Impact of being fired -- and a flapover NBC's Lebanon reports
CBS News is delivering some unnerving but enlightening news. A study of a comparatively recent phenomenon in our society -- the unexpected and shattering early termination of longtime employees by some corporations -- is examined with great empathy by "CBS Reports's" After All Those Years (Monday, 10-11 p.m., check local listings).m
Producer-reporter-writer-directory Jay McMullen refuses to get bogged down in statistics about this apparently growing trend. Instead he examines with sympathy and understanding the quiet agony of several corporate executives who have been forced to retire after devoting their entire working careers to their companies.
The changing philosphies of some companies, combined with the tight economy, have meant their employers no longer had the will or the assets to keep some of these employees on the job. "All of a sudden you are nobody," explains one of the newly unemployed veterans.
"After All Those Years" is a major accomplishment for Mr. McMullen, in that it turns what might have been merely a sad documentary into a thoughtful sociological treatise. Its greates impact, however, comes from the personal tragedies it depicts so graphically. If it has a few major faults, they are the lack of enough explanation from the corporations involved, and the few statistics to prove what some might consider a questionable premise. Few corporations would wish to address the problem head on, since any admissions might leave them open to lawsuits.
It is especially ironic -- and, perhaps, symptomatic -- that the trend in American corporations seems to be toward less protection for loyal employees at the same time that corporations in extremely productive societies like Japan are moving toward an even more protective -- some would say paternalistic -- attitude.
"After All Those Years" might even be performing a public service by peeesonalizing these job terminations for viewers to see -- including corporate executives who may be single-mindedly involved in cutting costs. Perhaps it will not be so easy to bid a casual adieu to a 30-year employee when that termination becomes less impersonal and executives fully understand the traumatic impact on the lives of terminated employees . . . after all those years. NBC in Lebanonm
In an earnest but insistently one-sided study of TV news, a concerned orrganization has challenged NBC to explain some alleged distortions in its reports on the recent war in Lebanon.
Although its videotape polemic NBC in Lebanon: A Study in Media Misrepresentation is itself a prime example of advocacy journalism, its sponsor, Americans for a Safe Israel, is making an all-out attack on NBC's "advocacy journalism" as evidenced in its coverage of Lebanon. Almost incidentally, the videotape also attacks coverage by the other networks, which it insists also misrepresneted the news, but not quite so badly as NBC.
Unrelentless in its seemingly factual presentation, the documentary, which was written and directed by the organization's director, Peter Emanuel Goldman, provides film clips from actual NBC broadcasts that time and time again seem to show that NBC slanted its coverage. While pointing OUT distortions, misinformation, and unbalanced observations, Mr. Goldman in many instances also provides alternate footage to prove his points.
According to "NBC in Lebanon," "NBC Nightly News" devoted nearly 600 minutes to the war in Lebanon between June 4 and Aug. 31, 1982, with less than 30 minutes of this time devoted to the Israeli view or to what the documentary considers factual background of the war. Pro-PLO Lebanese leaders were interviewed 14 times, while anti-PLO Lebanese leaders were interviewed only twice, although Mr. Goldman claims that the majority of Lebanese opinion was strongly against the PLO. Yasser Arafat was consistently presented in a favorable light, often kissing babies. Goldman also claims that grossly exaggerated figures a casualties and damage were repeated even after correct figures were known.
Although the documentary does not dispute John Chancellor's right to personal opinion in his commentary, it is concerned with the factual accuracy of some of his comments as well as what Goldman considers the overall bias of the NBC coverage.
NBC News and its president, Reuven Frank, declined to take part in or comment upon the accusations. But the accusations appear too grave to be ignored.
According to Amercians for a Safe Israel officials, the $25,000 documentary was made with contributions from the organization's members and will be available to schools and organizations. While it is planned to try to place the documentary on television, there seems to be little hope that any commercial network will air it. PBS and independent stations are being approached, however.
At the screening I attended, David Bar Illan of the group's executive committee demanded that TV provide for viewers the kind of forum that many Amercian newspapers now provide on op-ed pages. But both ABC and CBS are already involved in on-air projects which, in fact, do allow for some viewer reaction. On PBS, Hodding Carter's "Inside Story" is attempting to provide a forum for opposite viewpoints.
Perhaps the most obvious outlet for "NBC in Lebanon" is PBS's "Frontline," which is television's only permanently scheduled documentary series. It purports to present a wide variety of views, and it would be a daringly controversial move on the part of producer David Fanning to reach out and bring this clearly biased but disturbing piece of TV advocacy journalism to a wider audience. Audiences would then be able to judge for themselves whether the accusations against NBC -- and all of TV news -- need to be addressed further by the networks, the viewing public . . . and perhaps even the Federal Communications Commission.