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September 21, 2014 / 26 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘60 Minutes’

Summer Reading

Wednesday, July 11th, 2007

Last year the Monitor proffered readers a list of books for summer reading that was, it must be said, several intellectual notches above the usual beach-and-bungalow fare. The theme of that list was U.S. presidents. This year’s theme, naturally, is especially close to the Monitor’s heart – the news media.

The Paper: The Life and Death of the New York Herald Tribune (Alfred A. Knopf, 1986) by Richard Kluger: Massive, award-winning book tells the story of the newspaper that for decades ranked right up there with The New York Times in the scope of its news coverage – and was widely acknowledged to have been a better-written, livelier read than the Times.

Media Circus: The Trouble With America’s Newspapers (Times Books, 1993) by Howard Kurtz: An anecdote-filled look at a troubled industry by the Washington Post’s ubiquitous media critic. Kurtz focuses on a number of problems that have been eating away at the credibility and economic viability of the nation’s daily newspapers, from the incessant focus on sleaze and scandal to the ultimately destructive demands of labor unions. Written before the Internet revolution, the book is somewhat dated but worth reading nonetheless.

A Good Life: Newspapering and Other Adventures (Simon & Schuster, 1995) by Ben Bradlee: Top-notch autobiography and insider’s view of Washington from the former executive editor of the Washington Post. Bradlee’s most revealing admission is that had it not been for the press (himself prominently included) covering up John Kennedy’s personal and political sordidness, Kennedy probably would have been impeached or forced to resign the presidency.

The Great American Newspaper: The Rise and Fall of the Village Voice (Scribner, 1978) by Kevin McAuliffe: Whatever one thinks of the Village Voice’s politics, there’s no denying the important place the weekly holds in the history of 20th century American journalism. This crisp account covers the Voice from its founding in the 1950’s to the beginning of its slow, steady (and still ongoing) decline in the mid-70’s.

Read All About It! The Collected Adventures of a Maverick Reporter (Summit Books, 1982) by Sidney Zion: More than a collection of essays and columns, the first part of the book is a hard-boiled memoir of the newspaper business in the 1960’s and 70’s, when Zion worked as a reporter in New York for the Post and the Times. The story of Zion’s role in the Pentagon Papers controversy – and the shabby treatment he experienced at the hands of A.M. Rosenthal and other Times executives – is worthy of a book in itself.

Theirs Was the Kingdom: Lila and Dewitt Wallace and the Story of the Reader’s Digest (W.W. Norton, 1993) by John Heidenry: With its blend of political conservatism, non-denominational religious inspiration, down-home humor and old-fashioned patriotism, Reader’s Digest was long scorned by the literary and academic establishments but loved by millions of readers around the world. This finely written yet exhaustively detailed account traces the Digest’s fortunes and tells the not always flattering truth about the people behind the publication.

Feeding Frenzy: How Attack Journalism Has Transformed American Politics (Free Press, 1991) by Larry Sabato: Examines all the major (and some not so major) political scandals of the seventies and eighties and how they were covered by the news media. Sabato, a professor of government, interviewed more than 200 reporters and politicians in the course of his research.

Hot Air: All Talk, All the Time (Times Books, 1996) by Howard Kurtz: One of the surprisingly few good books to trace the growth of talk radio and TV shoutfests – and the best of the lot. Kurtz zeroes in on such phenomena as “The McLaughlin Group,” Phil Donahue and his ever-shriller television progeny, radio shock jocks, and household names like Larry King, Rush Limbaugh and Ted Koppel.

Three Blind Mice: How the TV Networks Lost Their Way (Random House, 1991) by Ken Auletta: The 1980’s were a time of turmoil for CBS, NBC and ABC, what with corporate takeovers, the rise of cable and the revolutionary impact on the nation’s viewing habits of a little contraption called the VCR. Auletta’s detailed recounting of those years makes this arguably one of the two or three most important books ever written about television.

