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If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought — George Orwell

Archive for March 10th, 2007

“Superb” journalism

Posted by metaphorical on 10 March 2007

“I love Katie. She is a superb journalist,” Kaplan, a former president of CNN and MSNBC and onetime executive producer of ABC’s “World News Tonight” and “Nightline,” said yesterday. “For me, this whole deal is a no-brainer.”

Kaplan is Rick Kaplan, who will be taking over as executive producer of the CBS Evening News, according to the real journalists at The Washington Post.

Kaplan has worked with real journalists before, having been executive producer at ABC for both World News Tonight and Nightline. So you would have thought he knew what one was. His boss, though, CBS News President Sean McManus, may not know at all. And the pressure will be on to produce ratings, not news.

McManus, the CBS Sports president who also took over the news division last year, has repeatedly said it would take a long time for the “Evening News” to climb out of the cellar. But, he said yesterday, “I’m a little less patient in wanting to see some improvement in the ratings.”

Do these guys really see Katie Couric as a journalist? Does she find or figure out stories? Does she do her own reporting? Does she write her own stories? Does she work with editors to get them just right? These are the things that a journalist does.

Turning to the dictionary, it turns out that Kaplan is relying on the butt end of the definition of “journalism.” Random House, for example, says

1. the occupation of reporting, writing, editing, photographing, or broadcasting news or of conducting any news organization as a business.

If we’re not careful to respect the front end of the definition, though, it’ll turn out that everyone working for a journalistic enterprise, even the cleaning crew, are a journalists.

The Post did a good job of getting some reaction shots from people who have worked with Kaplan.

“He’s very inventive, very dynamic, got a million ideas a day, or 10. Three are brilliant, three are terrible, and he needed someone to figure out which are which,” said ABC correspondent Sam Donaldson. “He sometimes goes on rampages — thunders and screams and hollers. He’s a big guy, and he intimidates people. I’ve seen him terrorize people, and later he comes back and apologizes, and he means it.”

Tucker Carlson, an MSNBC host who worked for Kaplan at that network and CNN, said that “he thought big. He is a natural showman. He’s a guy who understands drama. If he wasn’t in television, he’d be a great Broadway producer.”

So there you have it. The guy calling Couric “a superb journalist” should be producing plays on Broadway. Hopefully he, the sports producer, and the perky good-morning “journalist” will work out. Meanwhile, they’re putting together the “show” that, for about 7.5 million of us, constitutes much of their daily picture of the world.

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