TV reporting ranks low on top 100

What news medium did the best job covering the big stories of the 20th century? Television may be the place where most Americans get their news today, but it didn't make much of a showing on a new list of the 100 best works of 20th-century journalism published by New York University journalism department.

Though it's been around a half-century, TV is credited with only eight spots on the list. And the most recent aired more than a decade ago, Henry Hampton's 1987 civil rights documentary "Eyes on the Prize." Newspaper and magazine reporting makes up the bulk of the list. No. 1 is John Hershey's 1945 article "Hiroshima" in The New Yorker.

A bogus billion: Press reports, including one in this column, routinely have spoken of the "1 billion viewers" of the Academy Awards ceremony. Let's stop the madness.

The number is unsupportable, points out an item in this month's Brill's Content, the media watchdog magazine. Even the most generous counting of North American viewers of the 1998 broadcast wouldn't top 100 million. And although 125 countries did broadcast the '98 show, there's no way to know who actually watched. How many people in Britain, for example, would watch the live broadcast on their telly at 4 a.m.?

This year the motion-picture academy and ABC, which airs the ceremonies Sunday, March 21, have dropped references to the 1 billion figure in their promotions.

Speaking of the Oscars, remember to vote for your faves in our poll. See the Feb. 26 Monitor (page 18) for a ballot, or vote online at our Web site,

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