What has happened to the news? As the proliferation of terms like “fake news” and “alternative facts” indicates, we can’t take everything we read at face value. So who can we trust? The seventh episode of Exiles on 12th Street investigates how news media has changed, and how the headlines of today influence the politics of tomorrow. Join the Exiles as we talk to television journalist and co-founder of the PBS Newshour Robert MacNeil; finance and politics writer Helaine Olen; media historian David Greenberg; and award-winning Trump impersonator John Di Domenico. The episode is presented by your host, Claire Potter, co-executive editor of Public Seminar and professor of history at The New School for Social Research.
Here are some links and references mentioned in this podcast:
- Canadian-American journalist Robert MacNeil discusses his journey from aspiring actor to trusted news anchor. Along with Jim Lehrer, MacNeil helped create the MacNeil/Lehrer Report, a nightly news program that reshaped television broadcasting in the United States.
- MacNeil details his time covering the Vietnam War. The war is often referred to as the “first television war,” and since the government imposed no censorship rules on media during this period, networks were free to show footage at their own discretion.
- Part of this episode was taped live during the Society for U.S. Intellectual History’s 2019 annual meeting, held at The New School. The live portion begins with a conversation between David Greenberg and author Helaine Olen.
- Olen is a New York-based writer and a columnist for the Washington Post. Her book Pound Foolish dives into the dark side of the personal finance industry.
- Greenberg is a professor of history as well as a professor of journalism and media studies at Rutgers University. His latest book, Republic of Spin, examines the rise of the White House spin machine and its effects on American democracy.
- Greenberg mentions President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s fireside chats as an example of politics intersecting with new media. The fireside chats were a series of evening radio addresses given by the president designed to explain his policies to the public.
- Claire quotes from journalist Walter Lippmann’s book Liberty and the News, which examines the relationship between the press and democracy.
- Claire also references Chevy Chase’s Saturday Night Live sketch “News for the Hard of Hearing.” You can view a clip of the Chevy Chase sketch here.
- And in the spirit of satire, Claire catches up in person with the President of the United States… Or as close to him as we could get! Award-winning comedian and Trump impersonator John Di Domenico explains how humor can help us understand the news, and reads aloud some of Trump’s tweets.
- The theme song from the 1983 MacNeil/Lehrer Report was provided courtesy of PBS.