By Jay Rosen at PRESSthink:
In 1984, Stahl had produced an extended report for CBS trying to document the contradictions between what Reagan said and what he did. It showed him speaking at the Special Olympics and at a nursing home, and reported that Reagan had cut funding to children with disabilities and opposed funding for public health. I’ll let [Bob] Somerby tell the rest:(Much more at the link.)
Dick Darman clued in Lesley Stahl—it’s all about the pictures. During the 1984 presidential campaign, Stahl aired a lengthy report on the CBS Evening News; it was broadly critical of President Reagan. In her recent book, Reporting Live, Stahl described her thoughts as the piece went to air:
STAHL (page 210): I knew the piece would have an impact, if only because it was so long: five minutes and 40 seconds, practically a documentary in Evening News terms. I worried that my sources at the White House would be angry enough to freeze me out.
But that isn’t what happened, she says. When the piece aired, Darman called from the White House. “Way to go, kiddo,” he said to Stahl. “What a great piece. We loved it.” Stahl replied, “Didn’t you hear what I said [in the broadcast]?” Darman’s answer has been frequently quoted:
STAHL: [Darman replied,] “Nobody heard what you said.”
Did I hear him right? “Come again?”
“You guys in Televisionland haven’t figured it out, have you? When the pictures are powerful and emotional, they override if not completely drown out the sound. I mean it, Lesley. Nobody heard you.”
Stahl’s critical report about President Reagan had been accompanied by generally upbeat visuals. According to Darman’s theory, the pictures registered more with viewers than anything Stahl had said.