Anchor anachronism

I can only hope the death of Walter Cronkite spurs some self-reflection on the part of the national media…but I doubt it will.

The whole notion of the “trusted news anchor” is certainly a thing of the past in the age of Charles Gibson and Brian Williams. And with Williams in particular, it’s plain to see, IMHO, that he’s all about picking up the Fox News demo (he’s called into Limbaugh more than once), journalism be damned. Maybe I’m viewing the past through rose-colored glasses, but can you imagine Walter Cronkite sucking up to a radio bloviator?

I’m not old enough to know if I’m right about this at all, but my sense is that there was a time when guys like Cronkite thought they were big enough that they didn’t have to kiss anyone’s ass. And that they were more interested in being accurate than in lining up a book deal or putting a friend or relative on wingnut welfare.

Maybe that’s just naive nostalgia, though. I don’t know.






122 replies
  1. 1
    Demo Woman says:

    In the open thread, it was reported that Hannity spoke about that great conservative reporter Cronkite who died. Hannity has no clue what real journalism is.

  2. 2
    Nicole says:

    I think it’s that back then they weren’t paid exorbitant salaries. You start getting paid that much money, you have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.

  3. 3
    N M says:

    Sad his death goes into a Friday news dump. Not really a fitting end, is it?

  4. 4
    cleek says:

    Williams is a (too-)frequent Daily Show guest, too. i don’t know what his biases are, but he’s an attention whore fer-sher.

  5. 5

    A smattering from the comments at FreeRepublic:

    Where do traitors go when they die?

    Should have been shot for treason years ago he could have covered it till the order to fire was givin POS

    Great, this gives the Communist News Network(s) an excuse to not cover what is most important to the american people, the economy and the Kenyan in the WH. Say hello to Pol Pot Howard and all the communist leaders of Vietnam you gave aid and comfort to.

  6. 6

    I’m not old enough to remember Cronkite, either, but from what I’ve read, there is no way he would have stooped to the level of the clowns we have today “reporting” the news.

    blogenfreude, I am unclear as to what they are saying. I refuse to go to that site, so can you sum up their beef with Cronkite? Thanks.

  7. 7
    Hob says:

    Cronkite, not Conkrite.

  8. 8
    Aunt Moe says:

    I’m 66 and grew up with Uncle Walter, even before the evening news. My favorite thing he told his reporters about tv news was “we report what people need to know, not what they want to know.” Because of WWII and how closely he saw Germany and Italy in those days, he always understood and held dear the critical role of a press serving an informed citizenry as the essential weapon against tyranny.

  9. 9
    General Winfield Stuck says:

    You are right dougJ, but Cronkite was part of the pioneering effort where the Big NW’s swore an oath as did the Network Brass to bring us the news as a public service without profit pressure as part of the deal to get a good deal using the peoples airways. Like so much else, that deal has gone to hell in a hand basket, and we have what we have..

  10. 10
    Brian J says:

    I’ve read that the news divisions were never really profitable, if they made money at all. Perhaps the networks felt that putting on a professional broadcast was just something that had to be done, whether it was for respectability, the national interest, or some combination of the two.

    Now that money is the primary objective, it doesn’t matter what generates profits. I’ve always said that if one of the cable networks could generate Bill O’Reilly’s ratings by putting two goats having sex with each other on the air, it would do just that, no matter what the outcry was. I’m just waiting for the day that it happens.

  11. 11
    Irony Abounds says:

    Those bastards condemning Conkite and calling him a traitor can go Cheney themselves. All you had to do was watch his coverage of Apollo 11 and the joy it brought him to see this country’s achievement and you knew how much he loved this country. Calling Vietnam a quagmire, in other words telling the truth, also demonstrated love of country.

  12. 12
    General Winfield Stuck says:

    @Brian J:

    did you get your blood sugar checked?

  13. 13
    Calouste says:

    @Nicole:

    “I think it’s that back then they weren’t paid exorbitant salaries. You start getting paid that much money, you have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.”

    Somewhere in the 80s or 90s the media owners worked out that instead of telling the people who worked for them that they should defend the status quo and the moneyed classes, it was far more effective to give a number of them exhorbitant salaries and make them part of the moneyed classes. Defending the moneyed classes and maintaining the status quo then comes naturally.

    It also led to increased promotion prospects for media personalities with sociopathic tendencies, a complete lack of empathy and/or a priviledged upbringing, because that all makes it so mch easier not to give a shit about people on the wrong side of the divide.

