Author Heather Hendershot

Author Heather Hendershot talks her book "When the News Broke."

Credit: Liz Lender

The panel:

Heather Hendershot, professor, MIT, @ProfHendershot

The breakdown: 

“The whole world is watching!” cried protestors at the 1968 Democratic convention as Chicago police beat them in the streets. When some of that violence was then aired on network television, another kind of hell broke loose. Some viewers were stunned and outraged; others thought the protestors deserved what they got. No one—least of all Chicago mayor Richard J. Daley—was happy with how the networks handled it.

Bill Nigut speaks on being 21 during the summer of 1968 and his role in the peace marches leading up to the convention.

In When the News Broke, Heather Hendershot revisits TV coverage of those four chaotic days in 1968—not only the violence in the streets but also the tumultuous convention itself, where Black citizens and others forcefully challenged southern delegations that had excluded them, anti-Vietnam delegates sought to change the party’s policy on the war, and journalists and delegates alike were bullied by both Daley’s security forces and party leaders. Ultimately, Hendershot reveals the convention as a pivotal moment in American political history, when a distorted notion of “liberal media bias” became mainstreamed and nationalized.

Heather Hendershot expalins Julian Bond's role in the 1968 DNC.

At the same time, she celebrates the values of the network news professionals who strived for fairness and accuracy. Despite their efforts, however, Chicago proved to be a turning point in the public’s trust in national news sources. Since those critical days, the political Right in the United States has amplified distrust of TV news, to the point where even the truest and most clearly documented stories can be deemed “fake.” As Hendershot demonstrates, it doesn’t matter whether the “whole world is watching” if people don’t believe what they see.

Hendershot talks about the history of bias and the term fake news.

Monday on Political Rewind: AJC columnist Patricia Murphy joins the panel.