White Noise: News and Info from Inside the Media Bubble
Airing Jesse Helms
UNC-TV airs Senator No: Jesse Helms, a documentary about the former North Carolina lawmaker whose stormy legacy in the US Senate as a champion of the new right invokes either love or hatred with few emotions in the middle, on Tuesday, Jan. 15 at 9 p.m. The Iraq war, a sputtering economy and immigration mostly have supplanted the hot-button issues on which Helms raged during his Senate run from 1973 to 2003, but the lawmaker certainly made his mark. Prior to being elected to political office, Helms stoked white racial resentments as an editorialist for Raleigh’s WRAL-TV, opining that the 1964 Civil Rights Act was “the single most dangerous piece of legislation ever introduced in the Congress.” He also made an indelible mark on popular culture. The Sonic Youth song “Chapel Hill” captures the leftist punk scene in the Triangle ca. 1991 that, depending on your reading, either envisions a beat-down against the geriatric legislator at a venue like the Cat’s Cradle or a conversion to the progressive values of inclusion and diversity. “We’ll round up the Durham HC kids/ And the Char Grill Killers,” Thurston Moore sings. “Jesse H. come into our pit/ All ages show.”
Moveon.org, the internet-based political action committee, made news last week when it hired Peter Koechley, former managing editor of the satirical newspaper The Onion. MoveOn.org came to prominence in 1998 when it opposed the impeachment of President Clinton and has since stood fast against the war in Iraq and, more recently, opposed the Facebook networking site in its efforts to make public its members’ buying habits. The Onion is known for headlines like “Trophy wife mounted” and “White House slam dunk contest results in no slam dunks.” Whether this is a good match remains to be seen, but it seems likely that MoveOn’s wordplay skills (e.g. “Betray-Us”) will be taken up a notch.
The second coming
Last week, we poked fun of the sale of Landmark Communications by printing a list of potential buyers for the Greensboro News & Record. One name that escaped our attention was Pat Robertson, who has since said he might be interested in bidding for the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, Landmark’s flagship paper. Robertson, who already owns the Christian Broadcasting Network, wants the paper because it would provide internship and employment opportunities for journalism students at Regent University. Regent is well known for placing its graduates in George W. Bush’s executive branch, but has had less success finding high-profile gigs for its J-school students. The Virginian-Pilot isn’t exactly the Gray Lady, but it would be a decent foothold in the notoriously godless Fourth Estate.
Nat Hentoff’s 50 years
I first heard of Village Voice writer Nat Hentoff in 1979 when I read his young-adult novel This School is Driving Me Crazy, about a bad-apple junior high student (with, of course, a good heart) whose father is the headmaster at his school. I don’t remember much about it, other than there was something about pumpkins. At any rate, by then Hentoff had already put in 20 years at the Voice, where he celebrated his 50th anniversary last week. Back then I identified with Hentoff’s protagonist in a very real way. These days I hope to accomplish a fraction of what he has in his time in journalism. I also hope the New Times chain appreciates him as much as I do.