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The Long View

Great Moments in American Journalism

by Rob Long

April 19, 1775, Lexington, Mass.:
“Brian, as you can see behind me, there are skirmishes here and there — powder of some sort that is continually rising up in some sort of plume — and as you can see some of the military personnel that are on duty here behind me — can we get a shot of this? — as you can see they are bringing what look like small rye-bread dinner rolls to the men and women in uniform behind me — okay, I’m getting word now that it’s just men right now, just men, repeat: I have confirmation that only men are currently engaged in the violent exchanges now taking place between the American forces representing what we might call the “tea party” wing of the political spectrum and the British forces representing the international order and — excuse me, to clarify, those are not dinner rolls, as I misspoke earlier, those are I can now confirm small cannon-type ball-objects, used in military events of this sort as a kind of flying airborne weapon that is projected from one side onto another in a violent fashion. As you can see, the cannon-projected spheres are flying through the air, which is thick with a kind of white airborne particulate, it’s hard to breathe, Brian, so I’m going to head back behind the lines of one or both of the opposing sides in this skirmish to get more details. One thing is certain, Brian: It’s going to be a long morning here in Lexington, Massachusetts.”

April 9, 1865, Appomattox, Va.:
“Steve, no word yet on when exactly the two generals will appear to answer press questions. As you know, press availability has been a continual problem during the War Between the States, and it looks as if, even in these final moments, they will continue to remain unavailable for routine press inquiries. What we do know, however, is that General Lee arrived first and is waiting for General Grant to arrive. We were following General Grant’s horse and entourage by helicopter, but the noise apparently frightened the general’s mount and he was thrown from his horse. No word yet on the general’s condition, but we’re here now with an orthopedic surgeon with familiarity with this kind of horse accident, and so we ask you, Dr. Epstein, can a fall from a horse like this be serious? Can we expect General Grant to arrive at Appomattox soon? And what, if you don’t mind, from your perspective as an orthopedic surgeon, should the terms of surrender be? Doctor?”

March 7, 1965, Selma, Ala.:
“Michelle, I’m here now in Selma, Alabama, where the first of several planned marches for voting rights are about to be carried out. Behind me, as you can see, are hundreds of African-American civil-rights activists and allies, prepared to make the trek from this town in central Alabama to Montgomery. And I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, Brant, I hope you’re being careful. Yes, Michelle, I am, but you know this is what we in the media, in the newsgathering business, this is what we do. We try to be where things are happening to get the story straight and bring it to the American people. Does that make us heroes? Sure. Of course it does. But I wouldn’t want that to in any way take away from the relatively equally brave work a lot of the African-American people behind me are doing — not the ones right behind me, they’re just carrying my luggage and equipment — I mean the other African Americans who are preparing to begin to march for freedom and — okay, I’m getting word that the march began a few moments ago. I’ll have the car loaded up and when the AC gets it all cooled off inside, we’ll head down the road to catch up with them. Michelle?”

April 11, 1945, Buchenwald, Weimar, Germany:
“Brian, behind me stands one of the most evil and reprehensible testaments to man’s inhumanity to man ever conceived. It is a truly unimaginable horror, Brian, and it’s going to take all of my courage and heroism to describe it. What’s most inconceivable, Brian, is its purpose, which was the extermination of human beings, some of them, Brian, journalists. Let me pause a moment while that sinks in. Journalists were interned here, in this concentration camp, and led to their deaths, among others’. What this says about this regime’s total disregard for the First Amendment is, of course, obvious. But when a government imprisons journalists, what atrocities are left? We’ll discuss that, and more, with a panel of media experts and a professor from the Columbia University School of Journalism, when we return.”

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