by Robert Wilkinson
Today we have news reports from all of the "Big 3" network outlets, including the link to the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite on Monday, August 18, 1969 reporting on what happened at Woodstock. That one has an interesting commentary that’s profound, given mainstream media limitations and what was happening in the US that Summer! I also found the ABC and NBC reports on the events, and they take it in two entirely different directions, not bad, but out there!
As the description below the video of the CBS News clip sez, “With commercials and a commentary from a really hip guy.” The commenter, John Laurence, says things that probably sounded like an alien had landed in America’s living rooms. Speaking about hippies and compassion on the Evening News! Wow.
What he was saying was certainly NOT liked by the “America, love it or leave it” crowd. But those of us who saw what was happening knew it was way bigger than us. The event made a statement amid its own chaos and the chaos of the times, and the concept blew open millions of doors and a greater collective experience each according to their way.
For your enjoyment, the Walter Cronkite CBS Evening News Report on Woodstock. complete with commercials! “And that’s the way it is, Monday, August 18th, 1969. This is Walter Cronkite, CBS News, good night.”
But before you go, while poking around, I also found the ABC and NBC coverage of the event.
First, the ABC Evening News with Frank Reynolds! This is the clip of field reporter Gregory Jackson on the ABC Evening News Report on Woodstock, Monday, August 18th, 1969 reporting on the event, including a lot of interviews with the locals. They did it from the angle of the residents of a local town, Monticello. Apparently everyone thought all the hippies were polite and no disaster happened, and in fact, no violence.
After the report, it cuts back to Frank who says “Admittedly there was marijuana, as well as music, at the rock festival, but there was also no rioting. What did not happen at that dairy farm is possibly more significant than what did happen. However, just because nearly half a million youngsters can get together and not tear one another apart is no guarantee that the rest of us can stand such mass proximity to our fellow men. “
Then came the commentary by Howard K Smith, who took it into a dystopian view of 1969 that sounds too much like what we’re living with today. He moved from Woodstock to overcrowdedness, and from there to the problem of overpopulation. As he said, “Too many people in too many airplanes having to wait too long for a takeoff,” and overpopulation lowering the quality of life. He spoke of unmanageable pollution, of the problems of unmanaged growth, of students feeling like they were being turned out by a factory, of how voters felt they had lost all influence over their government, and how Woodstock is a picture of our future. Wow. Grim. Very unWoodstock.
And now, we’ll close with the NBC Nightly News with Chet Huntley. This was a report done during the festival rather than after, so it’s the only one done in real time, even if it was reported after the festival.
Lem Tucker, the reporter, had an obvious mission to find and report all that went wrong in the festival. I’m sure his producer wanted all the lurid details! It must have been a bit strange to be dressed up, wandering around with a cameraman and the network’s very expensive and heavy camera, amidst hundreds of thousands of humanity in its muddy, musical glory!
It seems that everyone there was pretty mellow and in a groove, or at least those that were interviewed. In a rare piece of footage, you can see Louie Moonfire with his sign promoting animal rights cross in front of the camera. For those who are interested in this extraordinary pioneer, he’s a legend.
Lem did interviews and no one seemed to think there was any problem. When he tried to put the focus on drugs (just after the clip of Louie walking in front of the camera) the guy he interviewed put it this way: “the thing is more people around here than dope.” When Lem asked if he thought it was getting out of hand, the guy’s reply was “No. I don’t think anything’s out of control. Everything I’ve seen has been a very together thing. It’s turning people on to a different kind of living from the city – that’s what’s happening out here.” Something about “back to the garden” springs to mind....
Anyway, Lem gets to put in his two cents at the end of the piece, and it’s an interesting end to how it began: “This weekend says a lot about the youth of America. More than 350,000 people came looking for peace and music. Many said they learned a lot about themselves, and learned a lot about getting along together, and priorities. And for most, that alone makes it all worthwhile.” On the national news.
Please check out all three reports, since it’s only about 10 minutes of your time to get three entirely different snapshots of a historical event AND how the news was done in that era. There are many things to be remembered about the late 60s, both how they were better and how they held the seeds of the current polarization.
And now, from this news anchor of the Aquarius Papers broadcasting system, Good night, good luck, good times, and a better future!
© Copyright 2014 Robert Wilkinson