Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Conscience Doth Make Crusaders
As you probably know, I got fired by CNN for writing on my own time -- occasionally about the abysmal state of the news business -- without first allowing the network to approve my stuff (which is all kinds of amusing, given that the two copy editors I last worked with on American Morning combined were about as sharp as a pillowcase full of wet toilet paper).
On these virtual pages, I've held little back when it comes to my views on those executives and on-air "personalities" who I believe are destroying the Fourth Estate from the inside out -- and I have to assume it cost me a relatively high-paying job.
But it wasn't that high-paying.
I never made the kind of money that Barry Nolan did. Nor, for all my occasional bluster, have I ever made the kind of ballsy, idealistic statement that Nolan just did -- the one that wound up costing him his job.
The journeyman anchor was fired by Comcast CN8 TV last week, after he protested a decision by the Boston-area Emmy Awards to give Fox News talking-empty-head and Vaudevillian boob Bill O'Reilly the prestigious Governors Award; former recipients of this honor include Mike Wallace and WCVB legend Natalie Jacobson.
How committed was Nolan to ensuring that the Emmy folks understood the kind of mistake they were making?
While attending the Emmy ceremony -- after an e-mail campaign failed to garner enough voices willing to rock the boat -- Nolan quietly went table to table and dropped off fliers featuring impugnable quotes from O'Reilly himself as well as the public details of the multi-million dollar settlement in Bloviating Bill's high-profile sexual harassment suit.
I've pulled a lot of subversive stunts in my lifetime, but Nolan just made me look like one of the Jonas Brothers.
The important thing to keep in mind is this: His cause was absolutely righteous, and the fact that O'Reilly took home one of Emmy's highest honors says less about him than it does about the value of the Emmy itself these days -- about what can be considered worthy of journalistic recognition. When I picked up my first Emmy, back in Los Angeles in 1996, the very first thing I did when I stepped onstage and in front of the microphone was to dryly quote Groucho Marx: "I seem to remember him saying something about not wanting to belong to any club that would actually have someone like him as a member," I said. "So what does that say about the value of this thing right now?" I continued, holding up the award.
My willingness to dismiss both my own abilities and, in a roundabout way, the awards system itself was, at the time, nothing more than a product of my myopic, man-childlike stupidity. But make no mistake, the next person to win the Emmy Governors Award will be able to make a similar statement to the one I brashly made at 26 -- only he or she can claim that the award has been devalued not by the person winning it at that moment but by virtue of the fact that it was once given to Bill fucking O'Reilly.
If that doesn't make the award worthless, I have no idea what would.
Regardless, as much as it pains me to welcome Barry Nolan to the unemployment line, he's owed a debt of gratitude from anyone who believes, as I do, that television news has completely lost its way. He took a risk that temporarily cost him his livelihood, but he gets to keep his soul -- and I have no doubt that if there were more of his kind out there right now, I wouldn't have much to complain about when it comes to the TV news business.
I could deal with that.
(Think Progress: Barry Nolan Writes About Protesting Bill O'Reilly)