Friday, June 27, 2008

Journalism 036

I had the pleasure to witness Mr. Roger Mudd speak at the Friendship Heights Village Center in Chevy Chase, Maryland.

Mudd was walking around his recently published book, The Place To Be: Washington, CBS, and the Glory Days of Television News.

Mudd started reporting in Richmond, Virginia at the now defunct Richmond News Leader, but soon moved up to Washington D.C. and began working in television and radio. At 33, CBS snatched him up and didn't let him go until almost 20 years later.

Mudd has won more than a half dozen awards for his reporting and is considered to be one of the old school elite in broadcast news history. A look around the dandelion-capped room, and it's clear that his legacy lives on. I was the youngest person in attendance, by FAR, but as a journalist I believe we must know from whence we come to see where we are to go.

As journalism begins to find its footing on the shaky rocks of modernization, Mudd said he was optimistic that websites like Slate and the Huffington Post were being "well-edited and professional."

And while "there is a lot of junk" on the Internet as far as news and bloggery, he said, "the future is very bright and I think a sense of responsibility will grow."

Mudd said he can't really believe how television journalism has changed over the years.

"I can't focus on anybody anymore, there's a different person everyday," he said. "And there's no longer the call for hard news, it's all feature stuff...The reason they want so much feature time is because by the time 6:30pm comes, everybody already knows what has happened."

But, he said, news agencies are finding that features don't sell either and they're facing money crunches similar to the newspaper industry.

One show that is not facing financial hardship is the News Hour with (formerly the MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour) on PBS where Mudd was an essayist and political correspondent from 1987 to 1992.

"On a scale of one to ten, vanity is very high in commercial networks, with Jim (Lehrer), it's about at a three," Mudd said.

Mudd was asked why Congress seemed so divided over the past several decades.

"A lot of it is due to the necessity to run (for election) again at all costs," he said, and elaborated that often the desire to publicize their disagreements is sexier than selling their ability to compromise.

Mudd was not a huge fan of journalism school but admitted their worth.

"I think they're very helpful, but don't think they're necessary," he said. "You can learn in one year at a paper, about as much as in journalism school."

On a high note, he ended with a sentiment I completely share.

"I don't know where we'd be without Public Radio," he said. "It embraces every kind of story you'd ever hope for. It's a treasure."