By: Steven J. Stark

Former President Voices Preference For Many Voices

(The Hollywood Reporter)
Former President Clinton urged the news media Tuesday to use its power,
influence, and reach to better educate Americans about how such worldwide issues
as AIDS, human rights, child labor and global warming will impact their lives
because doing so would help Americans make better decisions.

“It may not be a sexy story, but I think people are basically interested in it,”
Clinton said during an address at an entertainment and media conference. “We
have to find a way to make these key global questions that citizens think about
when they exercise their citizenship. People have to understand how it affects
themselves and their children’s futures.”

Clinton likened the current media environment – with so many competing
entities and the Internet – to the times that Thomas Jefferson lived in
even before becoming president. Clinton told the audience that Jefferson voiced
a preference for a nation with newspapers rather than one without them,
believing that citizens’ common sense would prevail and they would make better-
informed decisions as they sifted through myriad differing opinions, which could
often be blistering criticisms of his positions. Clinton said he agrees with
Jefferson’s assessment.

Clinton said he sympathizes with news networks that compete in a 24-hour news
cycle and lamented the fact it often does not permit the news media to fully
explain and analyze news for the public’s consumption. But he said that doing so
despite the difficulties was of “immense significance.”

“I can’t answer to the pressures you’re under,” Clinton said. “The market
pressures are enormous. … It’s hard to know half the time if this stuff is
true or not.”

Clinton rattled off figures showing how many more stories the media devoted to
“Survivor” and “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” while human suffering around the
world went largely unreported or reported in such a way as not to make an impact
on people. He also said the United States can spend a relatively small amount of
money by our own standards to improve conditions around the world, but that
wasn’t reported either. Clinton said the media has “a special responsibility” to
disseminate such information.

“I gave some speeches about global climate change until I was blue in the face,”
Clinton said, “but they weren’t considered news.”

He said the nation is at a “dawn of a whole new aspect of human affairs” and
that he is absolutely convinced that the American people need to know more and
care more about the world beyond them.

“We simply cannot get there without the press,” he said.

On the subject of violence in entertainment, Clinton said there is “no neat
answer.” But he conceded that: “I love those cheap thrills. I’d go to one [of
those movies] every night if I had the time.”

Clinton said one way to minimize the violent acts children see is to develop
more standardized definitions of violence warnings for parents to understand.

“We have too much evidence [that the effect of violence on children is] a
problem,” Clinton said. “Anything to simplify and make it more usable would be
very good.”

World Wrestling Federation CEO Linda McMahon, who was in the audience, said
afterward that she agreed with the former president and noted that the WWF’s Web
site offers information on ratings and the V-chip.

“He’s right,” McMahon said of Clinton. “Parents need more tools.”

Copyright 2001, Editor & Publisher.

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