Television news brought us harrowing, startling and/or unforgettable sights in 1982, from the nightmare visions of the Lebanon crisis -- the coverage raised justifiable questions about anti-Israel bias in reportage, but the pictures of destruction were eloquent statements on the human horror of war -- to, late in the year, the sight of a lonely and misguided protester stalking around the Washington Monument in a snowsuit and threatening to blow it up. In a way, the nonpictures of the war in the Falklands made a certain profound visual impression, because we've become so accustomed to instant TV access to world trouble spots, and here it was being denied.
All three network news departments, but especially that of CBS, did outstanding reports for their nightly newscasts on the opening of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington. This turned out to be one of the great picture stories of the year, and watching those pictures was a stirring emotional experience.
But none of the visual images of 1982 on television can quite compare with the impact of those seen in January when an Air Florida jet crashed into the 14th Street Bridge. All three local network affiliates made it to the scene, but the most dramatic pictures were those shot on tape by WJLA-TV cameraman Chester Panzer (accompanied by sound technician George Patterson). It would seem now that nothing could erase the memory of those scenes of tragedy, near-tragedy, and heroism, particularly the look of sheer terror on the face of a stewardess who floundered in the water for long, cold, desperate minutes, finally to be rescued by Lenny Skutnik, whose second act of heroism may have been his refusal to become a media celebrity in the ensuing days and weeks.
There is one other seminal, recurring video image of 1982 worth mentioning. If one closes one's eyes, one can see it again: President Reagan walking toward a helicopter, or away from a helicopter, or out a door, and turning to respond to a reporter's shouted question, then spreading his arms in a gesture that says "I don't know" or "I can't hear you," making some inaudible remarks, and ambling on.