Committed to the First Amendment
By Staff -- Broadcasting & Cable, 12/16/2001 7:00:00 PM
You report; they'll fight
Veteran-journalist-turned-talk-show-host-turned-journalist Geraldo Rivera told an interviewer exactly what he would like to do to Osama bin Laden: "Kick his head in, then bring it home and bronze it." Those sentiments, particularly after the release of last week's tape, are hardly unique, although we think it would be a waste of good bronze. But that public statement, the gun Rivera has advertised that he is toting, and the fact that he is a journalist covering a war zone for Fox News make for a potentially dangerous combination and troubling precedent. Said Carl Gottlieb, of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, "If any side in a conflict begins to view journalists as armed combatants, that makes our job much harder in an already difficult situation."
As a general rule, journalists should refrain from doing or saying anything that might move them from the role of observer and chronicler to participant in events. It can't be a hard-and-fast rule, of course. A child strays into danger, a videographer misses the shot to save the child. No-brainer. But a no-brainer on the other side is a war correspondent making macho, potentially incendiary statements at a time when war correspondents might be endangered by the perception that they are combatants rather than observers. Our advice: Keep the thought but hold the tongue.
Lose the quota
The FCC is taking its third swing at crafting EEO rules. Its original rules were struck down in 1998, and a subsequent revision tossed out last January. The main sticking point in the FCC's proposal remains a "data-collection" requirement that has "quota" written all over it. The FCC wanted to be able to review a station's pool of job applicants and craft a recruiting plan according to its liking. The court didn't take to that particular bit of social engineering, and neither do we. Problem is, the FCC still wants to do it. In the newest plan, the FCC would continue to monitor applicants but says it will use the data only to keep tabs on "industry trends" and to report to Congress. Sounds like the "I won't inhale" defense to us. Give 'em the power, and it will eventually be used.
The FCC should scrap the data-collection idea and stick to the other parts of its proposal: job-notice bulletin boards and community-outreach efforts, such as job fairs and internships. Those seem reasonable ways to advance the government's interest. Just ask the broadcasters that are already doing it absent any rules. Last week, for example, the NAB Education Foundation gave Howard University $48,487 for its media-sales training program. When the students graduate, companies including Belo, Hearst-Argyle, Cox, Katz and ABC plan to recruit from the applicant pool. Why $48,487? That's what Howard asked for, to the penny.
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