Selma ’65: “TV News Came of Age During That Time”

By SteveK 

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HDNet anchor Dan Rather joined a panel of activists and journalists at the Paley Center for Media to discuss the coming together of the two in 1965. As Rather and the others posed for pictures in the Dan Rather Gallery outside the theater, we caught up with the moderator for the panel, Paley Center president and CEO Pat Mitchell.

“It’s going to be a busy week,” she said — Mitchell will be inducted into the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame tonight.

Sitting on the panel were Amb. Andrew Young, Rep. John Lewis and Diane Nash on the activist side, and the journalist crew of Rather, former NBC correspondent Richard Valeriani, Haynes Johnson and Nick Kotz.

Some of the talk revolved around the role between the movement and the press at the time. Young said the press “was on our side,” while Lewis thought they were a “sympathetic referee.” Rather described the role as, “honest brokers of information.”

But there certainly was some collaboration. Young recalls a time when Valeriani told him, “If you want this on the evening news, you’ve got to be through with the demonstration by Noon so we can have it on a plane by 1:00.” Part of the reason for that early time was because local affiliates sometimes refused to feed the footage or “lost” the film.

Rather was on the ground as well, as his first CBS News assignment was, “to cover the civil rights movement, and get as close to Dr. King as possible.”

Johnson, a print reporter, credits TV as bringing about change. “Without that red light there, we wouldn’t have that outpouring,” he said. But also: “This was a great story.”

And, click continued to see one of the futuristic pieces of technology at the Paley Center…

A larger-than-life Lesley Stahl (as well as other rotating TV personalities) talks to you about television in the Paley Center lobby: