Keith Olbermann's highly publicized departure from MSNBC brought to light the television host's major gripe with the news organization. Olbermann, a former ESPN anchor, was openly unhappy with the amount of coverage the network was giving to the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal and spoke his mind on the issue in a number of talk show appearances. He quit as host of MSNBC's The Big Show just 17 months after taking the position.
Although Olbermann later said he would have quit even if there had not been a Monica Lewinsky--saying he missed the sports world--the episode did open a dialogue on the subject of news coverage. How much does the public need to know? And when is it time to move on to other news?
Jeffrey Dvorkin, National Public Radio's vice president of news and information, will address such questions at an April 20 lecture titled "Journalism in the 21st Century: Will We Ever Be High-Minded Again?" The event, to be held at 8 p.m. in Shriver Hall Auditorium on the Homewood campus, is part of the Frank R. Kent Memorial Lecture series in journalism.
The Kent lectures honor the late Baltimore journalist who served as a Sun correspondent in the 1920s and as its managing editor for 10 years. Kent is perhaps best known as the country's first daily political columnist and was renowned for his commentary on national political issues.
In 1965,New York Times journalist James Reston delivered the first Kent lecture. Speakers chosen for the series--among them Edward R. Murrow, Ted Koppel and David Halberstam--have been respected journalists who try to offer insight into the roles and responsibilities of those in their field.
Dvorkin brings with him more than 20 years of experience in public radio, the majority spent at the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., where he served as writer, editor and producer before joining NPR early last year.
Dvorkin, the former chief journalist and managing editor of CBC Radio News, feels the blitzlike coverage of the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal and other similar events have caused the public to wonder "what the heck is going on" in regard to media values. He adds that the public is not alone in their concerns.
"Journalists also have a concern that the quest for high ratings and larger numbers might be deforming the craft in some way," Dvorkin says. "The media has become a big business. And when business values become more important than journalistic values, then you have a conflict."
Dvorkin has worked for the CBC at its bureaus in Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto. In 1989, he reported from Prague and Budapest on the fall of communism in Eastern Europe. He has spoken on freedom issues and been a consultant on public broadcasting for journalists in Slovenia, Hungary and Poland.
Dvorkin will not limit his lecture to radio but says he will address journalism in general.
Raymond Dilley, general manager of WJHU, who was instrumental in luring Dvorkin to campus, says that although Dvorkin may not be a household name, he is a "fairly tall figure" in news radio.
"This is an opportunity to get into the head of someone who is running one of the top electronic news operations in the country," Dilley says. "He is the guy behind the scenes."
WJHU, an affiliate of NPR, is the media sponsor of the lecture, which will be free and open to the public. Tickets, however, are required. For more information call 410-516-7157.
Jeffrey Dvorkin will be a guest on The Marc Steiner Show (WJHU 88.1 FM) on Tues., April 20, at 1 p.m.