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This is the seventh issue that covers the political authors I listened to Saturday, excepting Barack Obama, who will be featured in a subsequent diary.

The last of the “An Evening with” on Richard Ford can be read here.  You can read Installments I An Evening with Frank McCourt, II An Evening with Thomas Cahill, III An Evening with Edward P. Jones, IV An Evening with Arianna Huffington, and V An Evening with Isabel Allende before continuing here, if chronological order is important to you.

Helen Thomas, Myra MacPherson, Amy Goodman, and Paul Robeson, Jr. Represent the print and broadcast media’s independent and liberal traditions from the veteran to the up-and-coming.  Perspective on current events are wide-ranging and these people shared theirs from the podia.

Thomas and McPherson appeared together:  Helen Thomas is an old-school reporter, beholden to no one, admirer of few, and respectful of none.  "People we’re reporting on," she said, "are making history but must be carefully watched.  They’re public property; we pay them."  She says about her book, Watchdogs of Democracy?, “I wrote my book in outrage.  I felt our reporters (I felt she meant the Washington Press Corps to whom she referred over and over again.) became unquestioning handmaidens and water boys (for Bush’s agenda).  When asked how does the press recover its credibility, she replied, “For 57 years I wrote for UPI, so it was ‘just the facts, ma’am.  But personal beliefs did go in.  Now I write an opinion column and I can let it all hang out.”

Helen Thomas is an old-school reporter, beholden to no one, admirer of few, and respectful of none.  "People we’re reporting on," she said, "are making history but must be carefully watched.  They’re public property; we pay them."  She says about her book, Watchdogs of Democracy?.  She said, “The need to manipulate the press has existed forever, like that famous saying, ‘News is what they don’t want you to know.  All the rest is advertising.’” How can one be a good reporter and get behind the lies and resist the manipulation?  “You have to know what the material is about.  One of the problems these days is new journalists don’t have an institutional memory.  And you have to ask tough questions – be a pariah, not an elbow-rubber.  And Izzy always said read the documents.”  Reporters have to have a belief in the First Ammendment, and the whole structure of our country; sometimes that means you have to defend the odious for speaking out.

Both women had plenty of advice for today’s reporters and journalists.  There’s a fine line between reporting and advocacy.  Just the facts ma’am isn’t good enough.  You have to differentiate between faux and real objectivity.  You can’t just quote the source – you have to state if the source lies.  Keep in mind that the presence of opinion is not the problem; the absence of news is the problem.  “None of the presidents were honest,” says Thomas, “I believe in the people’s right to know almost everything.  So many books are being written by reporters about truths that the reporters should have written about a long time ago.”  I thought she was referring to Bob Woodward, but that’s only my opinion

Neither Thomas nor MacPherson have much respect for the blogosphere and they’re dismayed by the likes of Helen Thomas is an old-school reporter, beholden to no one, admirer of few, and respectful of none.  "People we’re reporting on," she said, "are making history but must be carefully watched.  They’re public property; we pay them."  She says about her book, Watchdogs of Democracy??  “She’s an incredible loon who’d just be on the (Hyde Park) corner in England.”

Goodman and Robeson appeared together:  Helen Thomas is an old-school reporter, beholden to no one, admirer of few, and respectful of none.  "People we’re reporting on," she said, "are making history but must be carefully watched.  They’re public property; we pay them."  She says about her book, Watchdogs of Democracy? who ceaselessly drags a facsimile of his son’s coffin around the country in the back of his pick-up truck and who says, ‘If the war’s not on vacation, I’m not either.’  Goodman cannot entertain an idea of objective journalism that leaves humanity out of the human story.

Helen Thomas is an old-school reporter, beholden to no one, admirer of few, and respectful of none.  "People we’re reporting on," she said, "are making history but must be carefully watched.  They’re public property; we pay them."  She says about her book, Watchdogs of Democracy? is the son of the famous opera basso, and is an impassioned advocate of “black” America whose values, he defines as: People are more important than property; Community is more important than the individual; The is only one race, the human race; Religion is faith in Jesus and the belief that every single person is imbued with the divine.  Robeson is a careful parser of terms and spent some time defining the words in the title of his book.  He  restricts his arguments to his vocabulary, classifying “blacks” as those who descended from slave field hands, and who are different from “negroes” wh descended from house slaves and skilled craftsmen.  Black inhabit the ghettos of America, mainly Southern, and make up the vast majority of African-Americans, who Robeson distinguishes as the “middle class” as opposed to the “field class.”  His main point is that blacks, though integrated into mainstream society, are not assimilated to the individual and that the hierarchy in this country is not based on color, but on ethnicity.  

He explored the black view of several specific issues.  Black Americans asked after 9/11, ‘What’s this so-called war on terror?’  A war on fear is nonsense.  Blacks see Bush’s ‘War on Terror’ as an imperial war of occupation.  He argues that in the black American view several coups have taken place in our so-called democracy.  He lists successful coups – Presidents Lincoln and Kennedy’s assassinations; a failed coup – Watergate; Recent coups, successful and unsuccessful – Clarence Thomas’ appointment to the SCOTUS, which transformed it into a right-wing bench and Clinton’s impeachment over trivia, which failed, according to Robeson, because blacks told Lieberman who was going to vote for impeachment that if he did, his career would be over.  He also cited coups by election – 2000/2004 presidential.  What did he take away from the mid-term elections?  “The country wants Center-Left government.  Right now we have a Right government pretending to be Center-Right.  We want to see the ‘left” part of government.”

Originally posted to Limelite on Tue Nov 21, 2006 at 02:45 PM PST.

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