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September 01, 1968 - Image 7

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1968-09-01

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Sunday, September 1, 1968 THE MICHIGAN DAILY

Page Seveh

An

indictment

of oectivity'

By DANIEL OKRENT
JOHN CONYERS was telling'
the delegates about Chicago's
storm troopers, telling about
them in a manner sure to in-
cense those managing the con-
vention. But it was something
crucial that he was telling them,
something that most of the del-
egates either could not compre-
hend or did not even wish to at-
tempt to comprehend.
T applauded Conyers' speech.
The woman seated in front of
me in the Amphitheatre's press
gallery turned slowly in her seat,
glared at me full face, and hiss-
edI " 1resent that."
What do you resent? (said in
earnest).
"This 'clap-clap' thing," she
said, eyeing my sideburns and
surely cognizant of the fact that
I was probably the youngest re-
porter in the Amphitheatre.
"Are you with the press?"
Yes, ma'am (politely).
"What paper do y o u. work
for?"
I told her what paper I work-
ed for, and she reacted as if it
were reflex: "If y o u couldn't
separate your feelings from your
job, you'd never work for me."
FINE. The objectivity of the
press in action. The most dan-
gerous quality present in t h e
American media. The false god
of detachment that is primarily
responsible for the current state
of American newspapers, the
too-often-quoted excuse for poor
journalism.
I cannot swallow it, not at-all.
Hopefully, after what trans-
pired in Chicago last week the
established m e d i a in America
will begin to realize the same
thing. To ask any sane human
being who is functioning as a
reporter not to have his o w n
feelings is to emasculate him.
"Objectivity" serves to force
him to become so detached that
he cannot see what is happening
because he is blinded by t h e
p glare of unreasonable isolation
from people and events.
Why can't a reporter be ask-
ed merely to report things as he
sees them? Of course he should
be fair, he should be honest. But
why can't the reporter be allow-
ed to act his role of a person,
with very real feelings and emo-
tionrs?
In Chicago last week, I think
many, many members of t h e
press began to see some of the
light. All they had to do was
stand there, and for five brutal
nights, in the streets and four
undemocratic days in the Am-
phitheatre, the press was shown
certain realities that it could
not turn its back on.
Just as the hippies became po-
litical after N e w York police

NO REPORTER in Grant
Park could possibly have avoid-
ed the sting of the tear gas or
the crush of a panicked crowd
as it attempted to flee swing-
ing billy clubs. No reporter in
the Amphitheatre who w a s
working on the floor of the con-
vention could have avoided no-
ticing the goons Mayor Daley
had hired to follow the press
around and monitor their words
and actions.
No reporter in Chicago last
week could have avoided being
sickened by the whole damn
mess, the bastardization of
democracy and the disregard of
human rights.
And, ,hopefully, those editors
who were there saw enough to
realize that they really shouldn't
force their repdrters to disre-
gard realities and replace them
with flat, lifeless description.
But for all the hope, there is
still a good chance that the re-
markable honesty and involve-
ment and concern displayed by
the media this week - partic-
ularly by the television networks
'- will be forgotten as soon as
the wounds of pride and body
heal. More than likely, reporters
will go back to being recorders;
they will list events for readers,
but they will not infuse descrip-
tion of these events with the
emotions they may feel.
If it happens, as it probably
will, America will be in for more
of the same mealy-mouthing -
and lack of relevant information
- that it has been plagued by
since the New York Times lifted
the mantle.
If it happens, as it probably
will, reporters with any sense of
justice and humanity will stop
being reporters. It is easy for
some' people to hide behind the
police lines, immune from the
police's actions, and then not
really comprehend what the po-
lice are doing. But it is not easy
if you feel at all for what is
happening in this country.
THAT'S PROBABLY why so
many reporters in Chicago step-
ped out of their normal behavior
patterns. That's why, after the
first few assaults the first few
nights, a good number of report-
ers found themselves facing the
police, not staring at their
backs.
That's why Sander Vanocur
took time on t h e convention
floor to explain to NBC viewers
the harassment he was endur-
ing.
That's why the Los Angeles
Times' Ken Reich decided to file
his convention story in the first
person, describing what he the
individual had seen, not what
he the reporter had seen.
wnt~+a. :A- ,.fl+ 1 u, ci+

to photograph all subversive-
looking people."
That's why many newspapers
are refusing to accept an FBI
investigation of the brutality as
something that will produce
dogma; having J. Edgar Hoover
scrutinize anti-protest action
somehow does not seem valid.
THE PRESS - particularly
the national press, those with
readership and influence - has
responsibilities to the public.
One of these is not to accept
anything as dogma, no matter
what the source. And that'swhy
Hubert Humphrey, thank God,
is going to have such a damn
hard time getting elected.
Of course, there are arguments
that are normally used to refute
any anti-objectivity stand. The
first of 'these - "all it will re-
sult in is the reader not really
understanding what is going on
_ is spurious because any reader
with a brain will quickly be able
to discern the viewpoint of the
writer, and then proceed either
with caution or with eagerness.
I cannot accept William F.
Buckley's reporting without con-
sideration of the author's pre-
conceptions; I'm sure he has a
hard time accepting the New
Republic at its face value. But
I read Buckley and he reads the
New Republic because interested
people want to know what the
other side has to say.
THE SECOND argument --
"telling t h e reader something
colored by your view, and then
asking him to accept it as fact,
is an insult" - is equally unac-
ceptable. Is it insulting a read-
er's intelligence when you tell
hi that "Chicago policeubru-
tall hit many protesters?" Or
are you insulting him more
when you say, "Chicago police
hit many protesters?" And then,
are you not insulting the sen-
sibilities and the bodies of the
protesters themselves?
The next commonly used
argument-"You are upsetting
a tradition that has served
America well"-is the most ri-
diculous. Haven't the Chicago
Tribune and the New York Daily
News been ignoring objectivity
for years? And hasn't the New
York Times, albeitmore subtly,
been doing it as well? When the
Times promiriently displayed on
page one a story about a group
of Columbia alumni who had
called for expulsion of disrup-
tive protesters, then shoved deep
into the insides of the paper a
story concerning another alum-
ni group who was backing the
protests, was that "objective?"
Discarding the objectivity
myth is simply a manner of
honesty. The problem today is
that the right to be falsely ob-

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