Sunday, March 8, 2009

Black Tuesday

The recent economic downturn has drawn a lot of comparison to the 1929 depression. Media coverage of this event ranges from bleak experts predicting the financial apocalypse to optimistic politicians telling the public to keep spending and not to worry. This begs the question in the modern mind: If the economic crisis is really as bad as it was in 1929, is the media sugar-coating it? How is media coverage of the 2009 “recession” different from the 1929 “depression?”

In this blog I will analyze two papers on the day of Black Tuesday—the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times—and their economic coverage in relation to the industry at the time. I will then compare this coverage to the general coverage of the recent economic crisis.

October 29, 1929 is the day that many economists will tell you started the public impact of the Great Depression, triggered the week before on "Black Thursday". But, considering its historic significance and incredible influence on the average American, the start of the Great Depression was not a huge, page-wide, story. Why didn’t editors see the inevitable impact of the event? Did they not think that it was newsworthy enough to devote an entire page? In a word, yes. The journalism industry of the 1920’s was a sensational one. The Yellow Press was still at work and editors printed what would sell. There was a bigger push for news with an entertainment value than with an educational one. Looking back on Black Tuesday, a modern American would naturally think that it would be in the headlines to “Get in the Breadlines,” but then, perhaps as now, the media would rather print what would sell rather than what will inform.

The New York Times gave the economy a third of its front page on Black Tuesday. The story shared the page with news on Senate decisions, a Hungarian countess and an obituary—none of which are relevant today. The Times did not bother to explain the crisis to the men that would soon be loosing their jobs. (But, to be fair, they did not write for the everyman.) The story gives a chart of statistics with huge numbers and a jargon-filled caption, reminiscent of the modern news stories. A man with no interest in the stock market would skim right over the numbers to story that he better understood—a story that he thought actually effected him—not knowing that because of those numbers, he would soon be homeless.

The Los Angeles Times gives even less space to the stock market. A political cartoon about the Chief of Police dominates the front page and the eye travels faster to a story about a musician’s union than to the economic depression. (When I first opened the file, I thought I had made a mistake.) And the lead is almost humorous. “An incredible stock market tumbled toward chaos today despite heroic measures adopted by the nations greatest bankers.” (In the modern recession, to think of bankers as heroic is like confusing the Grinch with Superman.) The story goes on to use exciting words and phrases like “Wall Street throbbed with excitement” and “back-to-the-wall battle.” Unlike the New York Times, The Los Angeles Times is making Black Tuesday sound more like a football game than the beginning of the biggest economic crisis the US had ever seen.

How does the Yellow Press-era media coverage of Black Tuesday compare to modern coverage of the recession? The similarities are unavoidable. Will modern Americans soon be waiting the breadline? Can the media do something about it? When the stock market first started to tank last year, it was a news story but not THE news story. No papers devoted a full page to it and no TV news channels devoted full coverage to it. After all, we had a historic presidential election, two wars and gay marriage to write about. Seeing both sides of the issue, I will ask this question to the commenters:

Did the media cover the current recession enough in the early stages?

President Clinton Impeachment Trial and Acquittal

President Bill Clinton was acquitted of the two articles of impeachment that he was charged with. It was a long trail and the general public in the U.S. was annoyed with the President and his un-wise decision making on his part. The decision came down to a vote and Clinton was found not guilty but the 10 republicans and all 45 democrats who voted on his side. This was a huge story at the time and everyone was interested in the outcome because it was our President and when he does something wrong, everyone is watching. There were obviously many stories written by every newspaper in the nation, so I chose two large ones to compare.
The article about the decision ran by the Washington Post sounded like they were happy the thing was over and that it was time to move past the Presidential scandal. The journalist wrote “The impeachment process has been torturous and inefficient, as are so many other democratic processes, such as elections, making laws and convicting criminals. And, maybe, a guilty person has been acquitted. But the basic soundness of our Constitution has been proven once again. No one branch of government holds dominion over another….” The journalist in this article is just happy that the trial is over and doesn’t really care if the right decision was made, although he sounds as if he thinks the voting should have gone the other way. The article goes on to say “President Clinton and congressional Republicans, anxious to "pick up the pieces" after a 13-month constitutional crisis…” so the reporter is ready to be able to move on to different stories and is done with this one.
The New York Times did reporting on this case a little differently than the Post. A reporter for the Times believes that the Senate did what they were supposed to do stating “The Senate's responsibility in this impeachment trial was not to determine whether the President had done something wrong or something that was morally unacceptable.” People may not agree with the President’s moral actions that lead him to the trail in the first place, but the Senate performed their duty and did the right thing.
Both articles did a good job at stating the facts of the case and giving a brief but descriptive view of the entire process of the trials and the outcome. The Post however had little commentary from anyone other than the journalist of the article. The New York Times included comments from some of the Senators who voted, and reported from both viewpoints. The Times also included comments made from President Clinton cabinet and public relations department, as well as an apology from the President himself, something the Post did not include. This was the biggest story in the news at the time of this decision and it could have been easy to write whatever they wanted to write about. But both papers did a good job at staying impartial when writing about one of the biggest scandals of the decade.
Shuttle Challenger Explodes

The space Shuttle Challenger explosion is an important news story for the 20th century and is something people had never experienced in the news before its time. A contemporary example of something like this is the loss of the space shuttle Columbia. At the time news had shifted from being objective during the 1960s to being more critical, however, I fail to see much skepticism of the government agencies involved. The two sources which I used research the Shuttle Challenger explosion where the New York Times and the Houston Chronicle.
In the New York Times the writer cites at least seven different sources on the space shuttle disaster. Almost all of the sources are government related. For example there is information from NASA, the Coast Guard, the Defense Department, and the President, as well as a source close to the New Hampshire teacher Christa McAuliffe. There seems to be little criticism of the government in either article however both make obvious statement that something went terribly wrong and it could be implied that it was the fault of the space agency NASA. For example both articles note that the space agency had delayed the launch for minor damages that occurred earlier. Also, there were the icing problems with some of the equipment early the morning of the launch. Lastly, both papers note problems with some of the fire equipment on board the shuttle. The New York Times article includes a statement from officials saying they do not consider any of the above to be the cause of the accident.
The framing of the story is also similar to contemporary stories. It basically lays out the facts in the order of what the journalist thought were the most important to the least important. There are facts about the explosion, what happened when the shuttle exploded, then facts about the woman who was going to be the first teacher and civilian in space followed by more facts about the shuttle and possible speculation about what may have caused the accident.
It is important to note that the articles on this subject place no blame or responsibility on any agency and none is claimed. It is treated very plainly as a disaster and the type of reporting that was seen in the 1960’s is different from what we see here. If anything I would say that both articles particularly the one from the New York Times is closer to the objective style we see earlier in the 20th century. Perhaps there is more of a balance because this is not a very politically charged story like those seen in the Vietnam War era. Other stories at the time may have been less objective and more critical, and stories that circulated in the weeks following the incident may have contained more judgment on the part of the professional journalist who felt it was there job to comment on the possibility that there were mistakes made.
Saigon Falls to North Vietnamese

