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.

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.

Donald Trump Refused To Condemn Putin In Fox News Interview–Ronald Reagan Would Not Recognize Today’s GOP

During a call-in interview on Fox News Wednesday night, Donald Trump would not condemn Vladimir Putin’s actions in Ukraine. Simply disgusting and morally vacuous. This is just the latest example of the fusion between Putin’s backside and Trump’s face.

Sean Hannity simply asked Trump “If the Russian attacks on Ukraine amount to evil in our time?”. What followed was a most tortured, absurd, illogical, and bone-headed response. Take a look at this transcript of the interview if you can bear to do it. It is seriously painful.

“Morning in America,” was the theme of the Republican Party under the leadership of Ronald Reagan. Today conservatives wallow with Trump in their muddy twilight while too many of them have no sense of history, facts, or sadly, even common sense. Proof of that is the lack of Trump’s fellow Republicans who will not respond today because they don’t want to antagonize his angry white male constituency.

But, then, this is also the same party where more sitting GOP congressmen voted not to certify the 2020 election than those who voted for a resolution to support NATO.

On Morning Joe, the panel weighed into Trump’s “grotesque” behavior last night. It is worthy of a listen.

And so it goes.

Gun Madness In America, The Way We Must See It

It was Tuesday in America, so of course, there was going to be gun violence. Like on Monday, Wednesday, and every other day of the week. As such the bizarre behavior from a mentally unstable and angry person who was still able to purchase a deadly gun and plenty of ammo are par for the course. We read and see the outcomes of such shootings every day.

But Tuesday something was different.

What caught my attention was how most of the media brought the information to the public. Newsrooms made the decision to show the true horror of gun violence. Though faces were blurred in pictures the blood ran red and loud for everyone to see. The bodies on the ground were in pain, and the tourniquets were a sign of the medical emergencies at hand. The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal placed the photo below on their front page coverage today of the shooting. (I applaud that newsroom judgment.)

Injured people are seen in the subway station on Tuesday, photo from Armen Armenian

At least 29 people were injured, including ten people shot, when the attacker donning a gas mask deployed a gas canister on a subway train and started shooting. Miraculously no one sustained life-threatening injuries. Today Frank James, 62, the prime suspect in the rampage was arrested.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine, and the dastardly crimes being committed through orders from President Putin’s generals, have placed the most horrific and troubling images on news programming 24/7. So perhaps newsrooms just felt the level of violence that played out in Brooklyn was not so much different from what we have already been seeing over the past weeks.

But I trust there was more to it than an acceptable level of what the public can handle. I trust there was an awareness in newsrooms of being franker about what is actually occurring many times each day when guns are fired at other people in this nation.

This is what it looks like, and the public need to see images like this to allow them a better understanding of the news about gun violence which happens daily.

Injured people on the platform of the 36th Street subway station Tuesday. This photo was taken by photojournalist Derek French.

The graphic images of gun violence through the powerful lens of photo-journalism simply must be used far more often in our nation. To read about shootings is one thing but to see the blood and wincing of faces in pain is another. The consequences of pervasive gun violence should be used in news reporting as it is very much a part of the whole story.

Not for the first time do I use this blog to give voice to the frustration among a wide segment of our nation about the deadly and violent role guns currently have in our society. I deplore the all-too-often frequent glorification in the media of guns, especially through movies. I reject, of course, the twisted narrative about gun ownership being an ‘American value’, or that it is cemented in the Second Amendment. I abhor the NRA.

So it is vital that the real impact of guns get front-page coverage, with the gore and blood from news photos for all to see.

After all, it was Tuesday in America.

And so it goes.

Tribute To Benjamin Hall

When people talk about intrepid reporters, the need for news to be gathered and disseminated to the public, and the risks reporters take to do that job, Benjamin Hall can be said to epitomize the best in journalism.

The Fox News reporter posted on Twitter Thursday his condition following a massive injury while covering the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

To sum it up, I’ve lost half a leg on one side and a foot on the other. One hand is being put together, one eye is no longer working, and my hearing is pretty blown… but all in all I feel pretty damn lucky to be here – and it is the people who got me here who are amazing!

The loss of journalists in Ukraine is truly heart-aching. Hall was wounded in March near Kyiv during an attack that killed Fox News cameraman Pierre Zakrzewski and local freelance producer Oleksandra Kuvshynova.

Too many people mock reporters, news operations, and even work to undermine the concept of a free press in our country. Hall demonstrates, along with Zakrzewski and Kuvshynova, how tenacious and determined reporters do their job, even in the face of dangers and possible death.

When I think about what constitutes heroism…..well, it looks like this.

And so it goes.

