Thursday, March 25, 2010

A latchkey culture

Another grown-up has gone home to be with God, leaving the children to throw spitballs at one another down here on earth.

We're on our own now, down here in the public square, where decent folk dare not venture. Not at night, not during the day. No time is safe, now that the grown-ups are leaving us to our own devices, and the neighborhood is flat going to hell.

The latest grown-up to be called home was Phil Johnson. For decades, he ran the newsroom at
WWL-TV in New Orleans. He also delivered a nightly editorial, because the Jesuits who owned the station -- it was part of Loyola University back then -- "wanted the station to stand for something.”

Johnson said in that first editorial in 1962:
Good evening. Today a new voice speaks out in New Orleans. The voice – that of this station – WWL-TV. My name is Phil Johnson.

Beginning today, and every weekday hereafter, this station will present editorial opinion – a living, vigorous commentary on all things pertaining to New Orleans, its people and its future.

Commentary designed to stimulate thought, to awaken in all of us an awareness of our responsibilities, not only to our community, but to each other and to ourselves.

Commentary that will aim not to provoke but to educate. Not to offend, but to explain; not to mislead, on the contrary, to seek only truth.

We intend for it to be a vigorous commentary, strong, vibrant, full of the spirit that is New Orleans; yet, a literate commentary, cogent, sensible, fact-filled, complete.

It will not be a comfortable commentary – a voice such as this station reaches over a million people each week. Such a voice should lead, should stimulate thought, present new ideas, or remember the sound, solid old ideas. This we intend to do.

There is one question. Why? Why speak out? Why present editorial opinion?

The answer is simple enough. We think it’s necessary.

This station believes New Orleans needs another voice, another attitude, another opinion. But we further believe it should, it must be a responsible voice, a responsible attitude, a responsible opinion. This we intend to provide.

New Orleans, almost overnight, has found itself propelled to the very forefront of an incredible age of space. We need great leaders, we need men of ability, we need ideas.

Our leaders we elect, men of ability, we can train. Ideas are harder to come by.

It is the fervent prayer of this station, that the ideas we may project in our editorials can, tomorrow, next week, next month, through the years, help provide for this, our New Orleans, and you, our people, a bright, happy future.

Good evening.
AND THIS is what Phil Johnson, editorialist, said in 1963 after some hate-filled cracker in Mississippi pumped Medgar Evers' body full of lead:

THAT'S what it looked like -- long, long ago in a place far, far away . . . in oh, so many respects -- when the adults were in charge of our mass media. Well, at least for the most part.

Now, not so much. . . .

HOW IN THE WORLD did we get from Phil Johnson to this? What in the world will become of us now that the grown-ups have been called away?

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