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At Random – January 14, 1961 – hosted by Irv Kupcinet – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
The Press and Media in America – even in 1961 there were grave doubts the technological advances we had promoted for so long were actually doing their promised job. Many felt Media, particularly the Press, weren’t fulfilling any kind of potential. That the business of information was being usurped by the need to entertain, and that networks were busily seeking the lowest common denominator in order to appeal to the mass, rather than a perceived elite. And that real information, those issues which helped guide a society were being abandoned in favor of large scale distraction.
In January 1961 (the time of this broadcast) we were on the verge of having a new Presidency; the Kennedy years were days away from beginning. In spite of the optimism of a new President, a young President, we had long smoldering issues coming to the boil. We had the Cold War, in danger of erupting into a hot one with Berlin as the flash point. We had the Civil Rights Movement which was gaining traction as well as resistance. We had The Middle East which was always in danger of igniting. We had grumblings from Southeast Asia. We had Cuba and an uncertain story evolving there. There was a lot to make America nervous.
In this episode of At Random, a program hosted by Irv Kupcinet, a distinguished panel of broadcast journalists is assembled to discuss the situation; all of them from CBS. Among them, Daniel Schorr, Alexander McKendrick, Peter Kalischer and Edward R. Murrow. The issue is whether or not Broadcast Journalism is doing its job, not only on TV but radio as well as print. It’s interesting to consider that in 1961 news and Americas right to be informed was taking a backseat for Americas need to be distracted, at least as the Networks saw it. News divisions saw a desperate need – educators saw an opportunity abandoned – executives saw ad dollars going after the biggest audience and ratings. In 1961 concern on the parts of many was the issue of The Public Interest – was it being served.
Sixty years later the atmosphere has changed completely – the avenues of information have evolved in ways never imagined in 1961. But the problem remains the same – are we getting useful information, or is it still about going after the mass audience?
That answer is best found a few hours after browsing.
In the meantime, here is that panel discussion as it was broadcast on January 14, 1961.