  14. 14
    thefncrow says:

    @asiangrrlMN: They think Walter Cronkite is the reason the US lost in Vietnam. Seriously.

  15. 15
    Scott H says:

    I am old enough to remember Walter Cronkite very well – more’s the pity given the state of today’s news “personalities.”

    As for kissing ass… Cronkite broke LBJ, and LBJ was one tough SOB.

  16. 16
    RedKitten says:

    And another one of the old guard is gone. Sad. Poor Lloyd Robertson must be feeling awfully lonely right about now.

    And those Freeper comments are vile, but what would one really expect from that group of sub-humans anyway?

  17. 17
    Brian J says:

    did you get your blood sugar checked?

    Not yet, but soon. I had to see what my schedule was like for next week before doing so.

  18. 18
    plaindave says:

    Don’t like today’s anchors vs Cronkite? Blame Roone Arledge. He decided news should be a profit center.

  19. 19
    mai naem says:

    Oh, good the site is back up. I was wondering if John had gone hiking the Appalachian trail since it’s quite the trendy spot to go to nowadays.

  20. 20
    demkat620 says:

    The whole notion of the “trusted news anchor”

    The problem is they think they are trusted news anchors. They don’t examine how he earned that status. They see that status as their rightful inheritance.

  21. 21
    mvr says:

    He was an interesting figure because, on the one hand I think it was part of the news reporter’s self-concept in the day that you were not on one side or the other on issues of political controversy, but you reported what people needed to know to figure it out for themselves. But, OTOH, at certain points in history basic decency conflicted with that idea, as in reporting on the civil rights movement, Viet Nam and also on some of the good things that happened, when it was hard not to be proud or happy.

    He did alright with that tension and then had to spend a long time post-retirement watching as the old ideals fell away.

  22. 22
    Fulcanelli says:

    I still remember sitting in front of our little black and white TV with my mom twiddling the rabbit ear antenna and watching Uncle Walter breaking the news about JFK. It was at that moment that I became a Liberal and I’ve been seething with rage at the Right ever since. Some day when I’m too old to give a damn I’m gonna take a few of ’em out on my way to the Great Gig In The Sky. Bastards.

  23. 23
    Cain says:

    I still remember his final broadcast. I used to watch the CBS Nightly News with my family every night. Walter Cronkite was an extraordinary American who showed us how to report the news. Rest in Peace, Mr. Cronkite.

    That’s the way it was, Friday, July 17th 2009.

    cain

  24. 24
    Bruce (formerly Steve S.) says:

    “Maybe that’s just naive nostalgia, though.”

    Yes, it is. Cronkite was as thoroughly mainstream as most of the current crop. In Vietnam he railed against “the reds” until the stalemate became conventional wisdom. He did his best to get Ronald Reagan elected by reminding us every single night that hostages were being held in Iran. He openly wept at the death of Kennedy, one of the more fervent cold warriors our country has ever known. He wasn’t as sickening as the psychopaths on FOX, but let’s not get carried away.

  25. 25
    panicbean says:

    Walter Cronkite was the true voice of news, and guess what? He was a humanist.

    There is no such thing as a little freedom. Either you are all free, or you are not free.

    Walter Cronkite

    He managed to bring the Vietnam War home to me, as a teenager who knew my country was fucked. Just how fucked was one of the things that Walter managed to make important to this one teen, from Maine, in the wilderness.

    Maine was, at that time, in support of the war. We were sending our youth off to war, with no thought of how they were going to weather the war, or how they were going to return home. We lost our fare share of young men. 343 of them. Some I knew. All I remembered, and grieved.

    I have known that for my whole life war was wrong, and used only for political purposes, as well as for personal profits.

    The one youth that is in that number of 343 above is my friend, and first love, Kenny. He did come home, but without his head. In a closed casket. As a young person in a very rural part of Maine, I must say that Walter Cronkite had an immense impact on my life.

  26. 26
    Crashman06 says:

    I think Nicole is right. Once they started making huge bucks they had incentive to protect the corporate masters

  27. 27
    Andy K says:

    @Scott H:

    Cronkite broke LBJ, and LBJ was one tough SOB.

    To clarify, Cronkite’s editorial upon his return from Vietnam- a trip made in the wake of the Tet Offensive- was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Previous to that trip, Cronkite had reported that war neutrally.

