Michael Gartner, an Impressive Journalist

Among some of the yellowed clippings in my files, I have one by Michael Gartner, who at one time wrote a syndicated column, “Words,” that appeared in my local newspaper. I clipped this column, I think, because of his explanation of the difference between using “eager” and “anxious” in one’s writing. Here’s part of what he said:

Eager means intensely desirous or impatiently expectant.
Anxious means worried and distracted, uneasy.
‘Anxious has a long history of use in America as a synonym for eager,’ the American Heritage Dictionary says, ‘but many insist that the distinction between the two words should be maintained only when its subject is apprehensive or concerned about the event anticipated.
‘I was anxious to get home before it rained, but I was eager (not anxious) to get home and have a nice dinner.’
I’m among the many who want to maintain the distinction. You should, too.”

I”ve always been impressed with his command of the language. I’m also impressed with him in his role as a journalist with the Des Moines Register, the Wall Street Journal, the Gannett Company and USA Today and the Louisville Courier Journal. When he wrote the “Words” column, Gartner was president of NBC News.

According to Wikipedia, he resigned from NBC in 1993 as a result of controversy over the “Dateline NBC” show, which had reported on dangers of GM pickup trucks but which did not state in the broadcast that it had staged the explosion of a truck. Later, in the Iowa City Press-Citizen, Gartner said, “It happened on my watch. I took responsibility for it. I did what I thought you ought to do when you make a mistake. You say ‘we made a mistake’ and apologize to the viewers.”

That sort of honesty is in short supply among today’s journalists. Many of them will not even interview those whose views differ from their own. And when they do include opposing sources in a story, they often present only a negative aspect of the views of the opposition.

If you’d like to learn more about Michael Gartner, USA Today in June 2006 ran a delightful article that he wrote, “A Life Without Left Turns.” Read it. I think you’ll like it.

Please leave a comment.

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