Good American journalism still exists. You just have to work a little harder at finding the best examples. I tend to view public broadcasting as superior to commercial broadcasting, which is why I’m sharing this example of good journalism from National Public Radio. NPR has come under attack in the last decade or so. Many conservative Republicans do not value having government-subsidized radio and television, but most Americans still value non-commercial broadcasting that relies on both foundation and individual contributions as well as some government funds. The same critics of public broadcasting often think nothing of spending millions on propaganda broadcasting efforts like Al Hurra or Radio Sawa that have been used as information warfare tools in the War on Terror.
Have a listen to this NPR broadcast that features a radio interview with a German-born Associated Press war photographer, Horst Faas, whose pictures from the Vietnam War made him a household name. Horst, 79, died on 10 May 2012. Take a look at his photographs. The Vietnam War is often referred to as America’s “living room war,” when many journalists covering the conflict sent home images broadcast on the evening news. In the 1960s and 70s, the US did not yet have cable television so we relied on the Big Three television networks (ABC, CBS, NBC) for our news and entertainment. Further, still photos in popular magazines like Life and Look dominated the public’s perception of the war in Vietnam. These photos were quite graphic in comparison to the sanitizing effect that post-Vietnam media coverage has taken.
What do you think of the images that Faas took of the young men fighting in Vietnam?
Can you imagine how such images would shift public opinion on the war? Even President Lyndon B. Johnson was so moved by how American journalists were covering Vietnam that he chose not to run for reelection in 1968. He felt strongly that the media had swung public opinion away from the war, particularly a special report about Vietnam made by Walter Cronkite, anchor of the CBS News.