Howell Raines, former executive editor of The New York Times, has an intriguing piece in today's edition about the Greensboro Woolworth Sit-in and its impact on the South 50 years later. He also raises a question: Could the civil rights movement succeed if it had taken place in today's media atmosphere? He says:
"Sure, conservative columnists like Rowland Evans and Robert Novak clucked about Communist influence on the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and Paul Harvey seemed vaguely disturbed by dark-skinned youngsters who talked back to Southern sheriffs. But straight, eyewitness reporting dominated television news, and Northern print reporters flooding the region quickly shamed Southern newspapers into covering civil rights in a way that began to look, let us say, balanced — or even, in a few cities, fair. . . .
"Today, however, there’s no denying that traditional reportage of political and social trends seems almost as out of date as segregation. Surely the civil rights movement would have been hampered by the politicized, oppositional journalism that flows from Fox News and the cable talk shows. Luckily for the South, that kind of butchered news was left mostly to a few extremist newspapers in Virginia and Mississippi and to local AM radio talk shows that specialized in segregationist rants."
He goes on to talk about what he and other journalists from his generation got wrong about the movement and the unforeseen ways it changed the politics of the South.
His opinion piece can be found here.
What do you think?
(Image by Zina Saunders, © New York Times)