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The Insider: The Good, the Sad, the Struggling

Jun 15, 2008  •  Post A Comment

ABC’s “World News” anchor Charlie Gibson accepted Quinnipiac University’s 15th annual Fred Friendly First Amendment Award from the TV journalism legend’s widow. Then he looked her right in the eye and said: “Ruth, with all due respect, he was no George Clooney.”
He delivered the joke perfectly. The crowd in the lavishly stately—and blessedly chilled—room at Manhattan’s Metropolitan Club got it and relished it.
Mr. Clooney portrayed Mr. Friendly in “Good Night and Good Luck,” his 2005 movie about the stand that anchor-correspondent Edward R. Murrow and his producer, Mr. Friendly, took against McCarthyism.
Mr. Clooney twice was People’s Sexiest Man Alive. Mr. Friendly was a big man with big features and big glasses who suggested God collects caricatures.
Mr. Gibson had particular reason to remember the March 9, 1954, “See It Now” devoted to “A Report on Senator Joseph R. McCarthy.” His father, a news junkie but “not much for TV news” up to that time, went out and bought a television so the family could watch the broadcast.
Mr. Gibson played characteristically graceful homage to Mr. Friendly’s legacy, even saying he’d love to see one of the presidential campaign faceoffs done in the style of the Fred Friendly seminars that were seen for more than 20 years on public TV. Those seminars continue today and deliver a wide range of opinions on one issue.
Mr. Gibson rued the trend of news personalities raising their profiles by striving to be the most strident, opinionated and outrageous in the pack. He echoed earlier remarks made by legendary First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams, who received the first Fred Friendly Lifetime Achievement Award.
Mr. Abrams surmised that Mr. Friendly might have voiced some of his famous professional “rage” had he witnessed coverage of the recent presidential primaries, some of which Mr. Abrams found “sour, mean-spirited and even biased.”
Everyone at The Insider’s table shot a surreptitious look at MSNBC anchor Dan Abrams to see if body language suggested this was a familiar topic for father and son, since MSNBC has come under so much criticism for its coverage of Sen. Hillary Clinton, in particular. The younger Mr. Abrams declined an invitation to address the question in a phone conversation with The Insider after the luncheon.
On a sadder note…
The first paragraph of the June 9 installment of the NPR blog “My Cancer,” by former ABC News producer Leroy Sievers, took the words out of The Insider’s mouth: “Well, the news wasn’t good. And I wasn’t prepared.”
Mr. Sievers has slugged it out with more than one cancer over the last two-plus years. He had just had his first scan in some time.
“Basically the disease has exploded,” he wrote. “There are some things we can do. Some things we’ll need to do. The pelvis and brain are probably at the top of the list. But there’s nothing to be done about a lot of the disease. The total burden of the cancer on my body is pretty heavy now. I have some serious decisions to make.”
The Insider has said it before, but it’s only right to say it again: If you are not subscribing to “My Cancer,” go to npr.org, click on “newsletters” and sign up to catch up on a most extraordinary journal full of words to live—and fight—by.
“Over the last few days, I’ve had to tell friends, family, and loved ones what the situation is,” Mr. Sievers wrote last week. “I’ll admit that I haven’t been able to make it through all those conversations without breaking down. I don’t want to be melodramatic. I don’t know that this is the time to start saying my goodbyes. It doesn’t feel like the right time for that.”
But, as his ever-constant Laurie said, “We live life here. We don’t sit and wait for death.”

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