The second news story I chose to analyze is the fall of Saigon to the North Vietnamese. In a Time magazine article there fall of Saigon the story is riddled with verbose language and unsupported facts. There is little or no attribution and the writer of the story cites no sources. References are made to Vietnamese officials and Americans however there are few facts aside from a crushed economy that seemed to fluctuate with the instability of the city. Contemporary news stories that compare to this are the stories we receive out of Iraq and Afghanistan every day.
An article written in the Los Angeles Times carried many more sources and cited several different sources within the first few paragraphs. The writer for the Times clearly puts a lot of emphasis on other journalism sources such as Reuters and the Associated Press. In the book Discovering the News they note this change in the style of journalism, which occurred during this period. The citations of United States government sources come farther down in the story because in fact American newsmen stayed on in Vietnam after the soldiers and diplomats had fled, therefore who better to make news judgments.
The Times article also cites a Vietnamese journalist further down in the article. Both articles seem to put some emphasis on style that is by no means objective. It is clear that the have taken on the responsibility to report the news in the way they think best describes the situation or tells the story and there seems to be some kind of slant to it. The amount of credit they give fellow journalist is apparent in the framing of both the Los Angeles Times Story and the Time magazine story. Sources such as Reuters the Associated Press and even Vietnamese journalist come before government sources and carry more weight. At the time there was a switch in what was commonly seen in reporting and this was prevalent.
The slant that the reporter put in the Los Angeles Times story was that, the Americans had not only left but left many political refugees to fend for themselves. The story the Time magazine writers published was one of a Saigon engulfed by utter Chaos and confusion as the result of war. There will undoubtedly be similar stories in the years to come when American troops leave Iraq to rebuild itself in the wake of a long and ineffective stay.

Japan Bombs Pearl Harbor

On December 7, 1941, a Sunday morning, the Japanese navy executed a covert attack on the American naval base Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.  The attack would influence U.S. involvement in World War II as well as President Truman's decision to use nuclear weapons against Japan, more specifically the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.  

One of the earliest press releases of the attack read "Tokyo Bombers Strike Hard At Our Main Bases on Oahu", and was published in the New York Times.  The article is fairly objective, providing a detailed description of the turn of events that morning and through the afternoon.  Also provided was a map of the Naval Base with labeled  areas of casualties and points of attack.   In addition to the briefing were Japanese news reports reading, "[The Japanese news agency, Domei reported that the battleship Oklahoma had been sunk at Pearl Harbor, according to a United press dispatch from Shanghai.]" [1]  

Similar to 9/11 speculations, the article would also write about intelligence that had already predicted the attack, "...United States forces here had known for a week that the attack was coming and they were not caught unprepared."
More information would then go into explaining that it had all happened so suddenly and that after "the shock of the first bomb impacts had been absorbed, Governor Joseph B. Poindexter declared a stated of emergency." [1]

The American consciousness must have indeed been in a state of shock.  Another article would provoke a greater sentiment of anxiety than that of the first - "Tokyo Acts First".  The article begins with a type of public service announcement of declared war by Japan against the United States and Britain.  "Japanese Imperial headquarters announced at 6 A.M. [4 P.M. SUnday, Eastern standard time] that a state of war existed among these nations in the Western Pacific, as of dawn." [2]  The article is brief and and evokes a senses of both hostility and urgency, tonally different than the first.

Through sensitive times of tragedy and war, objective journalism becomes essential in keeping stability in an environment of fear.  A year later, the New York times would write articles describing a strong sense of nationalism and heroism among the survivors and soldiers of Pearl Harbor.  They would affirm a sense of security and pride.  They end an article with reassurance that "the Hawaiian Department is on the offensive against the enemy.  With the seventh Air Force, Hawaii's own, sending its heavy bombardment groups against Japanese positions and shipping as far away as the Solomon Islands."[3]


1/// Tokyo Bombers Strike Hard At Our Main Bases on Oahu by The United Press.  New York Times (1867-Current file); Dec 8, 1941; ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New YOrk Times (1851-2005
2/// TOKYO ACTS FIRST by the Associated Press. New York Times (1857-Current file); Dec 8, 1942; ProQuest HIstorical Newspapers The New York TImes (1851-2005) p.1
3/// EMMONS PREDICTS ACTION New York Times (1857-Current file); Dec 7, 1942; ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851-2005) p.6

Loving v. Virginia,

On June 12, 1967, the Supreme Court ruled that states cannot bar interracial marriage.
The next day The Chicago Defender, an African American News Organization, had two major news headings. The bigger one was “Striking Welfare Workers May Return to their Jobs. “ The smalled headline read “Top Court Strikes Down Mixed Marriage Ban.” On the front cover was a photo of a white man, Richard P. Loving, hugging an African American woman, Mildred Loving. This couple together with the American Civil Liberties Union brought a suit against Virginia to protest a ban on inter-racial marriage.
The story on the front page was a reprint of a letter from the president of the Illinois Bell Telephone Company addressed to the Chicago Defender. It congratulated the paper for it’s anti-violence campaign.
The article was only three paragraphs long. It said that the Supreme Court unanimously declared state laws banning mixed racial marriages as unconstitutional. The second stanza said the ruling struck down miscegenation laws in 16 states because the laws violated -- and here the article quoted the supreme court decision-- “the basic civil rights of man, fundamental to our very existence and survival.“ This quote adds a celebratory tone to the article, but the writer doesn’t openly express his views on the matter. It saddens me that this landmark civil right case got so little attention.

Fortunately, the current controversy over gay marriage is much louder.
The Los Angeles Times had better coverage than the Chicago Defender. It printed a front page story titled Ban on Interracial Marriages Struck Down by 9-0 Decision.
The article spoke about the judgement, it quoted the judges, and profiled the Lovings. The author quoted the judge who ordered the Lovings to leave Virginia. He said the quote epitomized the prevailing views in the South on interracial marriages. The quote said, “Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, Malay and red, and he placed them on separated continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.”
The article had one strange phrase. It said, “Naturally, there was nothing in the opinion that could be taken as lending encouragement to the idea of interracial marriage. What the ruling boiled down to is that it is illegal for Virginia to prohibit Negroes and whites from marrying. “
These two sentences remind me of an article by the New York Times about Brown Vs Board of Education. In that story the New York Times writes was saying well ‘equality’ only means ‘legal equality’. And here they’re saying, well it’s legal, but not necessarily recommended. In both cases I felt like the writers were saying ‘It doesn’t matter that much. It’s not such a big. It’s not going to change anything.’

