Tag Archives: Vietnam

Spending his life as a ‘Reporter’: Seymour Hersh 

My Lai. If you know anything at all about the war in Vietnam, you know this word.

It was the village where more than 100 unarmed civilians were killed by American soldiers during a 1968 offensive. The word has taken on literal and symbolic meaning.

We might not know the word at all if it had not been for the efforts of a remarkable, single-minded reporter named Seymour Hersh.

The story of how Hersh, then a broke freelance, stumbled on the appalling events at My Lai is familiar by now: when a military lawyer told him that a soldier at Fort Benning in Georgia was facing a court martial for killing at least 109 Vietnamese civilians, Hersh simply rocked up at the base and went door to door until he found 26-year-old Lt William L Calley Jr (he later followed this up with an even more amazing interview, this time with Paul Meadlo, a farm kid from Indiana who had shot many of the civilians before losing a leg himself). Reading about it here, though, you’re reminded all over again of just how hard it was to get such a scoop published. The first report was rejected out of hand by many media organisations, among them the New York Times, and carefully rewritten – Hersh sold it through a tiny agency – by others seemingly made nervous and resentful by it. Source: Reporter: A Memoir by Seymour Hersh – review | Books | The Guardian

The My Lai massacre story was one of many major scoops that Hersh broke in his remarkable career. Now he has written a memoir, Reporter: A Memoir by Seymour Hersh, and the quote above is from a review in The Guardian by Rachel Cooke.

Hersh has done what reporters are supposed to do: he has found things out that people — often powerful people have wanted to keep hidden — and he has reported those things. He has not always been right, and he has rarely been gentle.

But as a matter of personal and symbolic pride, he has never been invited to the White House for dinner.

Related:

See this earlier reference to My Lai in one of our March newsletters

Shakespeare’s appearance, Eleanor’s mastery, and Cronkite’s broadcast – plus a new book giveaway: newsletter, March 2, 2018

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (4,151) on Friday, March 2, 2018.

Hi, 

We left February behind this week and are headed for spring. My reading and browsing have ranged far and wide, so there is a lot to share. Thanks to all who have written to say they enjoy the newsletter and look forward to getting it each week. I appreciate that more than I can say, and I am always delighted to hear from you.

We welcome about 500 or so new readers this week. I hope you newbies will stick around and maybe join in the conversation.

Important: The newsletter usually includes this:

Viewing tip: Click the display images link above if you haven’t done so already.

But that, I am told, has confused some folks, so here’s the point: Make sure that the images in the newsletter are displayed. Some browsers and email programs will display them automatically. For others, you must click on a link to make that happen. However it’s done, please make sure that happens. That’s how we know that you have opened the newsletter, and that’s important. Thanks.

What did Shakespeare look like?

The simple answer is: We don’t know, exactly.

But, of course, it’s more complicated than that. William Shakespeare was born in April 1564; we don’t know the exact date, but we celebrate his birthday on April 26. He died in 1616 at the age of 52. During his lifetime, he achieved some fame and fortune, and it is quite likely that a gentleman of his standing would have commissioned a portrait of himself. If he did, that portrait was not mentioned in his will or by any of his family members and is lost to us today.

BShakespeare-Chandosut we have an idea of his appearance from two sources. One is a half-length statue commissioned by his family and placed in Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-on-Avon, Shakespeare’s hometown, in 1622. The other is an engraving that appeared in the frontispiece of the first published collection of his plays, The First Folio, pirnted in 1622 and published a year later. Both of these would have been seen by people who knew what Shakespeare looked like.

During the next 400 years, six portraits have made some serious claim to represent Shakespeare’s likeness. One, the Chandos portrait (right), is accepted by many but not all scholars as close to genuine. The others have had adherents but are generally dismissed by today’s scholars.

On JPROF.com this week, I have written a piece on what we know about Shakespeare’s appearance and a little about each of the portraits that have made the claim to be genuine. And, just to make life interesting for myself, I produced my own watercolor of Shakespeare. Check it out at the bottom of this newsletter.

Finally, last week I asked if you had a favorite word or phrase that Shakespeare first used or coined. A couple of your chimed in:

Peggy G.: Bravo and Huzzah ( spelling ) So, “Out damned spot” is my favorite Shakespeare quote ( insert your dogs name I place of spot ) 

And from LuAnn R, check out the Best Quote of the Week — a few Shakespearean lines — below.

 

The first Roosevelt America heard after Pearl Harbor

All during the day on Sunday, December 7, 1941 — the day the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor — no serious consideration was given to having the president speak to the nation via radio. Franklin Roosevelt spent the afternoon and evening meeting with government and military officials and working on his address to Congress, a request for a declaration of war that would be delivered the next day.

Across the hall from the Oval Office, Eleanor Roosevelt was preparing to go on the air. She had a regularly scheduled radio program on Sunday evening, and she was rewriting the introduction to that show in light of what had happened at Pearl Harbor.

