“It is hard to explain why Cronkite’s death matters today. If you came of news consumption age after the dawn of cable news and the Internet, you have not known a time when commentators did not scream at each other, when they did not express political views, when shedding a tear when the president was gunned down was actually controversial because it showed emotion. — Al Tompkins, Poynter Online
WCTV, the lone television station in Tallahassee, Florida during the 1950s and 1960s, was a CBS affiliate, ensuring that I would grow up listening to the evening news as presented by Douglas Edwards and then Walter Cronkite. With Cronkite’s death yesterday, an era ends–figuratively. I cannot say that it ends in reality for cable and satellite news have, for the most part, stepped away from the best journalism of Cronkite’s era and have replaced it with something unrecognizable to veteran reporters.
I trusted Cronkite for many reasons, the first of which was that he was a real journalist, honing his craft for United Press International in World War II. He was a reporter before he was an anchor. I also trusted him because, other than championing the kind decency any average person would champion, Cronkite seldom betrayed what he thought.
I know what most of today’s anchors think and that’s why I don’t trust them. Walter’s agenda was reporting the news as clearly and as objectively as he could. Many of today’s anchors have expanded their agendas to include advocacy of one political spin or another.
Today’s ratings appear to demand infotainment rather than true journalism for a high percentage of each hour’s broadcast minutes. With Cronkite’s death, perhaps we will stop and think what we have been doing to the art and craft of news reporting for the 28 years since we last heard him end a broadcast with his trademark “That’s the way it is.”
For my latest Jock Stewart satire about the declining state of investigative journalism and newspapers, I invite you to read The Last Investigative Reporter in America.
Copyright (c) 2009 by Malcolm R. Campbell