The O.J. Trial

On June 12, 1994 Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman were murdered. O. J. Simpson, Nicole’s ex-husband, was tried for the murder and acquitted, but it is still a common belief that Simpson committed the double murderer. The murder trail, the longest in California history, was a media event that contained all types of intrigue. The trial gathered attention because the Simpson’s marriage was bi-racial, Simpson was a former star in the National Football League, The defense team hired was all very high profile, there was alleged police misconduct, and the trail was televised daily.

Like the opening of a film The O. J. Simpson trail opened with a car chase before the actual trial began, only the chase was low-speed in a white Bronco, which stood out against the freeway and city streets. The chase aired live and was viewed by over 90 million people. The press not already reporting on the celebrity murder jumped on the story after the car chase, a moment that seemed to be stranger than fiction.

The trial started on January 25, 1995 and aired on Court TV. As the trial played out on television the press acted as translator to the readers who were watching. The average person had not seen the inner workings of the criminal justice system and during the trial California’s court system was being dissected in the news everyday. It was what might now be called a reality television show. There was also the looming question if having the camera in the courtroom changed the dynamic of the courtroom. This brought to the forefront the battle between the First and Sixth amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Does the people’s right to know out way the defendants right to a fair trial. With the trail opening with a recording of Nicole Brown Simpson calling 911 fearing that Simpson would do her great bodily harm, Johnnie Cochran’s inspired quote, “if it doesn’t fit you must have acquit,” and the accusations of dirty cops the trial was very theatrical. When Simpson’s mug shot graced the cover of Time Magazine it was darkened and it seemed as if he had already been tried and convicted by the press before the trial had even gotten underway. This case and others like it create a problem in journalism and the rally cry that criminal cases a being tried by the media has gone up all across the country.

The journalism industry saw an economic boom during 1990s and fierce competition ensued between newspapers, magazines, and networks to hold the top spot in their markets. This battle did not take place through the pursuit of hirer quality journalism or the aggressive pursuit of more exclusive stories. It took place in the office through cost cutting and the idea to “do more with less.” The sensationalist story is one of the types of mediocre journalism that also shows the loosening ethics of the time. The profit growth that was seen during this time became the bottom line. Journalism as a whole suffered a great blow with the as readers lost confidence in journalists across the board. Even though most journalists were just fighting to keep their jobs. Stories like the O.J. Simpson Trial are just byproducts of the corporate take over of journalism spawned by deregulation.

The Obama Inauguration

Barrak Obama is the first black president of the United States and his inauguration on January 20, 2009 marks a milestone in the history of the country and the countries relations with the rest of the world. Coverage of his swearing in ceremony graced the front page of papers around the world. In the United States photos of Obama on the day spanned the width of the paper. Internet coverage of the day inspired newspapers to put together multimedia packages and slideshows. A freelance photojournalist shot a large and detailed panorama and there was even a live feed from a satellite online so the event could be watched from directly overhead. Papers across Europe covered the swearing in of the president, the celebrations, the outfits, the speeches, the possibility of a new white house pet, security concerns, and the weight of the occasion all in different stories on the day. International news wires like Agence France-Presse was focused on Obama.

You can find the word hope in almost every story written about the inauguration from the LA Times and NY Times in the US to the Telegraph in London and the Cape Argus in South Africa. Obama brought his message of hope, and this was reflected in the stories. The Standard from Nairobi, Kenya has reported on the joy of its countries people in regards to Obama, whom is of Kenyan lineage, being elected to the position of president for the United States. The Standard has also reported a steady list of situations around the world that they think that Obama, as they see the situation, is not only able to fix, but is obligated too do so. This is quite obvious that not only is the day of Obama’s inauguration, but everyday of Obama’s presidency.

The lead up to Obama becoming president of the United States was courted by the press positively. Television shows that seek out contradictions in the presses’ ethics, like Saturday Night Live, pointed out the bias of the press by making fun of its lean toward Obama. However, after the rocky relations between the Bush Administration and the press there was no attempt to conceal the press was optimistic that the new administration would nurture a better relationship with journalists.

The presses’ positive view toward anything is quite surprising when you consider the current state of newsrooms across the nation. Slow to adapt their print advertising supported business models to an online model that could support the financial burden of the change to an online product newspapers have been unable to maintain the fiscal growth most newspapers across the nation have instituted large scale layoffs of staff. This has been hard on both the reporters who have lost their jobs and those who have stayed fearing that they might be next while dealing with the loss of there co-workers.

A reporter at the Oakland Tribune said that the paper’s newsroom felt happy again working together on the stories leading up to the inauguration. Obama’s inaguration is for newspapers, what The Washington Post called it in regards to the nation, “a moment of particular extremes: enormous joy, great hope, deep fears.”

1945 Atomic Bomb Drops

August 6th 1945 marked a day of mixed emotions across the globe. It was the day that the United States dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima followed by the second drop on August 9th on Nagasaki. It was a terrible day for the Japanese but was seen as a success for the U.S. military and its citizens. It was a hard story to cover because sensitivity was a huge issue. Reporters had to report what was going on but there were many fatalities and it had to be done with some caress. President Truman reported that the U.S. will be showing the Japanese little mercy stating “If they do not now accept our terms they may expect a rain of ruin from the air the like of which has never been seen on Earth,” and he delivered on his promise dropping the largest bomb on a country that has ever been used in an attack.
BBC news reported the story and sounded pretty openly about it. The title reads: “1945: U.S. Drops Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima,” so it is a very straight-forward title. They didn’t clearly take a side to the story and just reported on what was said. The story kept out commentary from anyone except for the President and the British Prime Minister and that is probably because no one else could have commented on the story without bias. But I found it puzzling that it was added into the story that the atomic bomb being made by the Americans showed success that we were able to produce it over our German opponents. The reporter wanted to add something positive to the article so it was sad that this attack happened but it should be seen as a good thing because at least we came up with this piece of technology first.
According to a story run but Newsweek magazine, during this time Americans saw World War II as a good war and agreed with whatever moves our government made and didn’t have a problem with the atomic bombs. Newsweek magazine put a more positive spin on the story stating “The atomic bombs dropped on Japan killed fewer people than did conventional bombs, but they were safer for aircrews. And by dropping the A-bombs, the Americans avoided the horrendous losses they would have suffered-and inflicted--by invading Japan.” This type of story really helped the American public live with a decision to bomb another country because this one sentence proves that the war would have been worse if other actions were taken.
The way the story in BBC was covered, it was done very objectively with the facts given and allowing the readers to form their own opinions afterward. The Newsweek story was written objectively but there are little bits of information throughout the piece that can help the reader decide that it was a hard decision to make but it was made with our best interests in mind, therefore was the right decision.

