CBS television has had a bad year. Dan Rather was snookered into broadcasting a story about a fake document and the network was fined $550,000 for baring an intimate part of Janet Jackson during the Super Bowl half time. Rather will survive, though tarnished, and a half million dollars is chicken feed for a corporate giant. But what do these moments in our recent history reveal about our national moral corruption?
Dan Rather made a bad call on a document he did not verify. Janet Jackson’s slight striptease does not even remotely approach the obscenity of television reality programs, which do not draw fines but which are eagerly copied by rival networks. This fall, as just one example, HBO will offer Family Bonds, a new series for Sunday night viewing.
A. M. Stroud III, a former prosecutor in Louisiana, expresses regret for the role he played in sending Glenn Ford to death row in 1984. “I was 33 years old. I was arrogant, judgmental, narcissistic and very full of myself. I was not as interested in justice as I was in winning.” Stroud says he presented dubious evidence from a forensic pathologist, precluded black jurors from the trial (Ford, since exonerated, is black), and ignored the fact that the appointed defense attorney had never before tried a criminal or capital case. “I . . . hope that providence will have more mercy for me than I showed Glenn Ford,” Stroud said in a letter to the editor of the Times of Shreveport. “But, I’m also sobered by the realization that I certainly am not deserving of it” (ABA Journal, March 25).