow from London.

Journalists and reporters are the reason our democracy thrives.  That has long been a point made on this blog. But their professional role in providing a world with news and facts on a daily basis, as Lindsley does, requires we honor and salute their intrepid efforts.

Julaine Appling Carps On Madison LGBTQ+ Church Event, TV News Erred Using Her Reaction

UPDATED with reaction from WKOW-27.

Thursday night WKOW-TV reported in their late news broadcast how the faith community united for a focused message of inclusion for the LGBTQ+ community.  It was a remarkable and truly uplifting event where 22 different faith organizations gathered for an interfaith assembly.

The need for bridge-building by various faiths along with their places of worship is due to the long history of bigotry against the gay community. The denial of basic humanity from many religious organizations has caused much harm to families and communities. As a result, it comes as no surprise that many people in the LGBTQ+ community feel estranged from houses of worship along with finding it difficult to locate friendly faith options in their community.

So, taking concrete steps to help remedy that longtime problem an assembly of faiths hosted an event at the First Baptist Church of Madison.  The optics were most wonderful for a television news crew to capture the mood and tone of the interfaith pride event.

But then 27 news reporter Grace Ulch included Julaine Appling, President of Wisconsin Family Action, into the segment. The reporter noted that Appling “says this event veers from thousands of years of tradition”. The lobbyist stated that the faiths involved in the gathering “are not faithful to the teaching of the word of God”.  Well, that certainly underscores precisely what the church event was aiming at overcoming.  Was Appling making the case for the interfaith gathering, or trying to score one more quip for her side?

While getting contrasting views can certainly make a news story more insightful, using Appling, the source of too many years of hard-edged comments against gay people, was just not good journalism. It looked like a reporter was seeking the usual low-hanging-ever-ready-to-talk-in-front-of-a microphone possibility for this news story. Would it not have been more germane to the report to speak with a minister who feels compelled to hold onto more fundamentalist views? Or seek out a UW professor of religion about how institutions of faith adapt to changing times in society? 

I certainly understand news reporting deadlines and packaging a segment for air that has more than one perspective.  But placing the usual scold in the report looked like the ‘rolodex’ of contacts for news stories at Channel 27 needs updating.  Appling again proved she has never turned down a chance before a microphone to be dismissive of gay people or that being mean-spirited, for the sake of such, is still her card of choice to play. News operations have an obligation to report the news and then add useful perspectives to better inform viewers, listeners, and readers.  That was not fully achieved with the report on the interfaith pride event.

I reached out to the news director of Channel 27, Dani Maxwell, and expressed my concerns. She responded with brevity, but as I had hoped understood the issue that needs addressing. “Hi Gregory, I agree and have already addressed that with Grace. Thank you.”

Chicago Sun-Times Reporter Lynn Sweet At Highland Park, “Worst Mass Attack In Recent Illinois History”

When it comes to news reporting from the Windy City along with political insight few come better than Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun-Times. To say I have respected this reporter for decades would be an understatement. When it comes to solid writing and a tenaciousness for getting information Sweet is the type of journalist who always gets praised on this blog.

While I enjoy newspapers between my fingers after they land on my front stoop the decades-long appreciation I have for the Sun-Times makes it the only digital paper to be read daily at our home.

So very early this morning—or very late last night–I read a most impressive article by Sweet, who was at the Highland Park parade when hell opened up. One that I will post below in its entirety, something I seldom do. But given a paywall and the power of her words, I take this exception and simply ask that you read the following.

You know why I’m writing this.

I was at the Highland Park Fourth of July parade.

Not as the Sun-Times Washington bureau chief. As a civilian. I’m staying with my sister over this holiday. She lives in Highland Park, which is approximately 25 miles north of Chicago’s downtown. More than 30,000 people live there.

I just wanted to go to this parade and enjoy the day. Hang out with friends. Maybe after the parade, go to one of the stunning Lake Michigan beaches that hug this North Shore suburb. Or maybe have a swim at the Highland Park pool, next to the fire station. That fire station transformed into an emergency operations center after the unimaginable — is this a cliché? — happened.

In a matter of seconds, a sniper — using a high-powered, rapid-fire weapon — slaughtered six people and wounded dozens of others as the parade made its way down Central Avenue in downtown Highland Park.