Brown vs. Board of Education

On May 17, 1954, the supreme court ruled that schools shouldn’t be racially segregated. The response of the news media varied from region to region.
The next day, The New York Times front cover had the following headline stretched across the front page “HIGH COURT BANS SCHOOL SEGREGATION 9-TO-0 DECISION GRANTS TIME TO COMPLY.”
The image on the front cover showed African American lawyers, who led the battle against the supreme court, shaking hands.
The Title of the Article said, “ 1896 Ruling Upset.” The Subheading read , ‘Separate but Equal’ Doctrine Held Out of Place in Education. A third subheading said the full text of the Supreme Court’s decision was printed on Page 15. All of these screaming headlines show that the New York Times knew that they were writing about a historic and monumental event.
In the first stanza the article announced the ruling. In the third stanza it said that the method of integration will be decided in October. After providing Chief Justice Warren’s rationale for the decision, the writer went on to say that the decision did not apply to private schools, railroads and “other public carriers”. The writer also listed all the states that have mandatory segregation, adding that South Carolina and Georgia have announced that they plan to abolish public schools if segregation were banned.
The article didn’t express any obvious bias, but it focused on how segregationist states viewed the ruling rather than focusing on states that were pleased by the ruling and it didn’t talk about the effect of the ruling on African Americans. The absense of African Americans cheering the decision made me feel as if the writer was reassuring people that the status quo would be preserved- at least for the time being.
A nearby column titled “Breathing Spell” for Adjustment Tempers Region’s Feelings said that Southern leaders were relieved that integration would be gradual. As proof it noted that the governors of South Carolina and Georgia (who had in the past threatened to disband public education if segregation was banned) – were displeased with the verdict but found relief in slow integration. The voice for African Americans, the Southern Regional Council, was in favor of gradual integration too. I wonder if there were any African Americans who wanted equality then and there.

On the other side of the country, the LA Times Times printed a front page news story titled ‘High Court Bans School Segregation’ by Robert T Hartmann, the Times Washington bureau chief. The article was filled with quotes that explained the court’s reasoning.
It also included a tiny bit of analysis . The write spoke about the legal reach of the decision and its historical significance, “Although, technically today’s rulings apply only to the four States and the District of Columbia, and further legal delays may be encountered before public school segregation is formally outlawed throughout the land, the Supreme Court’s broad application of the 14th amendment appeared to doom separation of pupils on racial grounds as surely as Lincoln ended slavery in the United States.”
The article also mentioned a loophole in the law. The court only cared to desegregate public – not private -- educational facilities. “Some legal observers saw a loophole for announced southern plans to turn their states public schools over to private operation in the court’s conclusion that the opportunity for an education, ‘where the State has undertaken to provide it, is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms.’ ”
There are few indications of the writer’s opinion on the case, but this line hints that he’s in favor: “Written in clear, nontechnical language, the sweeping decision outlined the remarkable strides in the past century not only of the Negro race but of the theory of public education.”

Photos from Mars

The Mars pathfinder mission seemed to be a very important event in history. We had already been to the moon by this point. We’ve received space telescopes pictures of Mars and several other planets. So we already knew what planets, besides Earth, looked like from space. This was the first time we were able to see another planet from its surface. And it still is. The pictures sent from Mars also helped scientists understand our planet. And just for kicks, we were also interested in life on Mars, if any. We have been fascinated with Mars for years, and have found evidence that Mars may have once been like Earth. The pathfinder’s mission on Mars, and the visual evidence it collected has led scientists to continue their search for life on Mars and other planets. More contemporary stories that have been printed in the last year or so have been of new planets found in other star systems in our galaxy.

Both, the New York Times and the Los Angeles times reported the story on July 8, 1997. Science writer KC Cole of the LA Times approached the story with the perspective of the public eye. Her writing was uplifting, easy to read. The story was written as a “what’s to come story.” The story depicts detailed information of the images of Mars: rock colors, shades, sky details. She went into detail of what the mission entitled and what people should look forward to in the near future. The article answers why scientists and the public should be interested what Mars looks like. Cole also reports on the scientists’ effort to gather as much information as they can. I found this article easy, informative and very well written.

John Noble Wilford, of the New York Times, approached the story a little differently but still focused on the celebration of the photos being delivered to Earth. He too, described the images of Mars and history of the mission. He focused part of the story on the budget of the project, reporting on the cost of the project, and how much more future expenses. The story covered more of the behind the scenes, as well as give a description of the images sent by the pathfinder. Wilford explained in his story the way Mars highlands have been on the planet for billions of years. Unlike the other story, this story was structured more on the pathfinder’s equipment, and its day on the planet. It seemed as though Wilford wrote this to be an actual report, rather than a story.

Both reporters talked to several top researchers and research leaders that worked on the project. There wasn’t enough reportage from the government. As a reporter, knowing this is a national accomplishment, the story would have been better if government officials expressed their views of the accomplishment made.

This story is rather contemporary. During this time, tabloid journalism was rapidly growing, and many tabloid papers came out with stories of actual events, such as the bombing at the World Trade center. Around this time, many stories about UFO’s were written for tabloid papers.

"Scientists Get New View of Mars Landscape" KC Cole LA Times

"Mars Yeidling Flood of Data on Ancient Deluge" John Noble Wilford New York Times

Fall Berlin Wall

The fall of the Berlin wall was historical. It ended the 28 year separation between east and west Germany. It’s probably considered at top news story of the 20th century because it signified the end of the Cold War’s last major incident. In 1961, the Berlin Wall was built, dividing the city of Berlin into two and dividing Germany into East and West Germany. The fall of the “Iron Curtain” ended division, and was part of the end of the Cold War.
Comparing anything contemporary to the fall of the Berlin Wall is difficult, but if there any that would resemble it, it would probably be the capture of Saddam Hussein and the fall of his political power. Though two separate events, both events dealt with politics and some sort of shift in power. While the decision to make treaties with each other does not compare to the downfall of Hussein, it is similar in that certain citizens of Iraq were able to enjoy more freedom. The war is still going on but a way of co-existing amongst each other in Iraq is progressing just as it did for the German states.

Thousands of people celebrated the fall of the wall. Many citizens of East Berlin, originally from the west, traveled within the first few days across the border back to their homes.

