David Halberstam – Journalist
I am about 1/3 of the way through David Halberstam’s last book, The Coldest Winter, a history of the Korean War.
Halberstam was a true journalist, and as I read, the tragedy of his death and his loss to the world becomes all the more poigniant.
The book is a magnificent study, not just of Korea, but also of the abuse of power and the danger of those who gather unquestioned authority about them. In the case of Korea, Halberstam’s nemesis is MacArthur, but the lessons could as easily be applied to Bush and Co.
What astonishes me as I read The Coldest Winter is that Halberstam produced this all by himself! One man with a word processor. And you have a magnificent work of history, journalism and social commentary.
Upon reading it, I am forced to wonder why the world of print journalism is capable of generating such excellence from just one man, while television ‘journalism’, with its thousands and thousands of employees, and hundreds of millions of dollars and endless hours of air time is not capable of delivering anything remotely similar.
Not even remotely.
Below, a verbatim quote from Katie Couric, the $14 million dollar a year journalist on her visit to the White House:
“Visiting the White House is always a humbling experience. I’m always in awe of the history those walls have witnessed. And I was impressed by the respect President Bush has for the place. He even told one of our producers “Straighten your tie, young man. You’re in the White House.” I loved that. ” -Katie Couric 2007
And here is Halberstam on MacArthur:
“MacArthur himself had shown up in Pyongyang right after the First Cav arrived there. “Any celebrities here to greet me?” he had asked when he stepped off his plane. “Where is Kim Buck Tooth?” he joked, in mocking reference to Kim Il Sung, the seemingly defeated North Korean Communist leader. Then he asked anyone in the Cav who had been with the unit from the beginning to step forward. Of the roughly two hundred I men assembled, four took that step; each had been wounded at some point. Then MacArthur got back on his plane for the flight back to Tokyo. He did not spend the night in Korea; in fact he did not spend the night there during the entire time he commanded. ” -David Halberstam 2007
I will not denegrate Halberstam by even pretending to make a comparison.
If we took the complete transcript of The CBS Evening News with Katie Couric and published it as a book it would belong in the EASY READING or CHILDRENS LITERATURE section – if we called it literature at all.
There is something wrong with television news, and it’s not about holding the line to keep the VJs out. There is nothing to defend here.