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Ted Koppel

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Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

In May 1987, Sen. Gary Hart stepped up to a microphone and pulled out of the race for president. Hart spoke not only about his decision, but about a sea change he perceived in how the media covered national politics.

What appeared in Soviet newspapers, magazines and books during the 1950s was processed through so many layers of censorship, that what ultimately emerged was mostly propaganda. Writers and poets who defied the system, went unpublished, lost their jobs and often their homes. Many were sent to the gulag, or died in the cellars of the KGB.

During the worst terror of the Stalin years, Boris Pasternak, the author of Dr. Zhivago, was left largely alone because, it was rumored, Stalin liked some of his poetry.

It may have been "mad" as in angry or "mad" as in deranged. Either way, almost 40 years ago, screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky anticipated the future of television news. He envisioned a nasty, profit-oriented industry that would literally kill for ratings. (Network was — after all — satire, not a documentary.) Dave Itzkoff's account of how the brilliant, stubborn and pugnacious Chafesky did his research, wrote his script and, ultimately, imposed his vision on the film is elegantly executed.

In journalism, a stringer is a freelance reporter or photographer who gets paid on the basis of each story or picture sold. So, much of the time there's no regular salary, no living allowance, and often, no travel subsidy. It's a tough way to make a living; especially since the competition in a major market like New York or London is prohibitively fierce. The trick for a young journalist is to find a location rich in material but light on the competitive side; the more poverty-stricken, dirty, corrupt and dangerous, the better.