Like many television news viewers, I didn't truly become aware of journalist Arthur Kent until 1991 when he was ducking Saddam Hussein's explosive little presents over Dhahran during the first Gulf War. At that time, while decked out in his leather jacket, and his sweeping dark hair blowing in the night air, he emerged with the sexual panache of a movie star. He was America's own Mel Gibson from Peter Weir's The Year of Living Dangerously, caught in the hail of rocket fire, and barely letting it ruffle his locks. This striking image not only won him the moniker "Scud Stud" from female fans rooting for him all over North America, it also won him no end of grief when he refused to be NBC's answer to Geraldo Rivera.
The great story behind Arthur Kent's 1996 memoir, Risk and Redemption: Surviving the Network News Wars (Viking), is how a reputable correspondent, who covered some of the biggest news events in his era, was forced to take the NBC television network to court in a $25 million dollar defamation and fraud suit because the corporate climate of turning hard news into celebrity worship rendered him unable to do his job. But Arthur Kent was also caught in a profoundly ironic trap because it was becoming the "Scud Stud" that actually brought him to international prominence. Risk and Redemption is Kent's attempt to separate what makes a journalist from what makes a luminary. And although you come away from the book cheering Kent's integrity, intelligence and victory, there is still something romantically self-serving about it. He comes across as someone beyond the temptation of stardom – even though television news, the profession on he's chosen, invites it. The incongruity of how the image of the "Scud Stud" (which Kent himself created) shaped a network's perception of him as a journalist, and perhaps implicated him in their corporate plans, doesn't envelop the book as much as I hoped it would.