The Powers That Be (Knopf, 1979) by David Halberstam: Twenty-eight years after publication, this still ranks as one of the best all-around histories of the American news media. Halberstam, whose writing style could be leaden at times – especially in a book exceeding 700 pages – compensates with an abundance of interesting anecdotes and insightful observations.

The House That Roone Built: The Inside Story of ABC News (Little Brown, 1994) by Marc Gunther: For decades ABC was an industry joke, a distant third to CBS and NBC in both prime-time programming and news coverage. Then the late Roone Arledge, who’d already made ABC into a sports powerhouse, took over the news operation in 1977 and took it to the top. A lively and insightful telling of that transformation.

Mike Wallace: A Ham-And-Cheese On Yom Kippur Kind Of Jew

Wednesday, August 21st, 2002
This week the Monitor concludes its extended look at the anti-Israel proclivities of “60 Minutes” stalwart Mike Wallace. As we’ve noted in our earlier installments, Wallace has always displayed a palpable ambivalence – some would say that’s too charitable a word – when dealing with Jewish issues, never more so than when he downplayed the plight of Soviet Jewry in the 1980′s and Syrian Jewry in the 1970′s.(By the way, the contretemps over Wallace’s reporting from Syria yielded a wonderful anecdote thanks to a delicious little dig delivered to Wallace’s boss, Don Hewitt, by Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg, who served in the mid-70′s as president of the American Jewish Congress.

(Hertzberg and several other AJC officials, incensed at Wallace and “60 Minutes” for what they considered an out-and- out whitewash of Syrian anti-Semitism, paid a visit to Hewitt’s office. As they were being introduced, Hertzberg dryly remarked, “Hewitt? Hewitt? I imagine there’s a Horowitz under there somewhere.”

(Hewitt was taken aback, and Wallace later expressed his dismay at Hertzberg’s unexpected temerity, but Hertzberg was on to something: Hewitt’s paternal grandfather had indeed changed the family name, from Hurwitz to Hewitt, in the early 1900′s.)

We’ve already seen how Wallace’s tough-guy persona melts away in the presence of murderous thugs like Syria’s Hafez Assad and the PLO’s Yasir Arafat. But there was one more Arab dictator who could make Wallace swoon like a silly little schoolgirl.

Writing in his memoir Close Encounters of a 1978 interview with Anwar Sadat, Wallace gushed that he “had become an unabashed admirer of” the Egyptian president. “I respected him as a statesman, a leader of his people, and in my personal dealings with him (and this was our third interview in less than a year), he came across as an honest and sensitive man who was endowed with considerable charm and a fine sense of humor.”

Now, Sadat may have been a tad more cultivated than your run-of-the-mill Third World despot, but a despot he was - a dictatorial ruler who did not hesitate to arrest and jail his political opponents, a one-man junta who never won an honestly contested election in his life. Slap Sadat into a Chilean army uniform and call him Pinochet, and you can bet Wallace would view him with nothing but distaste and condescension. But Sadat was a strongman of the Arab variety, in whose presence Wallace’s spine and kneecaps couldn’t help but turn to guava jelly.

One last thing about Wallace. The Washington Post’s Lloyd Grove reported last September that Wallace was spotted ordering a ham sandwich on Yom Kippur at a popular Capitol Hill restaurant. When Grove asked him about it, Wallace nonchalantly confirmed that, yes, “I had a cheddar and ham sandwich.”

Pressed further by Grove, Wallace turned smarmy: “I am a Reform Jew,” he said. “The best thing I can do is serve my master.”

Ordinarily the Monitor wouldn’t bother with the level of religious observance on the part of journalists, but Wallace seems to have this curious need to publicly flaunt his disregard of Yom Kippur. Let’s turn back to Wallace’s memoir Close Encounters, where he recounts a September 1967 meeting with Leonard Garment, a close associate of Richard Nixon, who was then just beginning to put together his ultimately successful 1968 presidential campaign.