The New York Time’s approach to the story was celebratory. The reporter talked to many people on both sides of the wall, as well as got quotes from the Mayor of West Berlin. The story mostly is written as a straight news story. It was framed around the people crossing the border to go back to their homeland. The New York Times breaks the story into five sections: the fall of the wall, people crossing, the history behind the wall, the fate of the wall, and people who are skeptic of the incident. The New York Times’ coverage dealt more with first person accounts of the event, instead of secondary sources.

The LA Times covered the fall of the Berlin Wall differently. They, like the New York Times, covered the celebration of East and West Germans. The LA Times also looked at President Bush’s reaction to the incident. The story was structured closer to home, with President Bush hailing the opening of the border. Most of the people attributed in this story were U.S. government officials, such as President Bush, congress members, and at least three senators. In the article with President Bush hailing the border’s opening, President Bush was quoted that he never saw this change in politics change as soon as they did. In this article, the wall was not yet broken down at the time of this article but sources in Congress already had speculation that the opening would lead to the destruction of the wall.

Both reporters for these stories should have had more contact ambassadors from neighboring countries and reported on their thoughts on the situation. I feel that getting more government official thoughts would have made the story more two-sided. Each article focused too much on one point of view, whether it was through the eyes of government or the eyes of citizens.

Both, the New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times covered several different articles in their November 9th issues, in 1989.


On August 6, 1945, the United States dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, effectively ending the Second World War. This is the only story on the list given the same raking by both the public and journalists, number one. As significant as the dropping of the atomic bomb is, I thought it was interesting that WWII officially ending was not on the list. I believe that the end of WWII is in itself one of the biggest news stories of the century and deserves its own place on the list.
August 15, 1945, the day Japan officially surrendered, the front page of the Los Angeles Times triumphantly declared “PEACE! VICTORY!” with a sub-headline of “Japs Accept Allied Terms; Truman Names MacArthur to Receive Formal Surrender”. The lead is simple, yet dramatic: “Japan surrendered unconditionally tonight, bringing peace to the world after the bloodiest conflict mankind has known.”[1] The article then goes on to describe President Truman’s announcement and how the official surrender process will take place.
The article quotes Japan’s Emperor Hirohito who had addressed the people of Japan over the radio for the first time earlier that day. The article then goes on at length to describe what the next steps are in the peace process for the United States and Japan, how the public reacted to President Truman’s news, and what some of the lasting impacts of the war would be.
One point I find particularly interesting is that throughout the lengthy article, the atomic bomb is mentioned only once, and very briefly near the end of the article. However, there was one sentence on the first page of the article that seemed to briefly allude to the atomic bomb. “Thus was the ‘infamy’ of Pearl Harbor avenged…Japan had paid the full penalty for the treachery that plunged the United States into a two-front war- the costliest in all of history.” [1]
Conversely, the New York Times on August 15, 1945, looked very different. Almost half of page three is taken up by a photograph showing civilians and service men in a giant conga line on the White House lawn. The headline reads “Emperor Informs People of Defeat- As the Nation Greeted Japan’s Surrender Before and After it Became Official”. [2]
In contrast, this article has many pictures, all showing people celebrating the ending of the war. It is much shorter than the Los Angeles Times article and explains how Japan’s Emperor Hirohito surrendered. It also quotes his earlier radio address to the people of Japan.
I don’t believe that any contemporary story could begin to even compare to the sheer impact that the ending of World War II had on this country. These articles clearly demonstrate the impact that the events of August 1945, had on the country. And history tells us that there has been no comparable event in this country since in terms of the sheer relief and joy that was felt on that day.

[1] PEACE VICTORY :Japs Accept Allied Terms; Truman Names MacArthur to Receive Formal Surrender. (1945, August 15). Los Angeles Times (1886-Current File),1. Retrieved March 8, 2009, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers Los Angeles Times (1881 - 1986) database. (Document ID: 412593761)
[2] EMPEROR INFORMS PEOPLE OF DEFEAT :As the Nation Greeted Japan's Surrender Before and After It Became Official. (1945, August 15). New York Times (1857-Current file),p. 3. Retrieved March 8, 2009, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2005) database. (Document ID: 88279590).

Rodney King beaten by LAPD officers

The story of Rodney King was not on the Newseum list of Top News Stories of the Century, but I felt it should have been for the enormous backlash seen in communities across the country. The local community called for the removal of Los Angeles Police Chief Daryl Gates. Violent riots broke out in 1992 after the police officers were acquitted by the state court.

On March 3, 1991, King was beaten by three LA police officers as he lay face down, while twelve other officers—including a police sergeant—merely stood by. King was tasered, struck by nightsticks at least 56 times and kicked seven times, fracturing his skull, breaking his leg and damaging nerves. Little did they know that an amateur cameraman, George Holliday, filmed the event from his nearby apartment. Holliday sold the footage to KTLA news and soon, the incident was playing back on television screens across the nation.

As suggested by the Los Angeles Sentinel and questioned in depth by the New York Times, police brutality is no new thing. And what if the incident hadn’t been caught on tape? NY Times reporter Geoffrey Taylor Gibbs offered that police would have played up stories of King resisting arrest and possibly even planting or providing some sort of “weapon” as evidence.

Multiple media outlets cite a range of sources, with most actually quoting King directly. Many made a point of noting King’s initial refusal to say that racism was involved—based on advice given by his attorneys. All of this obviously frames the story in a way that does highlight the racism and overall police brutality that needed—and still needs—to be addressed.

This story of course is all too familiar with the recent killing of Oscar Grant. 18 years after the Rodney King incident and just two months after President Obama was elected, it is a shame that such a thing could still happen. In the same way, communities banded together, took to the streets and called for justice.

Both events also highlight the difference that one individual or individuals can make just by being in the right place at the right time and not being afraid. It shows a change in the way people view and capture the world around them as technology has made it easier for anyone to have a voice. It gives power to the idea of citizen journalism—Holliday and those who recorded the incident on BART may have changed the way each event unfolded and brought awareness to those who have chosen not to see what has been under their noses for too long.