  28. 28
    Fulcanelli says:

    Rachel Maddow had a good quip during her Cronkite coverage tonight, saying she “felt like she came up from from the kid’s table at Thanksgiving” sitting there interviewing Dan Rather and Tom Brokaw (via telephone) about Walter Cronkite. She may clutch her pearls a little too tightly sometimes, but she’s sharp. I hope she has PitchforKKK Pat Buchanan on again soon. She’s gonna get him to have an aneurysm on camera with any luck.

  29. 29

    O/T: You know what’s missing from the comment box? All the little tag selection tabs.

    Halberstam’s The Powers That Be is a really good history of what happened to the media over time post WW 2.

  30. 30

    @thefncrow: Really? Please tell me you’re kidding me. I can’t take any more of this insane wingnuttery. Really, I can’t.

  31. 31
    Zuzu's Petals says:

    I always remember the famous quote from his wife:

    “Errol Flynn died on a 70-foot boat with a 17-year-old girl. Walter has always wanted to go that way, but he’s going to have to settle for a 17-footer with a 70-year-old.”

  32. 32
    Rey says:

    I think Rachel Maddow is the closet thing to the 21st century Cronkite. Unfortunately she is on MSNBC and somewhat limited. I trust her totally. I love her analysis on everything political, she is truly fair and balanced but, since she is out of the closet as a Liberal, the powers that be of the MSM would never give her prime time 5 o’clock to prove herself.

  33. 33
    Lola says:

    Sad thing is Brian Williams is the best anchorman out of the bunch.

  34. 34
    MikeJ says:

    O/T: You know what’s missing from the comment box? All the little tag selection tabs.

    That was the file (js_quicktags) that was infected yesterday.

  35. 35

    There was a presumption of honesty with Cronkite, which in itself was dangerous. Better to be aware that the newsreaders are reading what they are told to read than to think that your kindly uncle is dispensing the truth.

    Dan Rather was on Rachel Maddow tonight. I am reminded that as a reporter in Dallas on November 22, 1963 he described JFK’s head going forward when it was hit by the fatal shot. Of course, that was not true.

    Who knows, maybe that’s what got him the promotion to the big chair when Cronkite stepped down.

  36. 36
    Johnny B. Guud says:

    @Andy K: Yes. I believe LBJ was rumored to have said (paraphrasing) “If I’ve lost Conkrite, I’ve lost the American middle class”

    And thus, LBJ had been broken…

  37. 37
    General Winfield Stuck says:

    Here again is a Html format toolbar for Firefox users. I put it up every now and then till the BJ ones return.

  38. 38
    Johnny B. Guud says:

    @Bob In Pacifica: Saw that on Rachel Maddow aslo.

    I know Rather is getting up in years and all, but he looks like he was at death’s door himself…

  39. 39
    PurpleGirl says:

    I remember his series “You Are There.” I grew up with him as the CBS news anchor. Bruce is right that he had his flaws, but so much more was right in his attitude that anchors don’t have today.

  40. 40

    It’s a nice idea to cannonise people like Cronkite when you compare him to the anchors of today, but remember that back in the day, Cronk had *two* competitors for a slice of national news that was on for half an hour a day. In some markets, he had *no* competitors. In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.

    It’s not fair to compare Cronk with CNN, or even Brian Williams. The media is a different place now. There are lots of choices, making attention spans (and ratings) much lower.

  41. 41
    Andy K says:

    @Johnny B. Guud:

    “If I’ve lost Conkrite Cronkite, I’ve lost the American middle class Middle America.”

    FIFY. Close, but subtly different.

  42. 42
    Jim says:

    with Williams in particular, it’s plain to see, IMHO, that he’s all about picking up the Fox News demo (he’s called into Limbaugh more than once)

    Russert used to love to call Limbaugh, and bragged that he was Limbaugh’s favorite newsman. Personally, I think Russert is as far as you need to look for the decline of (electronic) journalism.

    Can anyone imagine any politician, much less Cheney, thinking that Cronkite would be a safe interview? Cronkite saying that he just assumes conversations with pols are off the record, unless they agree otherwise. I know it’s something we lefties may harp on too often, but I don’t think you can underestimate the gladhanding, social element in all this: Russert, Williams: They just want to be liked!

  43. 43
    mai naem says:

    Dan Rather is old. He’s almost eighty. I’m not sure how Walt Cronkite would feel about Rather talking about him being that he thought Rather had kind of pushed him off the anchor desk.