“Perhaps,” wrote Wallace, “I should mention that it was not just any day in September but Yom Kippur, and although both Len Garment and I are Jewish, it did not deter us from breaking forbidden bread together while our more pious brethren observed the traditional rites of prayer and fasting.”

The more things change, the more they remain the same. Any further questions?

Next Week: The Monitor’s “Friends” List - reporters and columnists who refuse to be swayed by Palestinian propaganda.

Jason Maoz can be reached at jmaoz@jewishpress.com  

Mike Wallace’s Fateful Encounter

Wednesday, August 7th, 2002
As the Monitor reported last month, veteran “60 Minutes” hatchet man Mike Wallace has, after a brief respite, resumed his familiar role as one of the media’s most consistent Jewish critics of Israel. During a number of interviews in recent months Wallace seemed to go out of his way to inject an anti-Israel or pro-Palestinian perspective into the conversation, most notably during a May 22 chat with Stephen Hess of the Brookings Institution.Several weeks prior to his participation in the Brookings forum, Wallace appeared on “Larry King Live” and expressed his admiration for a certain Palestinian terror chieftain. He also confessed to having had his perceptions about the Middle East permanently altered many years back through an encounter with another Palestinian he came to admire.

Wallace: ….I became a self-hating Jews to the Israelis for a while.

King: Self-hating Jew, yes. I know you have known Arafat for 25 years. What do you make of him…?

Wallace: You know something, Larry, I came to – I came to admire Arafat beginning back in 1977 in Egypt and then in Lebanon on a couple of occasions, and then went to Tunis with him and then even to Gaza. As far as – and then finally Ramallah, I guess, a month or six weeks ago. He has made mistakes along the way as all of us do….

A little later in the interview, Wallace made the following rather startling confession when King asked him whether it’s tough for a Jewish reporter to be objective about Israel.

Wallace: It shouldn’t be if you’re a professional reporter…. I was fortunate enough as a young, much younger reporter back in the 50′s, I met a man by the name of Fayez Sayegh who was a Palestinian, and he was really a Palestinian to his roots, and he helped to let the scales fall from my eyes about the relationship between Palestinians and Israelis, between Arabs and Jews. And you take on quite a chore when you go against your own religion, go against what you learn, what I learned from my folks growing up, but if you are a professional reporter, you do it [italics added].

Wallace provided a little more detail about this Palestinian who “helped to let the scales from my eyes” in his 1984 memoir “Close Encounters.” The book was co-written with Gary Paul Gates and its chapters alternated between Wallace’s first-person reminiscences and Gates’s third-person narrative. Here’s Gates on the evolution of Wallace’s thinking and the lasting influence Sayegh was to have on it:

“As a Jew growing up in America, [Wallace] had been taught to believe that the gospel according to Israel was almost as sacred as the Torah itself. Yet the more deeply he delved into the savage desert politics of the Middle East, the more he came to recognize that the Israeli view of the region’s past, present and future was not the only defensible position.

“This shift to a more balanced perception of Israel’s historic dispute with its Arab neighbors was gradual and evolved over many years. In the course of that time, Wallace made a dozen or so trips to the Middle East, where he interviewed almost every major leader…. But no interview on the subject had was more important, in terms of its effect on Wallace’s own thinking, than one he conducted in New York back in 1957. For that was his first serious encounter with a spokesman for the Palestinian cause and it left an enduring impression on him.

“The individual who impressed him so greatly was an Arab scholar named Fayez Sayegh whom Wallace had first met when he was a guest on [Wallace's program] ‘Night Beat’ ….Wallace was so impressed and stimulated by Sayegh that he invited him home to dinner the following week, a social courtesy he seldom extended to guests on the program. The two men talked for several hours that night, first over dinner, then over coffee; or to be more accurate, Wallace listened as Sayegh elaborated on the tragic dilemma of the Middle East from a Palestinian point of view.”

We’ll have more on Wallace, his Jewishness and his views on the Middle East next week. In the meantime, keep those e-mails, faxes and letters coming with nominations for the Monitor’s “Friends List,” which will appear at the end of the month.