The parade started about 10 a.m. I’m at the start of the route.

Leading off the parade were fire engines from Highland Park, sirens blaring in a good way — before the world changed in this suburban city at 10:14 a.m., when the sniper started shooting from a rooftop.

There was a color guard — four sailors, two with rifles on their shoulders. Soon after that, the Highland Park City Council marched, led by Mayor Nancy Rotering — who a few minutes after she passed me would be dealing with a massacre on what was supposed to be a day of celebration.

The blue-shirted members of the Highland Park High School band stepped off playing “It’s a Grand Old Flag.” Then the marchers from the League of Women Voters from Highland Park and Highwood.

It was all so delightfully normal.

Then it wasn’t.

I was watching and listening to the Maxwell Street Klezmer Band perform on top of a flatbed truck when I saw people running away from Central Avenue. “A shooter,” someone said. I saw terrified people run into an underground garage, looking for safety from the bullets.

As people were fleeing the scene, I hustled toward it. Please don’t make a big deal that I did it. I’m a reporter.

I saw, frozen in time, what people left when they fled. So many baby carriages. Folding chairs. Backpacks. Water bottles. Towels. Blankets. Police were asking people to leave the active shooting scene.

As I approached Port Clinton Square, by the reviewing stand, I saw a woman down. I don’t know if she was dead or alive. Two people were leaning over her. I saw another woman on the ground.

Then, near a bench in the square, I came upon a pool of blood, ruby red blood. There was so much blood, that the blood puddle was lumpy because so much already coagulated. The shape of the blood — was this a twisted Rorschach test? — looked like a handgun to me.

I’m going into this gruesome detail because this is what gun violence from a rapid-fire weapon with an apparent high capacity magazine looks like. My sister, Neesa, on Central near the railroad tracks, heard two sequences of rapid fire. The pause is likely when the shooter switched out magazines.

I saw my first body of the day. A blanket covered the top of the man. His shorts were soaked with blood. His legs were bloody and blood was still flowing out of him. Two more bodies were on the steps leading into Port Clinton. Thankfully, someone threw blankets over their torsos.

We know that a “person of interest” has been apprehended. He’s local, 22 years old, grew up here. We all wonder about his motive.

As I’m writing this, a friend just sent me a note from his rabbi about a member of North Shore Congregation Israel who was murdered Monday.

Both President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris spoke about the horror in Highland Park. Harris will be in Chicago on Tuesday and it’s likely she will further address gun violence. Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Sen. Tammy Duckworth, with Rotering and many law enforcement officials, gave a press briefing from that firehouse — the one next to the city’s pool, where we were supposed to be celebrating our nation’s independence.

The Highland Park mass shooting is getting global attention, as it should: It’s the worst mass attack in recent Illinois history.

As we mourn the Highland Park victims, let’s not forget the chronic loss of life in Chicago happening almost every day from gun violence.

On Chicago’s South and West sides, nine people were killed and at least 52 others were wounded by gunfire in Chicago as of Monday evening on this Fourth of July weekend.

In May, the massacres in Buffalo and Uvalde were added to the tragically growing list of mass shootings in the U.S.

And now Highland Park.

I’ve been reporting on gun massacres for years — since the 1999 Columbine school shootings. But always from a distance. I wasn’t there when the killing happened.

Until this July Fourth.

When I was.

###

Newspaper Front Pages: Ideological Blow From Supreme Court Against Roe v. Wade

Friday a majority of the males on the United States Supreme Court stepped away from the law and squarely mired themselves into their political, cultural, and religious beliefs as they dealt a blow not only to abortion rights in the nation, but also to the longheld understanding regarding the importance of precedence guiding our judicial system.

This morning I gathered up a wide cross-section of front pages of newspapers from this nation, including Hawaii, to underscore the seismic consequence of placing ideologues on the high court. As can be seen on the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle the lead heading also noted the sinister concurring opinion of Justice Clarence Thomas as he threatened both sales of contraceptives in the nation, along with the right to gay marriage.

It is also worth noting that Republican Maine Senator Susan Collins is the only elected official that I can find (from about 100 papers) being placed on the front page (Portland Press Herald) for her spineless behavior during confirmation hearings for justices to the Court.