  44. 44
    Skepticat says:

    Lawd knows I’m old enough to remember, and I don’t think you’re naive. That was before news was bastardized into egotainment, and “Murrow’s boys” — Howard K. Smith, Harry Reasoner, William L. Shirer, Eric Sevareid, Charles Collingwood et al— still were doing real journalism, a tradition Mr, Cronkite followed, and advanced, ably. I wasn’t ashamed to have a degree in journalism back then.

    I met Mr. Cronkite a few years ago, while he was in town giving a speech during which, in a very professional and gentlemanly manner, he made clear that he wasn’t exactly impressed by what had happened to broadcast news. He was a terrific person.

    I’m just grateful we still have Daniel Schorr, though I fear his time may be coming to a close soon.

  45. 45
    rcareaga says:

    @Bruce (formerly Steve S.): Your comment reminds me of a woman I shared a college class with in the early Seventies who railed against the “sexism” of George Bernard Shaw because his gender politics fell short of the enlightened attitudes of 1973. I mean, it’s a fucking shame that the Cronk didn’t have the benefit of your transcendent perspective, but give the lofty posturing a rest for this evening at least, OK?

  46. 46
    Beej says:

    Cronkite, Rather, and the rest of them at CBS News did the one thing that current “journalists” will not do: they actually examined the positions of the political parties. If one or the other was talking pure gas, Cronkite’s team told us so. They didn’t act as though all political positions were created equal. Actually, it wasn’t just CBS. All the network news organizations pretty much embraced the idea that the American people needed to know if their elected officials (or the candidates who wanted to be elected officials) were lying to them. Oh, for the good old days.

  47. 47
    Johnny B. Guud says:

    @Andy K: Thanks…

    That’s what I get for typing while nursing a glass of sangria…

  48. 48
    Jim says:

    I’m just grateful we still have Daniel Schorr, though I fear his time may be coming to a close soon.

    And Dan Schorr deserves a much better interlocutor than that simpering twit, Scott Simon.

  49. 49
    Bruce (formerly Steve S.) says:

    “I mean, it’s a fucking shame that the Cronk didn’t have the benefit of your transcendent perspective,”

    Uh, no, Cronkite was thoroughly mainstream by the standards of his day, not in my hindsight.

    “give the lofty posturing a rest for this evening at least, OK?”

    Didn’t know “mainstream” was a heinous insult of the recently dead. Tell you what, the day I croak you can say whatever the hell you want about me. I won’t give a fuck.

  50. 50
    HRA says:

    Walter Cronkite, Edward R. Murrow, Eric Sevareid. etc. would have never shown a political bias towards the left or the right. Yes, for their era they were most likely conservative in certain personal matters which they never divulged on the air or in interviews. Hannity, O’Reilly and Beck are the exact opposite of those former anchors and reporters.

    Dan Rather made his national appearance when he stood up to Nixon at an event that may have been a press conference in an auditorium. He was admired for doing it. His star had risen. Nixon was never really liked or trusted by many.

  51. 51
    mai naem says:

    One of the big problems is the 24 hr news cycle. I often wonder how Chuck Todd or Candy Crowley get any reporting done since they are on air about 10 mins every hour and there’s at least another 10 minutes of set up. Then for Todd there’s also going on the evening news and the Today Show and the Early Show . Exactly when is he getting any true reporting done. Hell, when does he even read stuff to keep up. Walter Cronkite had to fill an hour and all day to do it with his reporters. For all that people say about print, print at least breaks brand new stories. Walter Reed, the Rendition stories, some of the Torture stories. What has the broadcast media broken?

  52. 52

    @Brian J:

    I’m pretty sure you’re right about the networks running news at a loss. From what my older relatives who worked in the business have said, it was basically part of the covenant between the government & private companies who were making use of public airwaves; in other words, while they’re making gobs of money selling Lucky Strikes, they also had to devote some of their budget to public service projects. What we are seeing today is the slow betrayal of the public trust, and it truly is one of the saddest things about the nation right now. Fortunately the internet has so far seemed to be a great way to counteract this.

  53. 53
    Mike S says:

    He was also lucky enough to have lived in a time when news was not expected to make money. If you don’t have to worry about corporate sponsors you are more free to accurately report the news.

