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Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history

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A Final Note on the Democratic National Convention





July 15, 1960, Coliseum Photograph by the Los Angeles Times

Pacific Telephone has pulled its equipment out of the candidates’ headquarters at the Biltmore and the cleanup crew is getting all the banners and placards off the floor of the Sports Arena. The applause at the Coliseum has died away and everybody’s gone home.

Before the Daily Mirror moves on to its next story, I have a few final thoughts.

If you have slogged through Kyle Palmer’s columns on the 1960 Democratic National Convention, you have read more of his work than just about anybody since he died of leukemia in 1962.

I posted his stories not because they are well-written or enduring, but because they are stale and musty,  condescending, petty and blatantly partisan, as forgotten as Grandpa’s old suit, embalmed in mothballs in a spare closet. And make no mistake, despite the claim in his obituary, "He was a well-rounded newspaperman, soft-spoken, scrupulously fair,” his work was that of the worst sort of political hack. Today, Palmer is nothing but a footnote to Richard Nixon’s career, and on those rare occasions when he is mentioned at all, it is as a dirty joke about “the bad old days.” 

If you read the columns by James Reston of the New York Times, which The Times syndicated, you are even more aware of the contrast between him and Palmer. Fifty years later, Reston’s writing is everything that Palmer’s is not: fresh and still insightful, without the benefit of knowing – as we do – the events that followed.

There’s no point in resurrecting Palmer simply to give him one more lashing. He’s already been swept into the dustbin of history. It’s a place he earned many times over by abandoning a reporter’s duty to be impartial, seduced by what he imagined was his ability to be a power broker and kingmaker when he was merely exploited by those who used him as an eager, aggressive dupe. 

Palmer is relevant today as a timeless example of a reporter who abused his position and forgot the sportswriters’ adage: “No cheering in the press box.” Those who fancy themselves political commentators, who are tempted by the notion of tilting public opinion and swaying the course of history, would do well to study Kyle Palmer’s career to see if they wish to share his forgotten corner of the political graveyard, where his grandiose marble monument, engraved with fine but empty words, is tumbled over and buried in the weeds.



 
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Comments (3)

Kyle Palmer was basically the talk radio and Fox News of his day. Unfair and unbalanced, and completely dishonest, pretending to be reporters while in merely regurgitating the partisan propoganda they've been fed. The "dustbin of history," if it isn't too good for them, is where they all belong.

Tres eloquent, Larry.

But the matter with journalism today is not its superfluity of Palmeresque hacks. It's the lack of any coverage beyond the corporate line.

I couldn't agree more. According to David Halberstam in "The Powers That Be", Kyle Palmer was one of those most responsible for the career of Richard Nixon.

Of course, Norman Chandler drove the boat, but Palmer was devoted to his task and to Nixon at all costs.

Unlike Nixon, Palmer's career is largely forgotten, as Larry points out.

It is however, a lesson for us in this age of infotainment that the line between news and editorial is easily crossed and easier to blur.


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