Jason Maoz can be reached at jmaoz@jewishpress.com

Reading The Mail

Wednesday, January 16th, 2002

Readers might find the following items from the Monitor’s mailbag to be of some interest. (The Monitor responds privately to all e-mails and letters, but every now and then selects a few for public viewing.)

Rick Hershkowitz of Philadelphia, who describes himself as “a faithful reader of the Monitor thanks to the Jewish Press website, writes: “Now that it’s been a few months since Deborah Sontag was replaced as the Jerusalem bureau chief for the New York Times, we can see even more clearly in retrospect how biased and unprofessional she was. I’m not saying James Bennett or Clyde Haberman are perfect, but their reporting is far and away more balanced.

“With Sontag you always felt you were reading the Palestinian Authority’s authorized version of events; now at least you don’t detect the same anti-Israel animus in the Times’s Middle East coverage.”

Speaking of the Times, Chaim Blitz of Jerusalem can hardly contain his new found appreciation for Times foreign affairs columnist Thomas Friedman. “While he’s still opposed to the Israeli government’s settlements policy – to the point that he regularly takes gratuitous shots at settlers and settlements – Friedman has been writing with a much more realistic and even pro-Israel bent than his just-retired colleague Anthony Lewis and the Times’s anonymous editorial writers,” Blitz enthuses.

“The intifada started by Arafat in Sept. 2000, and then the catastrophic terror attacks on America a year later, seem to have immeasurably sobered Friedman, who seems to recognize – probably for the first time in his life – that it’s not any single Israeli action or policy that alienates the Arabs. Friedman obviously now sees that it’s the very existence of the state of Israel that drives the Arabs wild with murderous hatred and fanaticism.”

Lillian Unger of Toronto alerted the Monitor to an op-ed piece by Alan Dershowitz that appeared in the Dec. 15 edition of Canada’s National Post. “That despicable publicity seeker is at it again,” complains Ms. Unger.

“The gist of his lengthy piece is that the recently-released tape of a gloating Osama bin Laden is not at all to be taken as evidence of his guilt. According to Dershowitz, ‘There is nothing on the tape that reveals bin Laden possessed information only a person guilty of planning this horrible crime would possess. In other words, the truth of the incriminating statements made on the tape is not self-proving: It relies on believing bin Laden is telling the truth.’

“Dershowitz goes on to argue that because ‘bin Laden is almost certainly a liar and he may have had a corrupt motive to lie about at least some of his claims,’ it would be difficult to prove in a court of law that bin Laden is being truthful on the tape.

“If that isn’t typical lawyerly obfuscation, I don’t know what is. Sounds to me like Dershowitz is auditioning for some future court case. Perhaps he’s salivating over the prospect of adding Mr. bin Laden to his list of such illustrious clients as Leona Helmsley, Claus von Bulow and O.J. Simpson.”

Finally, Saul Grossman of Flushing takes umbrage over a remark made by a very unfunny man who gets paid a fortune to be funny – or at least amusing – by CBS. “Andy Rooney made a statement on 60 Minutes tonight (Dec. 16) that the Old Testament is similar to the Koran in that nonbelievers of the true religion (Judaism and Islam, respectively) are destined to burn in hell,” writes Mr. Grossman.

“Rooney gave no reference to any chapter or verse in the Old Testament. Was this his way of saying to Moslems and Jews, a plague on both your houses?”

Frankly, the Monitor has a problem taking Rooney seriously, even given the huge audience of viewers pulled in by 60 Minutes. This is a guy who last said something meaningful way back when Jimmy Carter was president. He’s usually harmlessly shallow, as when he examines the contents of his desk drawers or muses about the glue on the back of postage stamps. When he tries something more meaningful, it’s obvious to all that he’s out of his depth.

Jason Maoz can be reached at jmaoz@jewishpress.com

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/media-monitor/media-monitor-26/2002/01/16/

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