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Posts Tagged ‘National Press Club’

Remembering Watergate: Decency Ultimately Prevailed; Would it Today?

In Blog on October 20, 2013 at 10:16 pm

In journalism and politics in Washington, some things never change.  When the government wants to manage the news, the best way to do it is to release a big story late on a Friday, particularly the Friday before a three-day weekend.  Reporters on deadline don’t have time to find anybody to challenge the story, and it’s framed as  the government prefers.

That’s still true in the nation’s capital, although harder to pull off with everyone online 24/7 and available on their cellphones.  It was far easier 40 years ago, when the Nixon White House announced to reporters that it had reached a compromise on access to the Watergate tapes.

The tapes would provide crucial corroboration to the testimony of former White House counsel John Dean, who had testified that Nixon had approved a series of illegal actions, motivated either by his desire for political victory or his need to cover up the break-in by White House operatives into Democratic party headquarters.

The so-called compromise, and the events that followed, were the subject of an extraordinary gathering at the National Press Club last week.  Key figures in events that would become known as the Saturday Night Massacre gathered to recall those events.  They were introduced by someone who, as a young lawyer, had served on the staff of Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox – Stephen Breyer, who, of course went on to become a Justice of the Supreme Court

The compromise story came as a surprise to Cox, who had subpoenaed the tapes.  He hadn’t agreed to the offer by the White House to give up his demand for the tapes, and to permit 73-year-old Democratic Senator John Stennis of Mississippi who was hard of hearing and on heavy-duty painkillers after having been seriously wounded in a robbery, to listen to the tapes and assess the veracity of written summaries.  Cox would have to accept the summaries , and could not ask for any additional materials.

Cox’s staff scrambled.  “We called the Los Angeles Times’ Washington bureau and asked them what was going on,” recalled Jim Doyle, Cox’s press secretary.  “We had to make clear to the press that Cox had major reservations” about the proposed deal, Doyle said.

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Out of the News Honored for Best Research About Journalism at SPJ Sigma Delta Chi Awards

In Blog on June 24, 2013 at 9:00 am

The main ballroom of the National Press Club in Washington was an extraordinary place last Friday night, June 21, as the Society of Professional Journalists honored 84 reporters and editors in print, broadcast and online for excellence in journalism. 

I was thrilled to be among this distinguished group of 84.  Out of the News was cited for excellence in media research.  The message of event is similar to the message of my book: Despite enormous economic challenges, a lot of good journalism is being done throughout the country, and is serving democracy well.

I can’t do justice to all the winners, but here are a few examples of stellar reporting, thinking and writing that won the coveted awards.

 As Connecticut’s major newspaper, The Hartford Courant had the solemn and sad duty of trying to make sense of the massacre of children at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton last December.  In a series of editorials, it did so.  I especially admired “We Have to Change,”  with its opening admonition to readers, “Stay angry. Remember how you felt this weekend,” and its rejection of the political platitude that now is not the time to discuss gun control.  “We disagree; now is exactly the time,” the editorial states.  “If the brutal execution of 20 children and six educators doesn’t spur meaningful action, we are not worthy of their memory.”

David Fanning, who for decades has helmed PBS’s documentary series Frontline, had another winner in Big Sky, Big Money – by far the clearest and most definitive documentary I’ve seen that details the impact of relaxed campaign spending rules on democracy.  Set in 2012 in Montana during the closely contested Senate race between Sen. Jon Tester and challenger Rep. Denny Rehberg, the documentary probes how out-of-state money changed the political landscape in that state, to the consternation of Democrats and Republicans alike. 

The documentary also demonstrates the growing collaboration among nonprofit media.  PBS made the film in cooperation with the online investigative journalism site, ProPublica and American Public Media’s Marketplace.

 Another honor went to Jim Dwyer for a column on the unnecessary death of a 12-year-old boy from sepsis, an often lethal blood infection that, in this case, resulted from a cut.  A big man in a light suit, Dwyer doesn’t look the epitome of Manhattan cool.  Perhaps that reflects the humanity that imbues his metro columns for The New York Times.  Dwyer deftly describes various facets of his city and its residents, telling beautifully written stories that often show the consequences of bureaucratic indifference or incompetence.  His winning column detailed how Rory Staunton’s (age 12) symptoms were recognized too late both by his pediatrician and then by physicians at a New York hospital.  Their inattention led to his death.  The column paints a real-life portrait of an exceptional and thriving young man, while giving us an almost clinical report of the missed symptoms that robbed him of his life.  What is masterful is Dwyer’s attention to detail and his ability to let the facts make his case. There is outrage here, but it is controlled. 

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Out of the News on C-SPAN

In Blog on January 16, 2013 at 9:00 am


I was interviewed at the 2012 National Press Club Fair by C-SPAN’s Book TV and the interview is up on the C-SPAN website!

Out of the News At The National Press Club Book Fair

In Blog on November 23, 2012 at 9:00 am

Ever since I began writing a book, my dream was to sell it at the National Press Club book fair.  And as my publication date drew closer I even checked with the Press Club to make sure that my book would be published by the submission deadline.  Getting to the fair required a lot of procedural and other hurdles that impaired both my digestion and my sleep.  But finally, a few weeks ago, I received the official acceptance.

I then obsessed about my appearance for the great event.  I bought a vintage red choker, a new top, and earrings from a boutique in Alexandria.  One other mini-disaster threatened. Two hours before the fair, I got a call from the organizers informing me that my books had not yet arrived.  My husband offered to deliver books we had already purchased and dashed off to our home in Alexandria to get them.  Ten minutes later, I got a second call with the good news that the books showed up in the fair’s very last shipment.

All the strategizing, anxiety and planning was worth it. The fair is a terrific event, drawing many big-name authors and hundreds of visitors.  Those authors lucky enough to be selected celebrate their good fortune at a private reception before the event begins.  I wouldn’t stand in line to get a glimpse of a movie star, or snag an autograph from my favorite musician, but I was dazzled to be in the same room as accomplished writers such as Hedrick Smith and David Corn.  I also was pretty dazzled by Georgetown Cupcake’s contribution to the event!

The second, unexpected, highlight of the evening was being interviewed for a short segment for C-SPAN’s BookTV.  I love BookTV.  I think I am the equivalent of a football enthusiast who watches any game.   Any book talk draws me in, no matter what the subject.  On weekend nights, I will fall asleep listening to BookTV interviews.

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The National Press Club Book Fair And Authors’ Night

In Blog on November 19, 2012 at 1:40 pm

I was honored to have Out of The News featured at the 2012 National Press Club Book Fair!  A post on the experience to come soon but here are some pictures for now.


more pictures here!

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