- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 18, 2002

Noble: A couple of great communicators, Ronald and Nancy Reagan.
President Bush this week presented Congress' highest civilian honor, a Congressional Gold Medal, to the Gipper and his wife for their outstanding service to the country.
Mr. Reagan used his great gifts of oratory and even greater gifts of leadership to turn America's mourning over stagflation and overseas fiascos into the renewed optimism and patriotism that became Morning in America. Nancy played no small part in that national turnaround, both by supporting her husband and by her stand against substance abuse in her "Just Say No" campaign.
True, saying "no" to illegal substances was a simple idea. So were many of Mr. Reagan's ideas Americans were good, government was bad and communism was even worse. Yet that hardly (as many of the couple's detractors continue insinuate) made Mr. and Mrs. Reagan simple people. In fact, one of the reasons that they were so successful was that they never allowed the clamor of Beltway blather to drown the voices of common Americans. Mr. Reagan, overcome now by debilitating Alzheimer's disease, is a great communicator who never lost sight of the people he was communicating with, or of what he was seeking to communicate.

Knaves: The producers and editors at CBS News, who made very bad decisions about communication this week.
The kidnapping and cold-blooded killing of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl shocked a few professional communicators so much that for a few moments, they actually empathized with the dead man's family before attempting to beat the deadline. Still, it was only a matter of time before the gruesome situation was exploited by a network in desperate need of a sweet ratings boost. After all, as singer Don Henley reminded those who aspire to air such dirty laundry, "It's interesting when people die… " Really.
CBS was the first, and we hope the only network to broadcast clips from Pearl's execution tape, which it claims to have acquired from a terrorist recruitment advertisement posted on the Internet. The footage went out on its Tuesday evening news over the objections of the White House, the State Department, the Wall Street Journal and Mr. Pearl's family.
During the segment sensationalized as "Terror, Lies and Videotape," anchor Dan Rather explained, "This video illustrates how far an enemy will go to spread its message of hate." No, Dan, it illustrates how low a network will sink in search of ratings, particularly a network that trails both its rivals. The last time anyone checked, there is still a hole in the ground where the World Trade Center used to be, and they're still patching up the Pentagon.
Great communicators shouldn't stoop to sheer heartlessness to score points with their audience. CBS had the right to run the footage, but the network should have had the decency and judgment not to do so.



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