Many Wisconsin Newspapers Homogenized, Journalism Suffers

One of the upsides with layovers when flying is stopping at the business in the airport which always sells newspapers and candy. It is of interest to note what lands above the fold in various locales as it gives an insight into what local news operations understand to be pressing news, or what concerns local readers.

But with the downsizing of newspapers and the desire by some owners to place profits above the call for serious journalism and information, there is a truly sad outcome taking place for this profession. And for the readers.

Wisconsin is not immune from the problem.

Take a look at six newspapers from Wednesday, April 6, 2021, published in central and Northeastern portions of Wisconsin. You can click on images to make them bigger, but it does not make them better.

The above newspapers are owned by either USA Today Network or Gannett. That combination owns more than 100 newspaper and digital properties across the United States. If you think the front pages of the newspapers are repetitive you can be assured the same is true for their digital side, too.

What is equally sad is the skeletal OP-Ed pages that have long been a place for community dialogue and strong editorials from the newspaper. When local voices are not given space to opine means that only the ones with a larger platform or microphone are heard.

While investors in the companies that buy up newspapers reap financial rewards the newspaper industry suffers. What constitutes local news and the neighborhood feel and tone of small-market papers shrinks as fewer reporters are employed and too few inches for local news are provided. Cookie-cutter operations, as seen from the examples above, can far too easily spread across a state.

I would strongly argue that such undercutting of newspapers weakens our democracy. Keeping local officials in check with diligent journalism, allowing for the local voters to know what is happening at the school board or county level, and investigating concerns that are at times, not a visual story for television all are reasons we should have robust newspapers.

I would argue that traditional news sources, where facts and standards are applied to the profession, are needed more than ever. Social media, where too many inaccurate and misleading stories abound, requires an antidote. And when it comes to local news there is an absolute need for more coverage and higher standards.

What we are witnessing in too many communities with hollowed-out newspapers is really sad. Is it any wonder there are fewer newspaper readers?

And so it goes.

‘Don’t Say Gay’ Law: Laura Ingraham Sounds Like Frank Shakespeare From 1968 Nixon Campaign

It continually amuses me, on the one hand, how Republicans champion free enterprise, applauds the entrepreneurial spirit, and advocate for fewer regulations on capitalism, but then on the other hand bore down like bullies when a company exerts its opinions.

The latest example of this odd duality can be seen and heard on FOX News regarding Disney and the culture war designed by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to propel his name among the base of the Republican Party.

The issue, is, of course, the Parental Rights in Education law, dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” law. Taking effect July 1, the law prohibits all classroom discussion of sexual orientation in grades K-3 and enables parents to sue teachers over the issue.

Talk about a slap to the gay and transgender population in Flordia in the 21st century.

In response, Robert Iger, the former CEO of Disney, spoke out on the issue and made it most clear that this is simply about “right and wrong.” Earlier he had not minced words when writing that this law would “put vulnerable, young LGBTQ people in jeopardy.”

Fox News, it will not surprise anyone, has claimed Disney is ‘grooming’ and ‘sexualizing children’ in order to push a ‘progressive LGBT agenda.’

Recall many years ago the joke that one received a toaster oven for each new gay recruit! I believe that humor started on the Ellen television show. As such, I can see the semi loads of those kitchen gadgets arriving in the theme park as I write.

The fuming from conservatives, however, reached the lowest depths on that network when there came a warning from Laura Ingraham, the easily irritated scold.

“When Republicans get back into power, Apple and Disney have to understand one thing: Everything will be on the table, your copyright/trademark protection, your special status in certain states, and even your corporate structure itself.”

Well, that sure is a grand definition of the Republican Party heading into the mid-terms. A band of vendetta-crazed legislators who really are not interested in the freedom for businesses to conduct their own affairs, or lower regulations upon them.

‘Do my bidding or else’!

This leads me to the dark example from the 1968 presidential election when Frank Shakespeare, a prime mover and shaper of the image of Richard Nixon, who after 18 years at CBS, had most troubling thoughts, too. From The $elling Of The President by Joe McGinniss, page 60.

McGinniss at the time was a 26-year-old former Philadelphia Inquirer reporter who functioned as part of the Nixon campaign team. What he witnessed in that campaign and the strategy for winning national support was illuminating at the time his book was published.

How Nixon was so able to attract people into his orbit with open desires for abusing power is a topic for another post.

For now, the continuing attempt by the right to make gay people dangerous or somehow apart from morality is stunning, given the number of gay people in conservative families. In 2021 it would be laughable, if it were not so appalling, to know that Desantis and Fox think that children are somehow ‘groomed’ into sexual identity. That is patently absurd.

I know it takes time for everyone in society to operate from the same page. From women wearing pants, no restrictions on where to sit on a bus, or what gender one can marry, one thing is abundantly clear.

Arcing towards greater tolerance is the correct path to be taking.

Disney is correct on that score.

And so it goes.