Clip Job: an excerpt every day from the Voice archives.
August 2, 1973, Vol. XVIII, No. 31
by John Leo
[Somehow I overlooked this: in May, 1973, the Voice began its “Press Clips” column, and its first writer was John Leo. So this isn’t the first of that venerable column, but it’s a very early one. — Tony O.]
SCREAMING HEADLINE on the July 16 Daily News: “Liddy May Talk, McCord Hints,” which would indeed have been a good story, if true. Inside the paper, however, we got a non-story, hyped by the reporter and hyped again by the desk on a dreary news day. All McCord told the News was that since Liddy was seeing his family, and people who see their family often wish to do so again, perhaps he might consider squealing. Ten demerits for all involved.
THE CASE AGAINST TOM OLIPHANT, the Boston Globe reporter indicted on conspiracy charges by the feds in Sioux Falls for riding in a private plane that parachuted supplies into Wounded Knee, has been dropped by the Justice Department on Elliot Richardson’s orders. Oliphant sees several lessons in the case: (1) the government should hire fewer, less stupid informers, (2) if he had waived extradition, with the case proceeding in South Dakota, instead of in Washington, the government might have pursued the case and avoided a lot of publicity, and (3) it’s best to work for a paper that doesn’t try to compromise clubby with the feds, or even turn the case over to its own lawyer. The Globe simply told Oliphant to go out and hire (at the paper’s expense) the best lawyer around. Oliphant picked E. Barrett Prettyman, Jr., who decided not to waive all the technicalities, including extradition from publicity-saturated Washington, and he won.
TEDDY WHITE RIDES AGAIN. From “The Making of the President 1972”: “All in all, the war, the black revolution, the prosperity, were the main incubators of change in the Liberal Idea. Their effect could be summed up in the three cardinal tenets of the Liberal Theology: (a) War is Bad…(b) Black is Good…©…Money Solves All Problems…These three tenets of the theology were, in turn, harnessed to a political doctrine called Participation…(which led to) a formless but very powerful action group within the Democratic Party that can only be called The Movement…”
ONE MEASURE of Sy Hersh’s status at the Times: he has been granted a leave of absence to write a book, which is virtually unheard of at the Times, and therefore resented by all those who applied for one and came up empty.
NEW TIMES, the forthcoming personal-journalism news magazine which is already being trumpeted as a major journal, has a small problem: it may not be able to call itself New Times. An alternate (nee underground) paper in Phoenix had been using the name for three years, and rushed to patent it before the new publication realized what was up. New Times (Arizona edition) bills itself as “one of a dozen or so financially solvent independent alternative newspapers serving big cities with heavy doses of local politics and music coverage.” It has since had the satisfaction of engaging the new New Times in lawyerly discussions. The Arizona paper seems to be enjoying the New York journal’s predicament, and told writer Tom Miller, whose piece on the subject will appear in alternate papers, that a lawyer for the New York group had flown to Phoenix and dangled the possibility of Jimmy Breslin writing for the Arizona paper if it would drop its claim to the title.
IT MAY BE that the most interesting changes come only after you hit rock bottom. The ratings of the local news on Channel 4 have been declining steadily for eight years. Endless shifting of anchormen and management personnel hasn’t worked. Neither has the much-heralded team of Carl Stokes (who is lucklessly unsophisticated about New York in particular and politics in general) and Paul Udell (ditto, but long gone). Now the Nielsen sweeps for May show WNBC-TV News at a 6 rating for its 6 O’Clock News, vs. 12 for Channel 2 and 11 for Channel 7.
NOW THAT NOBODY is watching news on Channel 4, important changes may be coming. The new News Director is Earl Ubell, a survivor of the Herald-Trib, and the last outstanding beat reporter of local tv (medicine, science, and explanations of complicated matters in the news). Ubell is currently installing the first beat system at any local tv news operation. Most channels make do with a political reporter, one on health and medicine (usually the weatherman, moonlighting), maybe a consumer or arts specialist, and that’s it.
THIS MEANS A TV REPORTER, however bright, usually arrives to cover a complicated housing, court, or transportation story knowing little about the subject, without much time to learn. There’s always that crucifixion theft or synagogue defacement in Brooklyn he has to get to in 20 minutes. That’s why Ubell’s beat system may be important. He already has specialists in medicine (Field), politics (Stokes, I’m afraid), City Hall (Prisendorf), space (Hartz), and general flapdoodle (Breslin).
NOW HE IS HOLDING TRY-OUTS — both among the staff and outside it — for specialists in housing, environment, transportation, state government, crime, finance, welfare, and poverty, education, the arts, prisons and courts, finance, welfare and poverty, education, the arts, prisons and courts, consumer affairs, women’s affairs, and minority affairs. Nice going. In addition he is joining a promising trend among tv stations by hiring print-trained investigative reporters for off-camera work.
[Each weekday morning, we post an excerpt from another issue of the Voice, going in order from our oldest archives. Visit our Clip Job archive page to see excerpts back to 1956.]