Grim alert on teen-age violence by 'CBS Reports'
A disturbing "horror" show airs next week on television -- and paradoxically it is almost totally devoid of violence. "CBS Reports: Murder, Teenage Style" (CBS, Thursday, 10-11 p.m., check local listings) is as relentlessly cool as its major interviewees -- mostly teen-age youngsters who have used guns to murder. The sight of teen-agers on camera coldly describing the murder of innocent, unknown victims should remove any lingering complacency about violence on TV, about teen-age marijuana use, about the complete alienation of some young people. One can only hope the show accomplishes its aim of turning society's attention to this growing challenge.
It seems clear from listening to the alleged youthful killers on this documentary that the 18,000 murders they have witnessed on TV by the time they are 16 years old, the "pot" induced highs so permissively portrayed by the media , may be having a literally murderous effect upon they youngsters.
The show's reporter, Ed Bradley, told me "The kids put a lot of the blame on TV and on smoking marijuana. But I think those are just excuses. I believe the major thing is that these kids feel they just don't have any stake in our society. From infancy on, they are told that they are not worth very much. They feel they have no chance to escape the trap they're in. Their parents didn't get out of it. They don't get out of it. So they rob and kill."
Is Bradley -- himself black -- worried about being called a racist since most of the youthful criminals depicted are either black or Hispanic?
"I knew when I did the show that Iran the risk of being called racist. But I know in my mind and in my heart that is not true. I had to do the story -- it is much too important to leave untold." And indeed, just as graffiti and drugs first became rampant in the lower-income levels and then crept up into the middle and upper classes, so teen murder and teen gun-possession seem finally to have crossed the railroad tracks and could become a societywide problem.
Says producer-director Irina Posner, "I wanted to know what those newspaper stories of guns in the hands of 11-year-olds meant. I soon discovered that, not only gangs, but ordinary kids may have guns these days. I felt like an incredible dummy."
What would Miss Posner like the show to accomplish?
"If we can just alert people to the problem. . . . People are so ready to find simple solutions -- but I hope this show makes people realize that this problem in particular has much deeper roots and there are no surface solutions. I will be content if it forces people to think more about it."
Miss Posner can rest assured. Seeing this show will make think them more about it. Cable news gold rush
Now that the Great Cable Culture Rush seems to be leveling off, are we about to experience the Great Cable News Rush?
Ted Turner's Atlanta-based 24-hour Cable News Network has appears to be on the verge of financial as well as professional success, and the potential competitors are moving in to stake their claims.
A few days ago, ABC and Westinghouse announced they would be starting a new 24-hour news service on cable within a few months. This will be 24-hours of news, repeated in 18-minute cycles. A second channel, to start in a couple of years, will supposedly be dedicated to in-depth news coverage.
Unlike CNN, which charges systems 15 or 20 cents per head for the service, which accepts advertising, the ABC-Westinghouse channel will be provided free to cable systems. It is expected that advertising will pay the way, both for ABC-Westinghouse and the cable system (which will be allowed some local ads).
The major problem facing Turner's CNN is the fact that most cable systems are "mom-and-pop" systems with a limited number of channels. And they are more likely to turn one channel over to the freebie ABC-Westinghouse service than to CNN, which costs them something, even though it is probably luring many news buffs into the cable systems.
Most disturbing is the fact that what this new service will bring is simply more of the same, more often. There is about 22 minutes of actual news on most evening news programs now. And the major criticism is that in effect it's a mere headline news service. Well, the new ABC-Westinghouse service will cut that down to 18 minutes. Do we really need another headline news service?
Ted Turner reacted by announcing a second news network for cable -- this one a 30-minute headline news service which will air next January as Cable News Network 2 -- amid industry speculation that both Warner Amex and Time Inc. are discussing possible mergers with Mr. Turner to provide the funding to keep both in his networks.