Both Eleanor and Franklin were masters of radio. Their mastery is well documented in an American Public Radio radio show titled The First Family of Radio. You can hear that show at this post on JPROF.com and find out what Eleanor Roosevelt said to America on the first day of its participation in World War II — and what she did immediately after the broadcast.

 

Inside the making of the greatest dictionary of the English language

When I turned 18 in 1966, just a week or so before I headed off to the University of Tennessee as a freshman journalism major, my sister gave me a copy of Webster’s Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary. It was an incredibly wonderful gift that I used frequently during and after my college days. Today, a half century later, it sits on my shelf, still ready for use at a moment’s notice.

Samuel Johnson

 Dictionaries are marvels of any language. But English has resisted the orderly cataloguing that has been routine for many other tongues. Early lexicographers believed they could impose some necessary order on the language by setting down spellings and definitions and making them permanent. But the language quickly showed them who was boss.

Samuel Johnson (right) recognized this inability to tame the language in the preface to his great dictionary (1755) when he wrote: “We laugh at the elixir that promises to prolong life to a thousand years; and with equal justice may the lexicographer be derided, who being able to produce no example of a nation that has preserved their words and phrases from mutability, shall imagine that his dictionary can embalm his language, and secure it from corruption and decay.” More about Samuel Johnson here on JPROF.com.

The Guardian of London newspaper has a “long read” look at the history of dictionaries in English and the efforts of the editors of the Oxford English Dictionary to keep up with the language in this digital age. Highly recommended.

Giveaways and Amazon gift card winner

Art of the ArcaneArt of the Arcane: Ides of March Mystery, Thriller, and Crime Giveaway. Once again, I have teamed up with a number of excellent writers to put together a truly fine selection of books to give away to our email lists and newsletter readers. This one has some great titles in it (including, of course, Kill the Quarterback), and you have an excellent chance of finding a great weekend read. Head on over there right away and see what’s available:https://artofthearcane.com/march-mystery-giveaway/…

The Prolific Reader. Kill the Quarterback is listed there along with some other great mysteries. https://theprolificreader.com/mystery/

https://www.instafreebie.com/gg/HCqRcAvQK0Pr9IpLcGT4

 

Addictive Suspense and Thrillers Giveaway. This giveaway, which includes Kill the Quarterback, is a carefully compiled selection of high-octane, fast-paced mystery-suspense-thrillers, full of action, suspense and drama from debut to bestselling authors. Some of the books are already available while others are coming soon. Take a moment to check them out and claim any that intrigue you for absolutely free.

A name for this newsletter?

For a couple of weeks now I have been asking about a name for this newsletter, and many of you have responded. Last week I proposed The Hot Stove League for consideration. Here are some of the responses to that:

Peggy G.: As to the name for your newsletter… how about the “Pot-bellied Stove League” I live on the West coast so there are more pot-bellies sitting around a barbecue, the league infers that you ( not you,you ) but, us are not alone.

Fred F.: How about “A Day on the Porch”? We used to gather on the back porch in the shade and talk about everything that happened that day. That’s when I had a family gathered around me and had fun doing everything together. Perhaps not what you were looking for, but that’s what we called it then.

Robin K.: Name for the newsletter popped into my head when I saw this subject in my inbox – sorry, I have a rather irreverent sense of humor – “Jim’s Jabberings.” Or Jabbering?? Mostly tongue in cheek, but I do like the alliteration!

Joan H.: Just read the latest newsletter and wanted to let you know I like The Hot Stove League. Of course I also like Jim’s Jottings.

W.: I HATE HATE HATE HATE ….. that name. Hot Stove sounds like a romance title. I am not creative but something like The Prof’s thoughts

Angie L.: After reading the newsletter today, I thought of another possible name.” Inside the Stove”

Cynthia G.: I think you’re on the right track with The Hot Stove League, because it includes your readers.

Janet K.: I like the Toasty Stove. Hot Stove is a show on MLB Network.

Sapphire L.: I think that I really like “The Hot Stove League”. It really is a name that stands out from the crowd and is unique. You should stick with that name, if you want.

Debie C.: I really like The Hot Stove League.

Erin S.: The Professor’s Prose heehee

There’s no consensus yet, but the tide of opinion seems generally toward The Hot Stove League. I’m leaning that way myself. If there are other opinions out there, I would love to hear them.

Vietnam, 1968: The Walter Cronkite broadcast

One of the seminal events in America’s long involvement in Vietnam occurred 50 years ago this past week. CBS newscaster Walter Cronkite — often called “the most trusted man in America” — narrated a prime-time documentary that called into question the American government’s rosy predictions about the war’s progress. Cronkite did not come out against the war. Rather, he said:

“To say that we are closer to victory today is to believe, in the face of the evidence, the optimists who have been wrong in the past. To suggest we are on the edge of defeat is to yield to unreasonable pessimism. To say that were are mired in stalemate seems the only realistic, yet unsatisfactory, conclusion.”