The nation has been offered too many examples of Collins’ glibness and silliness as she prattles on about being duped by others. I know she was unsettled Friday by the court ruling, was dismayed this morning, and surely will be distressed by cocktail hour. Once again we are reminded of how delusional she continues to be about her senatorial duties.

This is the same conservative senator who actually said after the first impeachment process of Donald Trump that “I believe that the president has learned from this case”. There is no way someone like that should not have a guardian.

Now, here is a wide selection of how the nation is reading of the assault on abortion rights in the United States.

One-Time Assistant To Sen. Bill Proxmire, Columnist Mark Shields Dead At 85

There was no way not to love the look of Mark Shields, who seemed to have arrived for a television appearance donning his coat and finishing with his tie just as the camera eye blinked for the show to start. He looked very much the part of a newspaper columnist who had too many thoughts rushing about in his head to be concerned if his attire was perfectly adjusted.

When he started to opine on the issues of the day in politics, or the personalities that made for the latest headlines, whatever rumpled look he might have brought to the set was forgotten as his perspective and institutional memory held the audience at attention.

With that being said it is clear how I felt about Mark Shields who died at the age of 85 this weekend. I thought him not only a bright writer and commentator on our times but also fitting that image of an intrepid newspaper columnist and witty conversationalist who would be a perfect dinner guest.

His columns were a must-read for the way he blended current themes within the larger context of how our nation could be and should be. His political views were sharp and clear-eyed. He had, after all, worked in the political cauldron to see the process of politics up close.

His first job in the world of politics was in the office of Wisconsin Senator Bill Proxmire, where he had a desk as a legislative assistant. He branched out as a consultant for the Robert Kennedy presidential campaign, and later among other contenders for a variety of offices.

What he was not able to do with success as a political operative he made up for with a pithy knack for writing columns with verve and style and analyzing politics on television shows such as PBS’ NewsHour.

As we know with each turn Shields knew humor was the best way to connect facts with persuasion concerning the events under discussion.

Of President Donald J. Trump, Mr. Shields said dismissively that “the toughest thing he’s ever done was to ask Republicans to vote for a tax cut.” The House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy was “an invertebrate”; Senator Lindsey Graham made Tonto, the Lone Ranger’s loyal sidekick, “look like an independent spirit.” In both major parties, he said, too many are afflicted with “the Rolex gene” — making them money-hungry caterers to the wealthy.

Asked in a 2013 C-SPAN interview which presidents he admired, he cited Gerald R. Ford, a Republican who took office in 1974 in the wake of the Watergate scandal. Ford, he said, was “the most emotionally healthy.”

“Not that the others were basket cases,” he said, but “they get that bug, and as the late and very great Mo Udall, who sought that office, once put it, the only known cure for the presidential virus is embalming fluid.”

With the passing of Shields, we have lost not only someone who was bright and talented but also a link to the times when those in government actually wanted to make the trains run on time. A time when, though politics was frothy, it was not all cut and burn and curse your opponents with every term imaginable.

I know people from all points on the political compass feel a loss this weekend. But we also know it was a joy to have had him being part of our political culture.

Godspeed, Mark.

Why Journalism And Anonymous Sources Matter, Supreme Court’s Draft On Roe V. Wade Makes Point

We are told by some partisans that news sources are to be distrusted, reporters are not integral to democracy, and that there are even ‘alternative facts’.

Late Monday evening, all those lines fell faster than Russians on the Ukraine battlefield.

It was reported by Politico the Supreme Court has voted to strike down the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, according to an initial draft majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito.

The ramifications of this story are enormous. Not only for health care rights for women, but also for privacy being understood, for decades, as an unenumerated right. Privacy has been a foundation for several large court decisions from the right to use contraception, to engage in private consensual sexual activity, and to marry someone of the same sex.

Make no mistake about how the legal weight of this abortion ruling could move the court going forward.

While all these issues and many more will be debated at length starting with Tuesday morning coffee in homes around the nation, I wish to give credit to the journalism profession, and specifically two reporters.

Josh Gerstein and Alexander Ward.

We all should be proud of how they did their job with this story.

It needs to be noted that these journalists not only reported the story but also gave the full rounded coverage by writing that “it’s unclear if there have been subsequent changes to the draft” since February. They were not aiming for going beyond the fact the draft is a product from February.

