BROOKE GLADSTONE: This week we learned that Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl was killed by his captors in Pakistan. From all we've heard, Pearl was the best kind of reporter -- a committed and compassionate exposer and explainer lately applying his skill to the people who call us, whom we call, the enemy. In this case he was seeking information about e-mails exchanged by Pakistani militants and Richard Reid, the so-called shoe bomber. Pearl's was just one of a hundred stories by a hundred reporters that add vital pieces to the puzzle of our place in the world, the challenges we face. It's hard to do. We owe him our grief and our gratitude. And this week we mark another passing. Newsman Howard K. Smith died of pneumonia and heart failure at the age of 87. He hadn't been on the air for more than 20 years, but people still remember him for his opinions, his prickliness and his principles.
HOWARD K. SMITH: The sunny south land this year shivered under the icy hand of a crisis in civil rights, a crisis which pitted neighbor against neighbor and which seriously threatened to undermine our posture abroad as the champions of liberty.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: That was Smith in a 1957 radio report about the fight over school integration in Little Rock. You'll notice he passes judgment in the very first sentence. In a later report on civil rights he concluded with a quote from Edmund Burke that "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." That quote, condemned as editorializing by his CBS bosses was dropped and ultimately, so was Smith. The next year, he re-emerged with his own show on ABC analyzing the issues of the day. One segment called "The Political Obituary of Richard M. Nixon" included an interview with Alger Hiss, the alleged spy fingered by Nixon prompting a torrent of angry letters. Smith replied that he's put a prostitute on the show if she played an important role in history. Eight months later, the show was cancelled. Smith next took up residence on the anchor desk at ABC Evening News, but after some years was demoted to commentator. Then his commentaries were dumped, and he left the business in 1978 at the age of 65. During the Second World War, Smith began his career as one of Edward R. Murrow's hand-picked recruits -- a team that would set the standard for broadcast news. Smith was marked then and ever after as one of Murrow's boys. But as television grew up, boys like Smith grew old and disapproving. The man who infuriated viewers with his forthright views on integration and Richard Nixon became infuriated in turn with what he deemed TV's liberal bias. He wanted television to reflect his own convictions, and in that he is no different from any other viewer. Inevitably, TV reflects the people who produce it, a varied lot, but not necessarily the mirror of America. So tension between the nation and its news reporters is inevitable and appropriate. The anger reporters can inspire, justified or not, is instructive, and passion can be a spur to progress. Howard K. Smith once said, "a dull and cautious editorial or a strong one on a banal issue are of no help to anyone." He said editorials, but he editorialized in his reports as well. Passion in work is always risky. More than one journalist has lost his credibility or, like Smith, his job. Sometimes, as in the case of Daniel Pearl, the loss is incalculable. [MUSIC] 58:00
BOB GARFIELD: That's it for this week's show. On the Media was produced by Janeen Price and Katya Rogers with Sean Landis; engineered by Irene Trudel, Dylan Keefe and George Wellington, and edited -- by Brooke. We had help from Andy Lanset, Jim Colgan and Kathleen Horan. Our web master is Amy Pearl.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Mike Pesca is our producer at large, Arun Rath our senior producer and Dean Cappello our executive producer. Ben Allison wrote our theme. This is On the Media from National Public Radio. I'm Brooke Gladstone.