Bob Schieffer speaks at N.D. event

BISMARCK—Eric Sevareid’s understanding of the role of a journalist stands in remarkable contrast to practices seen today, Bob Schieffer said Thursday.

The CBS veteran journalist was a featured speaker during the “Not So Wild a Dream: The Legacy of Eric Sevareid” public humanities symposium in Bismarck.

Sevareid worked for CBS News from 1939 to 1977, covering major world events and later serving as a regular commentator on the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite. The Velva, N.D., native died in 1992.

Several hundred people listened Thursday night as Schieffer said Sevareid would be surprised to see today’s media environment and the rush to comment by so many.

“Eric spent hours, sometimes days contemplating what he was going to say about something,” Schieffer said. “He found it important to think before speaking, to be sure a novel concept today.”

There is no longer middle ground or compromise, which has given way to the journalism of validation, he said.

“Some do not want to hear the other side. Objectivity to them is only that which agrees with their point of view,” Schieffer said. “They want to hear the news presented only in the way it validates their own view.”

It would give Sevareid pause that some would consider themselves informed by only knowing part of the story, he said. He also wouldn’t have understood the rudeness and crudeness that marks much of political discourse today, Schieffer said.

In this age of instant communication, Sevareid would have been appalled “that some would use this newfound ability to transmit information before they even knew if the information in their possession was true,” Schieffer said.

Journalism isn’t about technology but the search for truth, he said.

“I believe if Eric were here tonight, and we asked him how to handle new technology, he would say simply, ‘Remember what journalism is about,’” Schieffer said.

Other featured speakers during the symposium include Nick Clooney and Dan Rather. Clooney will speak about the role of the press in a democratic society at 7 p.m. CT Friday at Belle Mehus Auditorium, 201 N. Sixth St.

Rather will share his memories of Sevareid and the values Sevareid instilled in him at 7 p.m. CT Saturday at the auditorium.

About 250 people registered for the four-day event honoring Sevareid, said Wendy Spencer of the Lewis and Clark Fort Mandan Foundation. Walk-ins are welcome.

For more information and a schedule of all of the events, visit www.sevareidlegacy.com. The symposium concludes Sunday.

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