“Black Community Unanimous: ‘Gates Must Go!’” by Ron Dungee Los Angeles Sentinel (1946-2005); Mar 14, 1991; ProQuest Historical Newspapers Los Angeles Sentinel: 1934-2005 pg. A1

“L.A. Cops, Taped in the Act” by Geoffrey Taylor Gibbs New York Times (1857-Current file); Mar 12, 1991; ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2005) pg. A23

Black Thursday

October 24, 1929, now called Black Thursday, was the initial crash of the stock market that would extend to October 28-29, 1929, respectively known as Black Monday and Black Tuesday. Yet, the initial crash on Thursday had no way of foreseeing greater losses in the stock market. The New York Times reported on October 24, 1929, front page headline exclaiming “PRICES OF STOCKS CRASH IN HEAVY LIQUIDATION, TOTAL DROP OF BILLIONS.” Immediately, the large font grabs the reader’s eye. The font is huge in comparison to other headlines of its day. Another interesting point is that under the headline there are several mini-headlines before the article begins: “PAPER LOSS $4,000,000,000”; “2,6000,000 Shares Sold in the Final Hour In Record Decline.”; “MANY ACCOUNTS WIPED OUT”; “But No Brokerage House Is in Difficulties, as Margins Have Been Kept High.”; “ORGANIZED BACKING ABSENT.”; “Bankers Confer on Steps to Support Market- Highest Break is 96 Points.” My only explanation for the sub-headlines is they serve to give a quick summary of the major issues covered in the article so the reader does not necessarily have to read the entire article, which is pretty lengthy.

One thing that struck me as odd was the absence of a by-line, but after consulting Discovering the News, for this time, it was quite common to omit a by-line, unless it was international correspondence. The story opens with a hard news lead, citing the “avalanche of selling” as responsible for “one of the widest declines in history.” Much like an inverted pyramid, the article tackles “Loss In Market Values” after the lead, getting out figures and numbers, the “facts”, before delving into analysis and impact. For a breaking news story, I would agree that getting estimated numbers such as shares and losses in the top of the story, as that is what most want to know about. The article is semi-chronological, leading with the important facts, then recounting the “Crash in Final Hour.”

Since most of the statistics used in the article are about stocks and shares, which are “listed on the Exchange”, there is not a whole lot of attribution in the story. It is assumed data on stocks are from their respective exchanges and public. Several grafs down, The New York Times is attributed with statistical averages, but it is not until the second page of the story that the readers finds out who has been interviewed. Bankers and heads of banks were interviewed, such as Charles E. Mitchell, head of the National City Bank, as was the president of one of the largest groups of investment trusts. Most of the reporting seemed to be down from a observational stance, noting how things appeared on the floor of the stock exchange. While the article ends with the revelation that “some of the leading bankers of the city were in a conference after the close of the market yesterday, discussing the desirability if some assuring word,” but no word was made. What is interesting about the article is that it did not foresee what we all now know happened. The president of the groups of investment trusts, who never gave his name, “predicted that any period of depression would be of comparatively short duration, and next year many issues would seep to new high marks, he said.”

The crash on October 24, 1929, as reported by The Washington Post, was also front page news, headline reading, “$3,000,000,000 LOST WHEN STOCKS CRASH”, with sub-headlines reading “Most Hair-Raising Drop in Recent History Comes in Last Hour.” and “MANY ARE WIPED OUT.” The figures vary from The New York Times coverage, yet in breaking news, I think that tends to happen. The article is also smaller than in the NYT, with a majority of the front page, four columns, devoted to “NEW YORK STOCK EXCHANGE TRANSACTIONS OF YESTERDAY.” While both stories covered the fact a majority of the losses were experienced between the hours of 2 p.m. and 3 p.m., The Washington Post places that fact high-up in the lead. Similar to the NYT article, this article downplays the crash’s long-term affects. Also similar to the NYT article, some of the sources remain anonymous, instead referred to as “a senior partner in one of the largest commission houses.” The rest of the content is similar to that seen in the more in-depth NYT article. Record loses in the summer precede the crash, nerves affecting sellers and statistics.

Clearly this is reminiscent of the down-turned economy our nation faces today. Many of the remarks made in this article seem like they could be talking about our economy and the current stock market, especially after the recent drops last week. An interesting point made in the NYT article cited a “decline in iron and steel production, in automotive production and in building operations” from the previous summer, as an indicator of strategic selling, when trying to figure out why some stocks saw more selling than others. With the decline the automotive industry has seen in the last year alone, one must wonder if there is anything we can learn from history to aid our current situation.

"PRICES OF STOCK CRASH IN HEAVY LIQUIDATION, TOTAL DROP OF BILLIONS." New York Times. ProQuest Historical Newspapers. Leonard Library, San Francisco. 5 Mar. 2009 .

"$3,000,000,000 Lost When Stocks Crash." The Washington Post. ProQuest Historical Newspapers. Leonard Library, San Francisco. 5 Mar. 2009 .

Dr. King Is Slain in Memphis

On April 5, 1968, one day after his assassination, the biggest headline, featured at the top of the front page of The Washington Post, read, “Dr. King Is Slain in Memphis.” Above the article, a smaller sub-headline reads, “Troops Ordered Into City,” informing the reader of actions implicated by his death. The byline reads “From News Dispatches”, with a dateline of Memphis, Tennessee, April 4. The article begins with a hard news lead:

“The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was shot and killed by a sniper today when he strolled alone onto the balcony of his hotel.”

The lead informs the reader of the basic elements of the story by being direct. When writing stories involving deaths, one things I’ve been taught to avoid is showing off your writing skills. When news is breaking with deaths involved, the reader does not care how eloquently it is put, and it can come off as being disrespectful. By choosing a hard news lead, the reader is able to be informed and not sidetracked by the language. I think this speaks to the contemporary writing style of The Washington Post in the late 1960s.

The grafs following the lead address the most newsworthy topics of the article: “Gov. Buford Ellington ordered 4000 National Guard troops into the city and a curfew was imposed.”; “Unrest immediately broke out in the Negro district.”; police blocked a five-block area surrounding “the Lorraine Hotel, where Dr. King was slain.” Most importantly, in the fourth graf, the subtitle reads, “Two Men Are Held.” As you read the next few grafs, you learn that it is unknown if these two men are connected with the shooting, yet police “issued a bulletin for a young white man in dark clothes” who apparently ran across the street from the hotel and dropped an automatic rifle with a scope and left in a car. Police are also attributed with an alert that had “been broadcast for a blue, late-model Mustang […].” These elements are crucial to the story, as it is breaking and no one had been arrested for Dr. King’s killing.

While the first part of the article addresses the most newsworthy parts of the story, Dr. King’s killing, the immediate ordering of National Guard troops and possible suspects, the second part recreates a timeline leading to Dr. King’s killing. Rev. Andrew Young, executive vice president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), is interviewed. He said Dr. King was shot “in the neck and lower right part of his face”, adding, “He didn’t say a word; he didn’t move.” Not only does Rev. Young’s quotes paint a painfully sad image, coming from a personal friend of Dr. King’s, the reader feels a strong sense of sadness on several levels.

