Late journalists keen perception set her apart
The Conference on World Affairs hosted a memorial today to honor late journalist Molly Ivins, who devoted her career to exposing corruption and cronyism while delivering that dour news with a light-hearted southern charm that propelled her syndicated column to immense national popularity.
Thousands of people of all ages filled Macky Auditorium to hear New York Times columnist and Princeton University economics professor Paul Krugman honor the career of Ivins, who died of breast cancer in her home in Austin, Texas on Jan. 31. Krugman praised her keen perception of reality as he discussed her work in the buildup to the Iraq invasion.
“She wrote about in Fall 2002 what should’ve been obvious but somehow wasn’t,” Krugman said.
CWA planners called the event, “Molly Ivins Freedom Fighin’ Memorial Plenary: ‘In Front of Your Nose,'” a reference to a George Orwell essay in which he wrote, “To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle.”
Krugman suggested that the media seems to be losing that struggle and quoted a March 7 CNN appearance by editor-at-large of U.S. News & World Report David Gergen, who said, “This is an administration that has been mostly free of scandal for the past six years.”
Krugman paused for the audience to stop laughing, leaned over the podium and said, “This is presumably representative of what a lot of people think.”
Krugman peppered his speech with quotes from Ivins’ columns, drawing more laughs from the audience. However, as his speech progressed, he began to talk in a lower, more serious tone of voice as he discussed what he called a critical failure of the press to act in a critical role during the months preceding the Iraq war. While there indeed was a failure to criticize the government’s version of the reality in Iraq, Krugman said, that failure began well before Sept. 11, 2001.
“Many members of the media allowed themselves to serve as conduits for propaganda,” Krugman said. “There were many scandals in the Clinton years, and all but (the Lewinsky scandal) turned out to be fake.”
Krugman took questions from the audience after he had concluded his speech. One elderly man asked him for suggestions on how the CWA could better promote spirituality in panels.
“That’s not what I do,” Krugman responded with a smile.