This week, National Public Radio’s All Things Considered broadcast this shockingly good 13-minute feature on the 63rd anniversary of the July 28, 1945 crash of a B-25 bomber into the Empire State Building, killing 14. The segment has all the elements of a top-rate professionally produced radio piece — interviews with surviving witnesses, contemporaneous radio reports, and a solid technical summary of the event itself to set the piece up.
As a member of the media, the detail that struck me most came just after the 11-minute mark, when the producer spliced in this clip from an NBC news report on the crash. Here’s what reporter Don Goddard said, in signing off, 63 years ago: “Well, we’re going to get off the air here very shortly because we have the story told now …”
And after that, another voice: “We return you now to the music of the first piano quartet.” (As it happens, the quartet then played a slow, melancholy tune, an entirely fitting musical commentary on the events of the day.)
It’s an amazing statement on how much news reporting has changed in the intervening decades. Think about those words — declared just hours after one of the biggest aviation disasters in U.S. history: “We have the story told.” If this sort of tragedy happened today, every cable news channel in the United States would be on it 24 hours a day for days on end. When every aspect of the actual crash had been exhausted, the networks would go to survivors, family members of survivors, firemen (who really did save people that day in 1945, instead of just adding to the casualty total, as at 9/11), bogus “analysts,” grief counselors, and the like. In 1945, it was a few hours of news, and then on to other programming. In 2008, it’s a few hours of news, followed by days of crap.
“We have the story told” — wow, wouldn’t it be nice if you heard those words more often.
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