They also fully grasped the gravity of the story surely being one of the newsroom’s biggest scoops and surely the biggest headline of their lives. They wrote that “No draft decision in the modern history of the court has been disclosed publicly while a case was still pending.”

The news about the court draft was able to be reported by the reporters due to the role of an anonymous source. It is these sources who are vital to a fuller understanding of what our government does and journalists are doing their job by then reporting on the information once it is firmly understood to have validity.

I understand that most people are not sitting around their living rooms contemplating anonymous sources. I can imagine how conservative media will be apoplectic today and feverishly disdainful of this news story, and how it was obtained.

To those who do not understand the role of anonymous sources, I have one name to add to this post.

Mark Felt.

It is absolutely true to say that had Felt not been an anonymous source there very well would not have been a Watergate story as we have come to know. It was “Deep Throat’ who alerted Bob Woodward in those parking garage conversations that presidential abuse was running rampant in the Nixon White House.

The pursuit of news, facts…the truth… is what reporters do. And anonymous sources are very much a way to allow the public to know what their government is doing.

And so it goes.

Sean Hannity, Fox News, Tarnishes Actual Reporters And News Operations

I was not surprised by the news that landed this morning concerning Sean Hannity and Fox News, but it was dismaying. While the politics of the story is concerning in relation to the 2020 election, the underlying theme of a major news operation linked at the hip with the Republican Party is most worthy of more public attention.

The central story concerns CNN obtaining 2,319 text messages that Donald Trump’s White House chief of staff Mark Meadows sent and received between Election Day 2020 and President Joe Biden’s  January 20, 2021, inauguration. Meadows selectively provided these messages to the House select committee investigating the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol.

Among the trove of texts are more than 80 from Fox’s Sean Hannity.

Hannity spews and hates in equal measure in the text messages, which is his true character, as we know from his on-air broadcasts to these now-public texts. He writes that “Biden is a semi conscious corpse”, uses Michael Corleone as a reference point, and clearly demonstrates how he is as much a partisan huckster as a blow-haired bloviator during his evening program.

“Also if this doesn’t end the way we want, you me and Jay are doing 3 things together. 1- Directing legal strategies vs Biden 2- NC Real estate 3- Other business I talked to Rudy.”

The fact that Hannity both blatantly gives advice on White House politics and strategy and asks for direction and guidance so clearly obliterates the lines between Fox News, his show, and the Trump White House that it leaves a citizen almost breathless.

The sole purpose of Fox News is not in doubt. News has always been an alleged function of the network. It is an active echo chamber in the media for all things Republican and conservative. The undermining of facts and any sense of journalistic responsibility for the presentation of actual news and holding to journalism standards is the last concern of Fox News. It is also about their partisan interests.

Which then undermines the rest of the news world which does strive to do the job of journalism.

History-minded readers might recall the name Philip Freneau. When Thomas Jefferson became so piqued with Alexander Hamilton and the Federalists he turned to Freneau to form a newspaper that would publish views of the opposition. The National Gazette was not unlike most of the papers of the time—and there were scores of them–in that the content was abrasive and politically toxic.

So the idea of amassing resources and creating a ‘news source’ has long been a feature of our nation. But over the centuries the standards for journalism have evolved, and we better understand the vital necessity in a democracy created of an informed electorate. Fox News has turned back the calendar to the days of Freneau. And that does not serve the best interests of the nation.

While Hannity is–well, what he is–it does need noting that there must be an ethical aspect to the role he plays at Fox News. While no one would term him a journalist, he still has an ethical obligation to not participate in the issues he rants about. Even Hannity should be able to understand that point.

Admittedly, I come from the ‘old school’ where it was not acceptable or professional for a news organization, or any of their faces or voices as the case may be, to actively engage with the newsmakers and especially with politicos to alter the page of history that is being written. Such behavior would be blatantly unethical. (This very reason is why Chris Cuomo needed to be jettisoned from CNN.)

Such behavior from Hannity and others of his stripe has sadly added to the public mistrust and lack of regard for the actual news reporters and ethically bound journalists who do strive to maintain standards. The latter are the majority among the media, but of course, it is the ones who break the bonds of trust with the public who gets the headlines.

And so it goes.