The Bonus Book of the Week is “The Place to Be– Washington, CBS, and the Glory Days of Television News” by Roger Mudd, published in 2008. The author was a TV journalist. The “glory days of television news” of fifty years ago was comprised of the same kind of sleaze that is current politicians’ public and personal behavior (i.e., the Democrat or Republican-funded publicity stunt of the week– they take turns, especially during election season).
Born in 1928 in Washington, D.C., Mudd began his career in 1953. At CBS, in July 1961, he got his first opportunity to report news on camera. Later, he was assigned to cover Capitol Hill, an inferior territory compared to the White House. In autumn, 1963, the duration of a television news show increased from fifteen to thirty minutes. That was a big deal. Thereafter, more people chose to get their main source of news from TV rather than newspapers and radio.
Because public viewing of the 1952 House Un-American Activities Committee hearings proved to be an embarrassment to the U.S. government, House Speaker Sam Rayburn banned the presence of TV cameras from House Committee sessions until 1970, and live coverage, until 1979; in the Senate, until 1986.
In December 1970, Mudd unwisely delivered a speech at Washington and Lee University, stating his opinion that radio and TV news were information sources inferior to print; the former appealed to the audience’s emotions in short sound bites; the latter, to intellect and in depth.
CBS didn’t take kindly to Mudd’s truthful assessment. Of course, his career suffered after that. He was passed over to fill in for Walter Cronkite during the summer, and later, to become the one anchorman on the evening news. Vice President Spiro Agnew at the time had been on the rampage, attacking the media for attacking the government.
Read the book to learn of additional similarities between TV “news” of Mudd’s generation, and now.