Holes mar thrilling stories

TV: TNT's `Moment of Impact' re-creates startling moments captured by Pulitzer Prize-winning photographs, but missing details leave a viewer wanting answers.

July 14, 1999|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN STAFF

The images are great, and the stories behind them are often incredible. Too bad the people responsible for "Moment of Impact" don't do them justice.

Airing at 8 p.m. Sunday on TNT, "Moment of Impact" promises to tell the stories behind six Pulitzer Prize-winning photographs, all extraordinary images that speak quite eloquently all by themselves.

The featured images include Robert H. Jackson's unforgettable shot of Lee Harvey Oswald grimacing in pain as a bullet from Jack Ruby's gun rips into him, Slava Veder's exuberant shot of a POW being welcomed home by his family and Stanley J. Forman's tragic depiction of death on a Boston fire escape.

There's also John Robinson and Donald Ultang's images of racial thuggery being played out on a college football field, Thomas J. Kelly III's sobering chronicle of a Pennsylvania hostage situation and Annie Wells' heart-stopping shots of a California river rescue.

It's interesting to hear how these photographers managed to be on the scene when the photos were taken and what they were thinking as their shutters were clicking. Several address the conundrum faced by every journalist, the question of how they manage to dispassionately report on tragedies playing out just a few feet in front of them.

But "Moment of Impact" relies far too much on re-enactments, even going so far as to have Forman scurry onto a fire truck just like the one he shot his photos from 24 years ago. In several instances, real and manufactured footage is intertwined in such a way that it's hard telling one type from the other.

Even more disappointing is the failure to clue viewers in on what has happened since the photos were taken. In the segment on Veder's "Returning POW," for instance, we're introduced to Lt. Col. Robert L. Stirm's grown children, but no mention is made of his wife, who's featured just as prominently in the award-winning photograph.

We're told that Johnny Bright, the African-American football player whose brutal treatment at the hands of the all-white Oklahoma A&M football squad is the subject of Ultang and Robinson's photos, went on to play Canadian football. But where is he today? The photos were shot 48 years ago, so I doubt he's still active on the gridiron.

The photos that form the core of "Moment of Impact" deserve their place in history, and it's great that the photographers are getting their time in the spotlight. But no self-respecting editor would ever let a story so incomplete see the light of day.

Minority children neglected

The media is doing a lousy job of covering issues related to children of minorities, according to a study from Children Now, an Oakland-based child advocacy group.

"The News Media's Picture of Children: A Five-Year Update and a Focus On Diversity" praises print news organizations for expanding the scope of their reporting on children's issues overall. TV news has held steady with regards to the scope of such coverage, according to the report.

The media received particular praise for shifting the emphasis from crime and violence to health and cultural issues.

Still, only about one in 50 front-page newspaper stories about children focus on minorities, and that's not enough, says Lois Salisbury, president of Children Now.

"With minority children constituting over one-third of America's youth, today's coverage neither adequately nor fairly reflects the world we live in," Salisbury said.

On the plus side, the group found that the proportion of health stories relating to children has doubled in the print media since 1993. On television, the proportion has tripled.

The study, conducted last November, sampled five major newspapers (Atlanta Constitution, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Houston Chronicle and Chicago Tribune) and three broadcast networks (ABC, CBS and NBC).

Get your Woodstock fix

If you can't make Woodstock '99, and don't feel like shelling-out the $59.95 pay-per-view fee, fret not. MTV will be providing a fairly constant supply of Woodstock and concert tidbits throughout next week.

The coverage begins at 4 p.m. Sunday with "Ultra Sound: Woodstock Uncensored," a half-hour behind-the-scenes look at Woodstocks '69 and '94.

Monday through Friday, MTV will feature a series of specials looking at the concert tours of such recording artists as Britney Spears (4: 30 p.m. Monday), 'N Sync (4: 30 p.m. Tuesday), Method Man (4: 30 p.m. Wednesday), Whitney Houston (4: 30 p.m. Thursday), the artists who performed at Atlanta's Rockfest, including Sugar Ray, Third Eye Blind, Collective Soul, Mighty Mighty Bosstones and Offspring (11 p.m. Thursday) and Limp Bizkit and Kid Rock (4: 30 p.m. Friday).

Friday through Sunday, MTV will be offering "All Access Weekend: Woodstock '99," including videos by artists performing at the music festival and news reports from the concert site near Rome, N.Y. Coverage winds up with a 10 p.m. Sunday edition of MTV News.

TV's top shows

Here are last week's top TV shows, according to A. C. Nielsen Co. figures:


1. Dateline, Tuesday NBC 9.3

2 60 Minutes CBS 9.2

3 Frasier NBC 8.7

4 Monday Night Movie:

She Woke Up Pregnant ABC 8.5

5 Will & Grace NBC 8.4

6 20/20 ABC 8.0

6 (tie) Sunday Movie:

Streets of Laredo,

Part 1 of 2 CBS 8.0

8 Wednesday Movie:

A Perfect World CBS 7.9

8 (tie) Friends NBC 7.9

10 60 Minutes II CBS 7.8

11 20/20-Monday ABC 7.7

11 (tie) ER NBC 7.7

13 20/20-Wednesday ABC 7.6

14 48 Hours-Thursday CBS 7.3

14 (tie) Jesse NBC 7.3

The rating is the percentage of homes equipped with a TV in use.

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