Saturday, July 18, 2009

That's The Way It Is

Today the cable news networks, the big three broadcast networks, virtually every major newspaper and thousands of blogs are all remembering and honoring the legendary CBS News Anchorman Walter Cronkite. Cronkite passed away last night at the age of 92.

Today he is remembered as, perhaps, the last and greatest honest, trusted and impartial news reporter. Almost every story, blog, commentary and tweet says, "He will be missed."

The truth is that he has already been missed. Cronkite's last broadcast was in 1981 and I daresay 95% of those writing, blogging and reporting today never actually saw Cronkite at the anchor's desk. It's been 28 years since Cronkite set a standard that, today, absolutely no one attempts to live up to.

If anything it is a shame that Cronkite outlived journalism, the profession he so loved.

Scott Simon, this morning on National Public Radio, presented a thoughtful tribute to the man who was the face of news in America for over 20 years. You can and should listen to Simon's entire essay here. In his essay Simon made an astonishing honest observation (the editing and emphasis are mine, please listen to Simon's entire tribute):

Millions of people wouldn't believe that President Kennedy had been shot, or men were on the moon, until they heard it from Walter Cronkite.

No one person in news will probably have that kind of audience and authority again. There are almost a dozen different national TV news operations now, plus radio, Internet sites and citizen journalists who blog and tweet in real time, and often with real attitude.

Today, so much media doesn't try to reach a mass audience, with all its unpredictable diversity and variations. They look for like-minded people who want a view of the news that will reassure them that they're right.

If the moon landing happened in today's media landscape, you might have one network trumpet the accomplishment as a triumph for the American way of life. Another might say: impressive, yes, but a victory for the crew-cut military-industrial complex that sucks money for shock-and-awe adventures from social welfare programs.

And bloggers might bleat: It was all staged on a set in Roswell, New Mexico.

So today, tonight and tomorrow, as you watch newscaster after newscaster, pundit after pundit, and blogger after blogger, pay loving tribute to a man they never actually saw practicing his craft, ask yourself why no one is attempting to emulate him.

That's the way it is.

6 comments:

Lee said...

The news industry really could have built upon Cronkite, Chet Huntley and David Brinkley etc.

Journalism is now activism instead of truth seeking.

One might say that the MSM is emulating Cronkite's worst attributes instead of the best.

chuck said...

I'll take Brinkley over Cronkite anytime. Cronkite is the saint of modern journalism precisely *because* he played politics with the news. His long term influence has ruined the business.

Vigilante said...

Thank you for posting on Cronkite, Wizard. Judging from comments, today we can't even agree on Uncle Walter.

I feel compelled to observe, from my experience anyway, Cronkite separated his factual reportage from his editorial comment.

That's not what I see today on MSNBC or Fox. But, as long as we have both, I can live with it the way it is.

MadMike said...

As usual Chuck has no clue as to what he is talking about. Cronkite injected his personal once and only once into his newscasts and that was in response to his reporting of the Tet offensive. If Chuck knew anything at all about Walter Cronkite he should at least know how he railed against politics mixing with the news. Secondly I suspect Chuck is far too young to know either Cronkite or Brinkley.

Lee said...

As usual MadMike has no clue as to what he is talking about. Media Research Center has documented that he injected more then once...

Of course MM will now deny the research and\or condemn the source. And I was born in 1961.

Cronkite was a good TV Journalist and he was not above throwing his slant on the news.

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