ANOTHER view, from Mike Moore, editor of The Bulletin of...

salmagundi

September 07, 1994

ANOTHER view, from Mike Moore, editor of The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists:

"Publishing a solid newspaper day after day or a good news magazine week after week is a stressful and thankless job. If a reporter can't write a reasonably coherent 900-word news story in 15 minutes -- on deadline -- he or she had better find another line of work. Meanwhile, the editors of newspapers and news magazines live in a world in which the most banal second guessing passes for astute criticism. . . .

"A few weeks ago, Newsweek published the dumbest magazine cover I have ever seen. Although dated July 18, 1994, it actually hit the stands just days after Kim Il Sung of North Korea died on July 8. A blocky six-word headline took up most of the space: 'Korea After Kim/The/Headless/Beast.'. . .

"America's founding fathers had, in general, a low regard for the press. Newspapers were filled with 'falsehoods, calumnies, and audacities,' Thomas Jefferson wrote. But as awful as the press was, it would be worse for the government to regulate it. The Bill of Rights guaranteed freedom of the press. The press was not asked to be 'responsible'; its burden was to be freedom.

"The coverage in the popular press last spring and summer of the Korean crisis reminded us that the U.S. Constitution says that no one can require that journalists use good sense. Worst-case excesses were everywhere, from the New York Times op-ed page to Ted Koppel's 'Nightline.' But nothing summed up the hysteria as well as Newsweek's Headless/Beast cover.

"News magazine editors based in New York ought not to play the local tabloid game -- as in the New York classic, 'Headless Body/Found in/Topless Bar.' While Newsweek's 'beast' cover surely grabbed attention on U.S. magazine stands, it just as surely must have gotten attention in the paranoia-prone halls of the Pyongyang government. At a time when war talk hangs in the air, calling the other guy a 'headless beast' is a no-brainer."

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