Just Above Sunset
October 9, 2005 - Extra! Extra! Read all about it!

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... the World's Laziest Journalist

World's Laziest Journalist

October 10, 2005

By Bob Patterson


Oscar Wilde said, "When choosing between two evils, I always take the one I haven't tried before."  That was good advice to recall when April 14, 2005 rolled around because on that day fate served up a choice between two things that had been put on my "someday I'm gonna..." list when I was in high school.


On that day, the choice was either: Go to a casting call for extras for the movie Good Night And Good Luck or accompany the Just Above Sunset photographer on a press flight aboard a WWII B-17G airplane.  Luckily, the previous December I had fulfilled my long time ambition to do a day's work as an extra in a movie, so I was able to select the ride in the bomber.


"Good night and good luck," was the signature sign-off for famed broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow and I would have loved to get that gig, but I had already scratched the background for movies bit off my list of things to do in this lifetime.


Technically, I had been an extra on the 1975 version of King Kong because as the photographer for the Santa Monica Independent, I had been one of the press invited to the shooting of a crowd scene on the MGM lot that depicted the presentation of the giant ape to the public.  The film company had invited members of the local media to cover the event so that there would be an extra measure of authenticity for the fictional event that was generating news coverage.


If you take a microscope and examined some of the extreme long shots, you might see a color dot who would become the World's Laziest Journalist, but since I didn't get paid by the film company and didn't get to eat with the cast and crew, I didn't consider that a "been there, done that" to be scratched off the list of "things to do in this lifetime."


Last December, I had the chance to work as an extra for a movie that had a working title that indicated the film might be about a "dirty cop."  At some point in the past, a supervisor had remarked that it was regrettable that I couldn't get a job where I was required to stand around and look busy, because, he alleged, I was very good at that.  Well, extras don't actually do something.  They act as if they are doing something.  For one day last December, getting paid to walk around on Venice Beach while the temperature was in the eighties and the crew lunch consisted of salmon and pasta, was not too hard to take.  Scratch being an extra off the list!


So, the choice was made to go for the flight on the B-17G.  It was a thrilling experience that will never be forgotten. 


Edward R. Murrow was a real journalist and not some lackey working for a pro-Republican mogul who dictates what the reporter's attitude should be.  Today we get to see "on air personalities" do news reading.  Yippee! 


Murrow wrote the stories he reported and made morbid subjects like the London Blitz come alive with prose that included metaphors that would have made a poet proud.  His description of the German's flack is one example: "The flak looked like a cigarette lighter in a dark room: one that won't light - sparks but no flame - the sparks crackling just above the level of the cloud tops."  (From his December 3, 1943 report titled "Night Raid On Berlin")


If Edward R. Murrow were still alive, how would he assess Dubya?  Take for instance the "fly paper" analogy for the war in Iraq.  Would Murrow point out that it's more like the Hans Brinker parable now that we're fighting in Iraq.  Would Murrow mention that if children who experienced seeing their homes and parents destroyed by the quest to bring democracy to their country carry a grudge (isn't that a Muslim trait?) and the American troops leave Iraq, they will have to go elsewhere to get revenge twenty years from now?  Well, if American troops leave Iraq, then the future seekers-of-revenge are going to have to go where Americans are to do their "settle an old score" acts, won't they?  So it makes sense to have American troops in Iraq for a long, long time. 


How would Murrow assess a new Supreme Court justice who will be a strict constructionist?  Would he have the audacity to point out that going back to the original intent of the Constitution would mean returning to the philosophy, prevalent when the historic document was written, that women weren't qualified to vote and owning slaves was okay?  Is that the way America is headed?  Ask a strict constructionist.


Would Murrow have investigated things like Dubya's military service record?  Can't you just picture him telling CBS: "No, leave that subject alone or we won't get credentials to cover the Inaugural Ball."  Somehow, I don't think Murrow would have been sidetracked by planted tainted evidence.  It seems logical to think that Murrow would have found out all about the possibility that Dubya's military records were the bureaucratic equivalent of a "Three Card Monte" game to take care of a Congressman's son who may (we're speaking hypothetically here) have flunked out of flight school. 


This columnist has maintained that Dubya will serve a third term starting in 2008 (it may take a historic ruling by the Supreme Court, but all things are possible through prayer).  Would Murrow, if he were still alive, bet against the possibility?


Would Murrow speak out against cronyism dictating (liberal media pun?) the choice for Associate Justice for the Supreme Court?  Would he ask how a Christian could work for the Lottery Commission? 


Today's journalists seem more interested in getting included in People magazine's beautiful people issue than winning prizes for well-written stories.


Do you see the news folks distinguishing themselves in the hall of mirrors/echo chamber effect by delivering hard hitting criticism or do they ignore things like Prescott Bush's relationship to Fritz Thyssen, Arbusto stock deals, Harken's stake in the invasion of Kuwait, and/or the implications of a Prescott Bush/Dresser Industries/Halliburton connection?  (Oh yeah, and what about the rumors that Poppy's bailout possibly warranted a court martial?)


Good Night And Good Luck is an extremely well made film about an event (one of Murrow's episodes of See It Now) that will generate a great deal of enthusiastic commentary in the press and not produce particularly impressive business. 


Slowly the underlying principle of TV journalism has morphed from Murrow's maxim: "No one can terrorize a whole nation, unless we are all his accomplices" into "Ya gotta go along to get along." 


Bartlett's lists several quotes by Ed Murrow including this one: "Unless we get off our fat surpluses and recognize that television in the main is being used to distract, delude, amuse and insulate us, then television and those who finance it, those who look at it and those who work at it, may see a totally different picture too late."  (The Bartlett's reference book runs their quotes in an order established by the chronology of the sources and so in a display of irony, in the Sixteenth Edition, Murrow's quotes are run right after the entry for Joseph Raymond McCarthy's lone quote.)


Now, if the disk jockey will play a rather obscure number done by Roy Orbison (what other song would be indicative of journalism?) titled "Paper Boy," we'll be out of here like a delivery van full of bluestreak editions.  Until the next time, have a week that makes headlines and don't let the boss catch you standing around doing nothing, unless that's what you are being paid to do.



Copyright (including logo) 2005 – Robert Patterson

Email the author at worldslaziestjournalist@yahoo.com





Editor's Note:


Murrow on Hollywood Boulevard –

Murrow on Hollywood Boulevard -

Bob's account of the B-17 ride is here and photos from that day here.  


Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
The inclusion of any text from others is quotation
for the purpose of illustration and commentary,
as permitted by the fair use doctrine of U.S. copyright law. 
See the Details page for the relevant citation.

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