h k c e an Olg . Cafe 310 East 6th St. Austin, Texas Dateline Symposium–Can a Free Press Survive the LBJ Center? By Mary Lenz Austin Tepid, lackluster and dull may sound like the name of the newest Austin lawfirm, but it also applies at least for the most part to a conference on press freedom held at the LBJ Library. It was one of those entertainment spectaculars that sounded like such a good idea that I’d been looking forward to it for weeks. Maybe it was the great expectations that made reality seem so disappointing. But it still seems reasonable to fault the symposium for poor direction, inferior script and questionable casting. Great actors in current events seemed to wind up with bit parts and lackluster lines while bit players, academicians and politicians were free to sound off at length. Maybe the topics of. debate should have clued me in “Can the First Amendment survive a free press?” Just what does that mean? “The Miracle of the KILLER BEES” by Robert Heard. Honey Hill Publishing Co., 1022 Bonham Terrace, Austin, Texas 78704, $7.95 plus $1.03 tax and shipping. What’s It c 911 r About? Parisian Charm. Omelette & Champagne Breakfast. Beautiful Crepes. Afternoon Cocktails. Gallant Waiters. Delicious Quiche. Evening Romance. Continental Steaks. Mysterious Women. Famous Pastries. Cognac & Midnight Rendezvous. In short, it’s about everything a great European style restaurant is all about. Haven’t the past 200 years of history more or less settled it? “How responsible can a free, competitive press be?” That one sounds like some abstruse sentence from computer language or an illogical grammar text. What about such topics as, “Am I, Mary Lenz, going to wind up in jail some time in the next ten years because court decisions are eating away at privilege like battery acid?” or “Are we as a group going to shy away from stories which might put us in a position of having to testify before a grand jury?” The conference began losing points with me when I had to sit through an hour or so of speeches by John Connally and various Univerity of Texas hangers-on, only to be told that the members of the official panel including among others Archibald Cox, Joseph Kraft, Marianne Means and Harrison Salisbury had three minutes each for the discussion. Three minutes? Ye gods! Hardly worth the paper their airline tickets to Texas were written on. To give Connally credit, he raised an important and valid point when he said most reporters are not interested in economics and do not have the background to cover this crucial area. He said the average American would probably understand the current situation better if more reporters had some economic background. He suggested journalism schools require or offer economics courses. I am currently struggling through freshman economics and would heartily agree. I would also agree with Connally’s statement that “most of the press takes the position that it’s not their job to defend the economic system . . . If the press has a better system, they ought to be proposing it.” I am currently working out a complete theoretical revision of the global economic system and will be announcing it some time within the next two years. you to send in your suggestions. But seriously folks, there are those of us in the press corps who have to admit we aren’t fully at home .when it comes to math, business or economics, and Uncle John is right in suggesting we need to remedy this. Connally’s other criticisms of the press included the following: The press believes only bad news is news, “a responsible press cannot be negative in its character.” The ‘press thrives on sensationalism, devoting too much space to athletes and entertainers. “In the final analysis, Elvis Presley killed himself with drugs . . . He: was not someone to be emulated and not someone to be admired,” Connally said. The news is dominated by three networks, two wire services, the New York Times and the Washington Post, who, suspiciously, all wind up writing about the same things. The profession historically was badly paid and includes a lot of “young every instinct is to be against institutions. Regardless of what exists, they’re against it.” Looking across campus today at that sea of Reagan voters, Rodney Dangerfield fans, and wearers of the inevitable Izod, and the business and economics classrooms so crowded the University is considering limiting enrollment, we can only conclude that Mr. Connally has a different, mythical group of young people in mind. One of the great, well publicized moments of the conference took place as Harrison Salisbury responded to Connally.. He said he had lived for many years where the press published nothing about popular figures like Elvis Presley or John Lennon, no crime news, nothing sensational; where reporters responsibly checked out or received all information from the government, were well paid, included very few young people, and were steeped in economics of a particular type. Salisbury had worked as a correspondent in the U.S.S.R. I would also like to have heard someone tell Connally that it is the marketplace which determines a great deal of what is printed, including stories about poor boys who hit it rich as entertainers and athletes. It would also appear that President Reagan got just as much ink in the past few weeks as John Lennon did when he was shot. It is also the marketplace which is the reason the National Inquirer has more subscribers than far more deserving publications \(like the and why TV news gets a bigger audience than newspapers. It is almost too easy to criticize former or current government officials when 30 APRIL 17, 1981
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