The article then goes on to recount the series of events following the shooting. At St. Joseph’s Hospital, Dr. King was declared dead. Assistant Police Chief Henry Lux is also attributed with declaring the death of Dr. King. Frank Holloman, police director, is quoted as saying, “We are in a state of emergency here.” This is another effective quote which categorizes the severity of the event. To give further context, it was also being investigated by the FBI.

The remainder of the article explains Dr. King was in Memphis for a demonstration to support Memphis sanitation workers. Rev. Jesse Jackson and Ben Branch are also quoted, as they were with Dr. King, preparing to eat dinner, when he was shot. Their quotes provide a first-hand experience to the events, as witnessed from the hotel. The article ends with U.S. District Judge Bailey Brown hearing arguments that challenged a Federal court ban on the march. Police Chief J.C. MacDonald was asked by Judge Brown if Memphis would stay quiet “if the restraining order were continued.” MacDonald said, “If the court allows any sort of march we’re going to need some help.”

On April 4,1968, The New York Times ran an article titled, “McKissick Says Nonviolence Has Become Dead Philosophy.” The article, with a dateline of Cleveland, April 4 and no byline, is about Floyd B. McKissick, national director of the Congress of Racial Equality. The lead informs that McKissisck “said tonight that the death of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. meant the end of the nonviolent philosophy.” I thought this was interesting commentary. McKissick called Dr. King “the last prince of nonviolence” and said “nonviolence is a dead philosophy and it was no the black people that killed it. It was the white people that killed nonviolence and white racists at that.” For a time that was full of segregation and racism, it is interesting to see someone speaking against white racism and calling the events “a horror.” McKissick would not make predictions about what would happened as a result of the assassination, yet his quotes are shocking to me that they would get printed at all. Another interesting side note, is that this article was buried on page 26, maybe not as progressive as one would think The New York Times is.

The reporter for The Washington Post did a great job of interviewing police officials and personal friend’s of Dr. King to paint a portrait of what happened/was happening in the wake of Dr. King’s death. The 1960s was a time of great change and uncertainties, and there is no contemporary new story comparable to the death of Dr. King. The legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., however, is to stand up for your beliefs, no matter what. In that respect, I would say any even in which masses gather to march and protest share in his spirit. Most recently, thousands gathered in San Francisco, and all over the state, to march for same-sex marriage, which I would compare to the nature of Dr. King’s legacy.

"Dr. King Is Slain in Memphis." The Washington Post. ProQuest Historical Newspapers. Leonard Library, San Francisco. 7 Mar. 2009 .

"McKissick Says Nonviolence Has Become Dead Philosophy." The New York Times. ProQuest Historical Newspapers. Leonard Library, San Francisco. 7 Mar. 2009 .

U.S Women Win the Right to Vote

On August 26, 1920, America’s suffragettes were finally able to end their more than fifty year battle for the right to vote with the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. As momentous of a victory as it was, it was one that came only after more than seventy years of struggle by America’s women. I believe that it is both the determination of those who fought for it for so long, as well as the enormity of their victory, that deservedly earns the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment a ranking of #7 and #5 by the public and journalists respectively on the list of the 100 top news stories of the century.

Many of the events on the list of top news stories are events that took place and changed the course of history in a single day, or even a few hours- the JFK assassination, U.S stock market crash, the bombing of Pearl Harbor. But women winning the right to vote in this country is something that happened over the course of generations, and because of this I chose to look at several articles covering the suffrage movement at different points in history.

Women’s fight for suffrage began long before many of the women who first voted in the 1920 elections were even born. In July of 1848, women’s suffrage was first seriously presented as an issue at the Seneca Falls Woman’s Rights Convention which was organized by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott.

What struck me most about the way the convention was how much it varied. The headlines are not large and read simply “Woman’s Rights”[1] or “Woman’s Rights Convention”[2]. And the articles range from supportive: “It has long been our opinion that women are better than men…wherever- with perhaps a few exceptions- wherever their influence has been exerted, it has been for good,”[3] to downright mocking, as in The Liberator magazine. The article appears simply under the title “Woman’s Rights Meeting” (there is no byline) and goes on to describe the seemingly ludicrousness of the idea of women’s rights:

“A Convention was recently held at Seneca Falls, N.Y., gotten up by a few erratic, addle-pated come-others of the female sex, headed by the famous Lucretia Mott, for the purpose of discussing their rights, social, political and religious. The preliminary movement in the meeting was the reading of a parody of the Declaration of Independence, showing forth their rights and grievances… We have not met with any detailed official account of the proceedings nor of the speeches, but we think we can form some idea of the affair…We view it as a most insane and ludicrous farce, for women in the nineteenth century to get up in a public and promiscuous assemblage and declare themselves ‘oppressed and fraudulently deprived of their most sacred rights’, when, if they really knew what belonged to their true position, instead of stirring up discontent and enacting such foolery, they would be about the sober duties and responsibilities which devolve upon them as rational beings, and as ‘helpmeets’ of the other sex.”[4]

I know the excerpt is a bit long, but I was blown away by not only how critical the article is, but how the writer points out that he (I can only assume it was written by a man) really has no idea what actually went on at the meeting but how ridiculous it is nonetheless. The only source cited in the course of the article was the “parody” of the Declaration of Independence that the attendees of the meeting created.

[1] OCW Liberator 9/22/1848, Proquest Historical Newspapers

[2]National Era 8/31/1848, Proquest Historical Newspapers

[3]Littell's Living Age 08/26/1848, Proquest Historical Newspapers

[4] The Liberator 9/15/1848, Proquest Historical Newspapers

"Kennedy shot to death"

The assassination of President John F. Kennedy was a mortifying event which shocked and saddened the whole nation. News archives first broke the news with statements such as the president being shot, but not totally concluding that the president was dead. The news reads detailed information about President Kennedy’s assassination, such as three shots were fired, along with the president’s car- which was described to have gained speed moments after the shots were fired and how the vehicle went straight to the hospital where the president died thirty minutes later. Some news went on to describe where the president was shot and where the bullets penetrated, also not failing to name others that were injured…
An interesting piece of information that I read while browsing through articles was the fact that first Lady Jackie Kennedy was said to have whispered “oh no” as she held the frail body of the late president. Also, as a usual part of the news, speculations were made. Hearsay such as Jackie O was seen attempting to crawl out of the vehicle, as she was trying to grab a piece of the president’s skull. A customary part of the news cast, allegations and interviews of people describing to have thought they seen a rifle or a gun of some sort was sticking out of the window at a nearby building but they never saw the actual man or person who triggered the shots were included in the news cast. The coverage of the topic reflected chaos and panic. As detailed as the news story were, it seemed that there were still some information lacking which I believe ultimately lead to the assumption of who the gun man was and some other plotted theories for the hit of the beloved president.
In contrast to the other numerous articles I came across with, many headlines were unique and different in their own way. Some were very intriguing, almost inviting to the readers and others just offered drama and sadness. But with all the news articles… regardless of their headlines- from “Kennedy Shot to Death” to “The Death of a President” the entire news cast seemed to have one thing in common, which is the deliverance of the information about the slain president and maybe if you get lucky the article paints a picture and builds your emotion with drama and more.

