Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Jackie Robinson Had Right Idea about Role of Opinion Columns

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Jackie Robinson Had Right Idea about Role of Opinion Columns

Article excerpt

One of my earliest reading memories is sitting in a Carnegie Library as a boy and reading the biography of Jackie Robinson in one sitting.

He was not only a great baseball player, the first African-American in the major leagues, but he was a great American. So I couldn't resist when I spotted a new biography at the Jacksonville Public Library. While reading about his remarkable life, I learned that Robinson wrote a newspaper column in his postbaseball years as a business executive and civil rights leader. So Robinson leads off the column this week with comments about the news media.

From Jackie Robinson, in his first column for The New York Post in 1959, quoted in Jackie Robinson: A Biography by Arnold Rampersad: "For better or worse, I've always thought it more important to take an intelligent and forthright stand on worthwhile questions than to worry about what some people might think."

My comment: Robinson wasn't always popular, even within the civil rights community. But he offered a perfect goal for opinion columns. Take a stand. Explain your reasons. Inspire people to think and comment.

By David Halberstam in his book, Playing for Keeps: Michael Jordan and the World He Made: "The media has changed. Twenty years ago it was a relatively small handful of writers, all of whom cared about basketball and wrote about basketball and made a fair-minded separation about people's private lives and public activities. In today's media, particularly with a celebrity team like the Chicago Bulls, the still relatively small number of beat writers who observe the oldfashioned (and often now discarded) codes is vastly outnumbered by people who come and go at will and work for the new celebrity-driven media..."

My comment: You can't be a reporter and a celebrity, any more than you can be both a participant and an observer. The rise of celebrity journalists has been destructive to journalism.

From David Remnick in King of the World, the story of Muhammad Ali's early boxing career: "Ball teams paid for writers to travel with them on the road; owners of racetracks and arenas sent around Christmas presents: televisions, washing machines, tea services. …

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