Even this mild statement was a stunning blow to the story that the administration of Lyndon Johnson had been trying to sell to the public. Author Mark Bowden, writing for the New York Times, has an excellent article about Cronkite’s broadcast and its effects on the events that followed.

Finally . . .

This week’s watercolor: Mr. Shakespeare

 

 

I have done a good bit of reading this week about what we know concerning the appearance of William Shakespeare. I decided to weigh in with my own contribution. I have not been taken with the portraits that I have seen as I think they lack character and personality. So, the watercolor painting above is what I think.

Best quote of the week (contributed by reader LuAnn R.):

Sleep that knits up the raveled sleeve of care,

The death of each day’s life, sore labor’s bath,

Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course,

Chief nourisher in life’s feast.

William Shakespeare, philosopher and writer (1563-1616)

Do not forget the victims of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria, and Nate. Add to these those devastated by the California wildfires — and now floods. These and many other disasters mean that people need our help. The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR.org) is my favorite charity. Please make a contribution to yours.

Keep reading, keep writing (especially to me), and have a great weekend.

Jim

Jim Stovall 
www.jprof.com

You can connect with Jim on FacebookTwitterLinkedin,and BookBub.

His Amazon author page is where you can find more information about his books.

Last week’s newsletterA name for this newsletter; more on Shakespeare; the lost eloquence of the sports page

 
 
Walter Cronkite

Vietnam 1968: Walter Cronkite’s broadcast

Walter Cronkite

Walter Cronkite

One of the seminal events in America’s long involvement in Vietnam occurred 50 years ago this past week. CBS newscaster Walter Cronkite — often called “the most trusted man in America” — narrated a prime-time documentary that called into question the American government’s rosy predictions about the war’s progress. Cronkite did not come out against the war. Rather, he said:

“To say that we are closer to victory today is to believe, in the face of the evidence, the optimists who have been wrong in the past. To suggest we are on the edge of defeat is to yield to unreasonable pessimism. To say that were are mired in stalemate seems the only realistic, yet unsatisfactory, conclusion.”

Even this mild statement was a stunning blow to the story that the administration of Lyndon Johnson had been trying to sell to the public. Author Mark Bowden, writing for the New York Times, has an excellent article about Cronkite’s broadcast and its effects on the events that followed.

At no time did Cronkite express opposition to the war. He merely described what he saw and what people on the ground had said to him.

The war continued into the administrations of the next two presidents, Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, and even intensified. Many Americans continued to support our presence in Vietnam.

Cronkite did not lead America out of Vietnam.

What Cronkite’s words did, however, was end adherence — particularly among journalists — to the optimistic, light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel view of the war that America had been getting from its government. This was a view, as we later learned, that not even Johnson administration officials held privately.

Cronkite’s broadcast was a dose of reality that America — especially its journalists — needed.

50 years ago, Harrison Salisbury did not win the Pulitzer Prize

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Harrison Salisbury, pen and ink by Jim Stovall © 2017

 

Fifty years ago when the Pulitzer Prizes were awarded, politics — not merit — kept Harrison Salisbury from winning the Pulitzer Prize for international reporting.

This week’s announcement (see below) of the latest prizes brings this sad tale to mind.

Salisbury was a reporter and editor for the New York Times who already had one Pulitzer to his credit.

With the war in Vietnam building to a rage in 1966, Salisbury applied to North Vietnam to visit Hanoi and file reports from there. North Vietnam was at that time considered the enemy, and the U.S. was conducting a brutal bombing campaign against the country and particularly its cities.

The U.S. government, with Lyndon Johnson as president, assured the country that the bombs were hitting only military targets.

When Salisbury arrived in Hanoi in December and began filing his reports on Christmas Day, he told the American public quite a different story. The bombs were falling everywhere, and civilians and civilian targets were taking a beating. The bombing was not, as the administration liked to say, “surgical.”

Salisbury reported what he saw and what he heard as people talked to him. His reports were full of descriptions and people and had the ring of authenticity. Many in America accused Salisbury of being stage-managed and manipulated.

Salisbury returned to the United States and may have wished he had stayed in Hanoi. He was subjected to scurrilous attacks from fellow journalists who were being supported by “leaks” from the Pentagon. The Pulitzer Prize jury voted to award Salisbury a Pulitzer that April, but it was overruled by an advisory board of mostly publishers. The award went to someone else, whom we don’t remember.

We do remember Harrison Salisbury.


Point Spread

Harrison Salisbury is an important background character in my forthcoming novel Point Spread.

The novel is set in 1967 at the time when Salisbury was sending back his reports. The protagonist, a high school girl, wants to be a journalist, and one of her models is Harrison Salisbury.


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Pulitzer Prize announcement

Watch a live stream of Pulitzer Prize Administrator Mike Pride announcing the 2017 Pulitzer Prizes on April 10, 2017 at 3 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.

Source: Video: 2017 Pulitzer Prize Announcement – The Pulitzer Prizes