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“In that first couple of hours you could actually see the modern idea of wall-to-wall coverage of a big, breaking story inventing itself in front of your very eyes,” said Thompson.
Thompson described how CBS bested NBC’s coverage (which Thompson said was occasionally “Keystone cops”). But, he added, CBS had its own inconsistent, incoherent moments: The network broke into “As the World Turns” with a news bulletin, but then remarkably returned to the soap opera as the real-life tragedy unfolded in Dallas. It wasn’t until the third interruption that CBS stuck with what Thompson called “an extraordinary four-day television program.”
Thompson concluded by commenting on TV news. But given the gridlock gripping Washington, he could just have easily been comparing the perception of that era’s Camelot culture to the dispiriting dysfunction apparent nowadays.
“To go back and look at those four days of coverage is to look at American television still in its infancy, but also still in the rigors of its idealistic youth. It’s so different from watching it today in its angry, old-man dotage.”
John Rash is a Star Tribune editorial writer and columnist. The Rash Report can be heard at 8:20 a.m. Fridays on WCCO Radio, 830-AM. On Twitter: @rashreport.
The Opinion section is produced by the Editorial Department to foster discussion about key issues. The Editorial Board represents the institutional voice of the Star Tribune and operates independently of the newsroom.