Newsman Fights Clown As Thieves and Pimps Look On
Barry Nolan, a long-time broadcast journalist in the Boston area, was fired for his quiet, persistent protest against the selection of Bill O'Reilly for the Governor's Award by the Boston/New England Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (NATAS). The news brought to mind three quotes:
"If only I could get Jim Briskin on my network, Hada thought gloomily. The ranking TV news clown, so popular, with his flaming scarlet wig and genial, informal patter."
-- Philip K. Dick, "What'll We Do With Ragland Park?" (1963).
"The TV business is uglier than most things. It is normally perceived as some kind of cruel and shallow money trench through the heart of the journalism industry, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free and good men die like dogs, for no good reason."
-- Hunter S. Thompson, 1985
"There can be no higher law in journalism than to tell the truth and to shame the devil - remain detached from the great."
-- Walter Lippmann, 1920
Nolan might have been reading Lippman when he decided last week that standing for his profession was more important than protecting his career. The news clown, the power of his popularity, feted as a journalist by the thieves and pimps, was just too much for him.
Writing in the Boston Herald on May 22, 2008, Jessica Heslam gives the basic details of the story, Comcast fires Barry Nolan over Bill O’Reilly protest:
Nolan tells MediaBiz he was fired Tuesday following a two-week, unpaid suspension.
A CN8 spokeswoman issued this statement: “Effective May 20, Barry Nolan is no longer employed by CN8, The Comcast Network. Backstage will continue to air weeknights at 8:00 p.m. with host, Sara Edwards, and its talented team of reporters and contributors.”
Before the May 10 awards, Nolan sent e-mails to industry colleagues encouraging them to write to the Emmy governors - if they shared his opinion - and let them know “this is an appalling choice for an honor.” [...snip...] At the awards, Nolan said he quietly put fliers on tables that “simply had” quotes from O’Reilly as well as three pages from the sexual harassment lawsuit O’Reilly settled that was brought by his former producer.
Security approached Nolan and told him he couldn’t distribute information at the event.
Nolan says he has no regrets about speaking out against giving O’Reilly “the highest honor” that the local Emmy Awards can bestow. 2
According to several accounts that I'd read, and what Nolan himself later told me, he understood there could -- and probably would -- be consequences for his actions. His sense of honor and integrity would not permit him to remain still and allow what he felt was an appalling event to take place unchallenged.
He said the award was being given simply due to the level of success and that O'Reilly was not worthy of it. In his guest blogger appearance on Think Progress May 27, Nolan penned the article titled Barry Nolan: The Story Behind My O'Reilly Protest, where he says:
O’Reilly was an appalling choice, not because of his political views, but because he simply gets the facts wrong, abuses his guests and the powerless in general, is delusional, and, well, you might want to Google: Narcissistic Personality Disorder.4
Nolan isn't simply throwing out terms here -- he spent six years of his life in graduate school studying neurophysiology, theatre history and psychological social work -- and actually spent some time working as a social worker.
Nolan started working in radio; he moved to NY where he moved to television, then to Boston where he worked with Evening Magazine. From there he's been with ABC, then Fox ("Prior to it becoming the Evil Empire," he interjected). Fox cancelled his show "Beyond Tomorrow" to make room for "The Simpsons." In 1991, Nolan started with Hard Copy as a reporter.
"I was reporting back when the dinosaurs were turning into oil," he quipped.
While some people may balk at the impromptu psychological diagnosis that Nolan ascribes to O'Reilly, his contentions regarding O'Reilly's fact-mangling, bullying style are well documented5 and don't rest solely on his own obviously rich history in media.
When we spoke yesterday about this incident, the Governor's Awards and the state of the US Media today, he said:
"We are in, to use Dick Cheney's words, the final throes of an Administration that has contempt for the reality-based community. If the same people are kept in everything from the EPA to the dept of Ed. to the CIA, we're going to be in a world of hurt. Plus, just because people let themselves get scared, they let the bullies run the school. The United States at times seems like it's a giant high school where we've allowed the bullies to run the place and tell people where they can sit at lunch."
I can understand -- it's not the role of the media to be compliant with this, but to challenge it. "Eternal vigilance" is the price of freedom, and Teddy Roosevelt once said "Free speech, exercised both individually and through a free press, is a necessity in any country where people are themselves free." (Hat-tip to USPatriotsUnited essay for the Roosevelt quote.)
When Professor Aaron Barlow and I were discussing this story, he put it like this:
"The whole point of freedom of the press is that when the weight of the press starts to fall too much on the government's side, a countering force will develop, restoring balance. Sort of what is happening with MSNBC against Fox News.3"
Barry Nolan is an example of the rising counter-force against the propaganda machine that Fox News has become.
Mr. Nolan appeared on the WGBH's show "Greater Boston" on May 21, discussing the events that led to his dismissal. The segment is available online here:
Here's a brief transcript of two points that I found particularly relevant:
Emily Rooney: "Why put yourself in the position of criticizing somebody for...actually, he's HUGELY successful, he's tried something else, he says 'Listen, uh, opinion is the new way to go'...?"
Barry Nolan: "Is that what you want to say to your kids, your interns who come here and work on Greater Boston, is that what you want to point to and say 'Be like that. That's where we set the bar -- that's what you should strive for.' Is that what you want to say?"
Indeed, if we find ourselves rewarding opinion and punditry over reality, we wind up with a nation addicted to sensationalism and incapable of discerning truth.
