From a commencement address by Daniel Schorr at Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Ga. on May 19:
When I first joined CBS in 1953 at the invitation of Edward R. Murrow, I had a newspaper man's misgivings about electronic journalism. So I asked a producer what made for success in reporting for television. He said: "Sincerity -- if you can fake that, you've got it made."
I remembered that when I saw the fake tears of William Hurt, in reaction shots done after an interview that shocked Holly Hunter in "Broadcast News." I don't know why she was shocked. I can remember lunch in Paris in 1962 with William Paley, board chairman of CBS. He complimented me on a CBS Reports documentary on East Germany, climaxed by an interview with Communist boss Walther Ulbricht. He had become enraged at some of my questions, stormed at me and then, incredibly, walked out of the room with the camera running. Paley said what impressed him most was the way I sat there nodding coolly at Ulbricht while he yelled at me. I realized that the big boss of CBS didn't know about "reverses," reaction shots filmed later and edited into the interview, and I explained it to him. "But is that honest?" he asked. No, not honest, but routine in a medium whose heart is really Hollywood. I used to wince when a director, asking me not to look directly at the camera would say, "cheat right" or "cheat left."
But, in recent times, "cheating" on television has reached new dimensions, not only altering reality, but threatening to blur a sense of what is real and what is fantasy. The three big networks, all subjects of takeovers by less tradition-bound management in recent years, are fighting for shares of a shrinking audience pie. And they are joined by syndicators who have found that made-up stories are more interesting and salable than actuality.