Monday, March 21, 2016

241.7 - RIPs: Keith Emerson and Ben Bagdikian

RIPs: Keith Emerson and Ben Bagdikian

We have two RIPs this week.

The first one involves yet another part of my youth slipping away, but this one hurts more than some others. Keith Emerson has died. He was 71.

If the name doesn't ring a bell, just think Emerson, Lake, and Palmer. If you still don't recognize the name, do some YouTube checking because you are really missing something.

Keith Emerson was one of the best keyboardists of his generation who could almost attack a keyboard with the intensity and fierceness of his playing as he composed on the fly. He could, just by the way he played it, turn an upbeat, sort of sappy song like "America" from West Side Story into a raging indictment of a society at war.

Keith Emerson (in the 1970s)
And why does this one hurt more that some other recent RIPs?

Keith Emerson committed suicide. He shot himself in the head.

It seems he was having increasing problems and pain with his right arm and hand which an operation a couple of years ago didn't cure. He was facing the prospect of no longer being able to play and that, according to his friend Mari Kawaguchi, tormented him. It was, ultimately, a prospect he could not deal with. And so we lost him.

RIP, Keith Emerson.

Our other RIP is for someone you quite possibly have never heard of. But if you were in journalism, you damn well knew who he was.

Ben Bagdikian, reporter, media critic, author, died at his home on March 11. He was 96.

Over his five-decade career, he won a Pulitzer and a Peabody and numerous other awards and obtained the Pentagon Papers from Daniel Ellsberg for the Washington Post, all before becoming dean of the graduate school of journalism at UCal Berkeley.

Ben Bagdikian
But I will confess that where I knew him from was his book The Media Monopoly, which criticized the mergers that were consolidating broadcast outlets and newspapers in the hands of giant corporations and so narrowing the control of what Americans could see or hear or read in the media. The first edition, published in 1983, cited 50 corporations as controlling a majority of US media. By the time of the last of six editions, in 2000, the number had shrunk to five.

Ben Bagdikian's message to his journalism students at Berkeley was this:
Never forget that your obligation is to the people. It is not, at heart, to those who pay you, or to your editor, or to your sources, or to your friends, or to the advancement of your career. It is to the public.
It sounds sort of, I dunno, sort of quaint, naive - but Ben Bagdikian lived those words and stood by them. We have too few of his sort - and now there is one less.

RIP, Ben Bagdikian.

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