I was fascinated at the fact that many news papers have continuously written stories about the dark day President Kennedy was shot even decades later. The Dallas Morning News has claimed that the assassination of President John F. Kennedy was ‘the crime of the century’. Published in 1988 the news article revisits the case (which is not unusual for many notable news paper companies, particularly when the date rolls near the murder date of the late President)

Looking ahead, since change is leisurely approaching and happening in America; with the new President elected I feel that now President Obama carries some of the charismatic qualities that the late President Kennedy had. Looking back in our nation’s history seems overwhelming. The tragedies that have happened, the lives that were wasted and sacrificed all ultimately leading to what is happening now- America fulfilling its statement that it is the land of the free and the land of great opportunity for everyone.

The Beatles tour USA

                           Photograph by Jack Manning for the New York Times

When The Beatles announced their 1964 tour of the United States, adults and fathers  alike could not understand what had come over their youth.  They had never seen such an adamant and wide display of worship, especially for four British kids playing pop rock with mop tops.  What they didn't understand is that Popular Culture had taken hold and risen from a generation of predominantly Caucasian female baby boomers who found interest in their out of the ordinary suggestive tunes and appeal.

When they had arrived in the U.S. in February of 1964 at Kennedy Airport they were greeted by over three thousand screaming fans.  Published writings seemed to have written about them more as a spectacles than as musicians.  New York Times noted that the Beatles, "... have added new gimmicks: tight pants, boots, and hair that never seems to be cut."  A mentionable quote, from the same article, puts their lure into perspective and comes from a fifteen year-old girl that had been waiting for the group that afternoon.  She mentions that, " 'They're just so different.  i mean, all that hair.  American Singers are soooo clean-cut.' " [1]

Their success was, and still is, an incredible international phenomenon.  Before their tour had even begun in the U.S., they had already sold, "6 million records and [could] earn $10,000 a week in appearances."[2]  Fans were fascinated by their personalities and journalists would deliver every quote they could note for their readers.  Upon their arrival they had held a press conference where clear dialogue between reporters and the artists had been published and broadcasted.  It had been one of the first of its kind for musicians.  

The attention they drew to to audiences, and audiences to news, would become a pattern in the entertainment industry for years to follow.
On a tangent, I thought it would be interesting to note that they owe their success to African American blues and rock artists: Willie Dixon, Bo Diddley, John Lee Hooker, and Chuck Berry, just to name a few.  Also, their tour of 1964 ran congruently with the Civil Rights Movement and just a few months after their tour Congress would empower the Civil Rights Act.  I'm not implying that they had any influence on politics at the time at all, (Lennon's involvement with politics and relationships  with groups such as the White and Black Panther Parties would not come until 1971) but i just found the profound effect that re-packaged music, for the right target audiences, had on Pop Culture to be interesting, especially in relation to the times.

1 /// 3,000 FANS GREET BRITISH BEATLES  by Paul Gardner  New York Times (1857-Current File); Feb 8, 1964; ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851-2005) p.25
2 /// SINGING BEATLES PREPARE FOR U.S. by James Ferson Special to The New York Times New York Times (1857-Current File); Feb 6, 1964; ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York TImes (1851-2005) p.36

President Clinton impeached

Almost 11 years ago, the world was shocked to discover that President Bill Clinton had been impeached on charges of lying to a federal grand jury regarding alleged sexual relations with former White House intern, Monica Lewinksy. The Boston Globe and The Washington Post provide good coverage of the impeachment procedures, though The Globe’s article reads with a play-by-play form of commentary. The only negative to that approach is the disinterest readers might express in having to read the information that way. Although Clinton is the center of attention, both stories shift gears to address the debates that arose regarding the decisions to impeach him as well as the issue of public opinion.

Some of the key debates addressed were the issues of truth, justice, and the influence of private and public acts regarding impeachment decisions. Both stories contain an equal amount of balance with regards to peoples’ opinions. Interestingly, they’re presented in a debate-like manner. For example, Henry J. Hyde, an Illinois Republican, stated that “the government, the Congress, has no business intruding into private acts”[1] Then, readers are presented a comment from an unidentified congressman who considers Clinton’s legacy “‘indelibly stained.’” [2] Through this manner, readers receive a good guy/bad guy scenario.

An interesting aspect in both articles is the emphasis placed on the hostility that resulted from the debates and how it was tearing the House of Representatives apart. This led Martin T. Meehan, a Lowell Democrat, to ask “‘What kind of institution are we becoming?’”[3] Bob Hohler of The Globe uses this quote to demonstrate just how impactful Clinton’s impeachment was, not just to those living in the United States, but to those in Congress as well. Take Robert L. Livingston, for example. Convinced that he “must set the example that I hope President Clinton will follow,”[4] he resigned his position as Senate-designate. Referring back to Hyde’s comment, while no reference was made regarding a friendship between he and Clinton, his comment expresses the shock that others felt when they came to realize that Bill Clinton, who seemed like a genuine guy, was facing such charges.

This past January, Rod R. Blagojevich, governor of Illinois, began facing his impeachment trial on charges of attempting to receive financial gain from trading the United States Senate seat relinquished by President Obama. In comparing the coverage of his case with Clinton’s, the issue of who can you trust with regards to politics emerges. Both men were criticized for their dishonesty to their respected positions of power. In fact, one person stated that if Clinton’s actions weren’t met with justice, then “justice is wounded, and you’re wounded, and your children are wounded.”[5] Once again, a good guy/bad guy scenario is presented.

What’s interesting in both stories is the lack of comments from President Clinton, though he didn’t like the press, and his wife, Hillary. As stated in my Babe Ruth blog, it would have been interesting to hear what she had to say regarding her husband’s impeachment. With that said, we should all hope that no such controversy falls upon President Obama.

[1] Murray, Frank J. “IMPEACHED: Clinton ‘indelibly stained’ in a decisive vote; 2 out of 4 articles approved by the House.” The Washington Times. Dec. 20, 1998. pp. A1.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Hohler, Bob. “Clinton is impeached House approves 2 of 4 charges, paving the way for Senate trial;” The Boston Globe. Dec. 20, 1998. pp. A1.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Ibid.