If you are a political junkie, you probably have been watching the Trump impeachment hearings. I have been, just as I watched the televised hearings on Nixon and Clinton.
One of the differences between then and now is the follow up on the all-news networks, particularly CNN and Fox News. Both NBC and CBS have theirs as do MSNBC and CBSN.
The first day was five and one-half hours of testimony and then about double that amount of time devoted to analysis and debate on the news shows.
“Debate” is a euphemism. Mostly, we watch pundits screaming at and over one another. If school children were as rude as most panelists on the talk shows, they would be sent to “time out.”
So, a full day of watching and listening will actually not leave you enlightened but instead weary, confused, demoralized, even depressed.
At least that’s the state I was in after a couple of days of yet more impeachment news. By the way, the hearings are excellent political theater, but we all know the outcome. Trump will be impeached by the House, not convicted by the Senate, and he will continue his run for re-election with his base of support basically intact.
After watching the first round of hearings and the nonstop analysis, I was looking for something to lighten the load. I found it in the New York Times – a story entitled “This Tom Hanks Story Will Help You Feel Less Bad.”
The story, by Times staff writer Taffy Brodesser-Akner, reports that everyone likes Tom Hanks and Tom Hanks seems to like everyone. His overarching kindness and sensitivity come shining through over and over again.
Brodesser-Akner recounts one incident:
“The day after Hanks’s new movie … debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival … he was sitting on a bench in a hallway outside a conference room, making jokes to a group of publicists, waiting for me ahead of the appointed time. That does not really ever happen, an actor waiting for me ahead of the appointed time, versus clearly dreading me two hours past it. ‘I think a long time ago, I learned how important it was to show up a little bit early,’ Hanks told me. ‘Be ready to go, you know? And to respect the whole process, and I think that you could respect the whole process even when the other people don’t.’”
Hanks is so nice, Brodesser-Akner reports, he even revealed a side of himself that could be perceived as negative just to help her make her story interesting. Stories about nice guys, we all know, are considered boring by the many cynics who populate the news media.
Many years ago, I was working with a reporter on a profile of someone who, quite frankly, appeared too good to be true. As I edited the story and told the reporter it was a remarkable tale, he told me he was not finished with it.
“Why?” I asked.
“I need to find someone who doesn’t like him, someone to say something negative,” he replied.
I thought it was a warped view of people and the world then and I do now. There is enough negativity today as there has always been. As has been said, it takes as much energy to be angry as it does to be happy.
A few times a year I have lunch with one of Fort Worth’s finest former politicians and current leaders. I always leave the lunch enriched intellectually but also in awe of the man’s basic goodness.
“Why can’t I be more like him?” I ask myself.
You will likely feel the same way when you read about Tom Hanks. It’s well worth a try.
The politics and journalism of the current day, and the cynicism they can breed, all came together for me when reading the Times story. Hanks’ new movie about television legend Mister Rogers, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, is about Fred Rogers’ friendship with a journalist, Tom Junod, who wrote a story about Rogers for Esquire magazine.
Junod was a tough-guy journalist at the time but was questioning what he knew was a ruthless approach to his work, Brodesser-Akner reports:
“It was then that he met Mister Rogers, who prayed for him and his family every day, and who kept a file on Junod, which the screenwriters, Micah Fitzerman-Blue and Noah Harpster, found in Rogers’ archives in Pittsburgh. In that file, he laid out four pillars of journalism that he hoped Junod would stick to: 1. Journalists are human beings not stenographers, human beings not automatons. 2. Point out injustice when you have to. 3. Point out beauty when you can. 4. Be aware of celebrating the wonders of creation.”
The time Junod spent with Rogers, Brodesser-Akner writes, “was enough to make him see the world differently, and then, to be loved by him, was enough to make him a completely different kind of journalist and a completely different kind of person.”
You do not have to be a journalist today to become a cynic. Daily we hear and read about lying and cheating and the dark side of human nature. Rogers’ rules for Junod are universal for all of us to keep in mind as we attempt to simply be better people, better human beings.
Let’s harness the good energy. Let’s make Tom Hanks and Fred Rogers our role models, not the haters we see each day.
Richard Connor is president and publisher of the Fort Worth Business Press. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org