Nolan puts to Rooney a question that hopefully every journalist, every media personality and every citizen is asking of him or herself:
Barry Nolan: "What do you want us to say if you're going to belong to an organization that purports to represent integrity and honesty and service to the community and setting the bar high..."
I think he made a strong point there.
Where are the standards that we want our society to adhere to, if we don't realistically enforce them in our media, our press and how we choose to honor the work of those in the field?
One way that we can start to reset the balance is to encourage actions like those of Barry Nolan, and to find our own voices with which to speak out against complacency. The blogosphere has served well in this regard, particularly when it comes to jump-starting some of the stalled reality engines that fell off the traditional media's meat wagon. Some examples:
And, of course, let's not forget the story that launched ePluribus Media:
J.D. Guckert/Jeff Gannon: These Are Your Lives! by Susan Gardner and Todd Johnston of ePluribus Media6
The importance of maintaining integrity and standing up to ensure that honors are awarded for the right reasons cannot be underestimated. The words "eternal vigilance" and "freedom" may sound too altruistic, so perhaps putting this onto a more visceral level will lend weight to the underlying reasons: if we don't hold our media to higher standards, we'll die.
Sound a bit over the top? Yeah -- but -- it's not. Maybe we won't die, but lots of people ~are~ dying, explicitly because we failed to hold our media -- and through them, our leaders -- to a higher standard.
We failed to call their lies about Iraq. Our troops are dying. Civilian casualties are mounting. Men, women and children are displaced; our nation now tortures.
And for our returning troops, there are issues with their education, their healthcare...even their interment and honor guards. For some, there may not be any more room on the wall...
Close your eyes and picture that long obsidian wall of the Vietnam Memorial glistening with the tears of heaven on a rainy day, the etched names so vivid you can see their senior prom photos. As people move along you see the reflections of the families and veterans passing each panel to pay their respects, occasionally reaching out to touch a name as fingers rub and linger over each letter that spells out that life - trapped within the wall.
Now picture the last panel, a soggy rain-soaked piece of cardboard with black ink streaked like weeping mascara that reads:
"There is no room on the Wall for more names. "Thank you for supporting the troops. - Come again."7
For today's world, we need more men and women to take up the quiet and undeterred persistence of Barry Nolan.
It's well past time for the pendulum to swing the other way, back toward a land of justice, a land of the free and a home of brave.
- Welcome to the Boston/New England Chapter of NATAS!. According to the NATAS, the last ten recipients of the Governor's Award have been:
2008 - Bill O'Reilly
2007 - Mike Wallace
2006 - Natalie Jacobson
2005 - Dr. Timothy Johnson
2004 - Rex Trailer
2003 - Curt Gowdy
2002 - David Fanning
2001 - Ken Burns
2000 - Vin Di Bona
1999 - Julia Child
Decisions are made based on 3/4 of the majority. Many thanks to Jill Jones of NATAS Boston/New England for her assistance with this information.
- From Emmy Award - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia,
The statuette of a winged woman holding an atom has since become the symbol of the TV Academies' goal of supporting and uplifting the art and science of television: The wings represent the muse of art; the atom the electron of science.
- Feud Fuels Bill O'Reilly's Blasts at GE
- narcissistic personality disorder (via Wikipedia)
A pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:
- has a grandiose sense of self-importance
- is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
- believes that he or she is "special" and unique
- requires excessive admiration
- has a sense of entitlement
- is interpersonally exploitative
- lacks empathy
- is often envious of others or believes others are envious of him or her
- shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes
That sure sounds a lot like Bill O'Reilly. Barry may be on to something here.
- Bill O'Reilly's Sheer O'Reillyness: Don't call him conservative-- but he is by Seth Ackerman and Peter Hart, Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) Extra! July/August 2001
- Other stories where the blogosphere jumpstarted the press: TPM's work on the US Attorney Scandal and Medicaid and Medicare shenanigans reported by TheFatLadySings. And there are a lot more.
- t r u t h o u t | No Room on the Wall by John Cory, truthout Perspective, 26 May 2008
- And, of course, the lunatics attack:
The above was nicely counterbalanced by this: Not so free speech, by Outraged Liberal on the blog Massachusetts Liberal, 21 May 2008
And then there's the standard nutbar, looking on from within whatever glass jar they keep him in:
The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney: CN8's Barry Nolan Fired Over Anti-Bill O'Reilly Emmy Stunt by Brian Maloney on The Radio Equalizer blog, 22 May 2008
About ePluribus Media
From the ePluribus Media FAQ:
Google "What is Citizen Journalism?" and the Google wizards conjure up a Wikipedia definition we can’t top:
…also known as "participatory journalism,"is the act of citizens "playing an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analyzing and disseminating news and information," according to the seminal report We Media: How Audiences are Shaping the Future of News and Information, by Shayne Bowman and Chris Willis. They say, "The intent of this participation is to provide independent, reliable, accurate, wide-ranging and relevant information that a democracy requires."
Please read Wikipedia’s entire definition, and allow us to direct your attention to its closing paragraph:
Civic journalism refocuses the mission of the news media. According to Edward M. Fouhy of the Pew Center for Civic Journalism, "It is an effort to reconnect with the real concerns that viewers and readers have about the things in their lives they care most about -- not in a way that panders to them, but in a way that treats them as citizens with the responsibilities of self-government, rather than as consumers to whom goods and services are sold. It takes the traditional five w's of journalism -- who, what, when, where, why -- and expands them -- to ask why is this story important to me and to the community in which I live?"