  54. 54
    Joshua Norton says:

    The problem is the current crop of hairdo’s think they ARE of the same level of respectability as Cronkite was. They have a microphone and a paycheck – what more do they need? Cronkite earned a place where his opinions were respected and carried weight with all ideologies. Now they just grab the mike and start ranting about whatever pops into their empty little wingnut heads.

    And Williams has been pond scum to me since he carried on in his blog about how everyone should read Peggy Noonan’s charming and cozy column.

    Blah.

  55. 55
    General Winfield Stuck says:

    Walter Cronkite, Edward R. Murrow, Eric Sevareid. etc. would have never shown a political bias towards the left or the right. Yes, for their era they were most likely conservative in certain personal matters which they never divulged on the air or in interviews

    They were mainstream for their era, though now they would be considered quite liberal. Reagan shifted the pair-a-dine to the right, and the southern wingnuts took it on around the right wing bend.

    Remember, that Cronkite pleaded with Kerry to use the word liberal in his campaign to fight against the long standing smear of that term. But to no avail, lilly livered dems still aren’t completely out from under Ronnies and the RW smear machines thumb, not yet.

  56. 56
    Fulcanelli says:

    @Beej:

    All the network news organizations pretty much embraced the idea that the American people needed to know if their elected officials were lying to them. Oh, for the good old days.

    There’s a big chunk of this country that can’t tell the difference between what is true and what they want to believe is true. So they wind up imprinting their little noggins with the first thing that comes along, usually an e-mail with 60 point type cuss words that looks as though it was formatted by a five year old that’s howling about birth certificates and Kenyan-born Presidents. Once it hits their frontal lobes, the neurochemical change courses through the system and the die is cast. There’s no changing them back. But I did hear about a guy in West Virginia who runs a pretty good blog that managed to reverse the change and go back. I think he did one of those Keith Richards blood exchange things…

    Oh, Hi BOB…

  57. 57
    steve s says:

    Cronkite had advantages todays anchors lack. When Cronkite was large and in charge, news was a money-loser that networks operated out of a sense of prestige. Now competition is fierce to bring in the eyeballs or hit the bricks. Williams, Couric, etc have to whore themselves out. They have no choice if they want that anchor spot.

  58. 58
    rcareaga says:

    @Bruce (formerly Steve S.): You needn’t wait till you’re dead for that, Bruce. You’re an asshole tonight.

  59. 59
    Fulcanelli says:

    As Dan Rather said on Rachel’s show tonight, before Cronkite the network brass was scared to put on a half hour evening news show at all. They felt no one would sit still long enough to watch it.

    Now they have Katie Couric. Meh.

  60. 60
    Zuzu's Petals says:

    @Bruce (formerly Steve S.):

    He openly wept at the death of Kennedy

    Uhm, most people did. And it had nothing to do with his cold war stance.

  61. 61
    freelancer says:

    FUCK.

    I infected this thread too. Just to clarify, the Hannity quote is fictitious. It is a hypothetical.

    The Wingnuts are either going to vilify him for being the Grandfather of the Liberal Media, or more likely, they’re going to be revisionist historians, yet again, and claim him as their own. Walter liked Apollo, Chuckie Krauthammer liked Apollo, THEREFORE, Walter = Conservative Hero.

    It is something I am anticipating Hannity and the other knights of the Clown table are going to spin.

  62. 62
    General Winfield Stuck says:

    @Zuzu’s Petals:

    Uhm, most people did. And it had nothing to do with his cold war stance.

    I was only 10 at the time, and the pall of grief that came over people is still with me today. It was like everyone’s child, parents, or best friend all died at once. Profound sadness.

  63. 63
    Brachiator says:

    @Nicole:

    I think it’s that back then they weren’t paid exorbitant salaries. You start getting paid that much money, you have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.

    As others have pointed out, it wasn’t just a matter of paying big salaries to news anchors (after all, reporters and anchors are replaceable as much as any other newsroom person). It was the decision, spearheaded by Roone Arledge of ABC, that the news division had to become a profit center.

    Also, as others have noted, Uncle Walter was part of a tradition of reporters who felt that they had a duty to report the news accurately. And no, this does not mean that they were totally free of bias or that they saw themselves as liberal or progressive avatars.

    Cronkite was not only a great anchor, but also a great writer and editor. You can check out the various YouTube clips to see why Uncle Walter was good, but one clip sadly does not appear to be in the mix. This was his reporting of the killing of John Lennon. He spoke of the new being about a man who sang and played the guitar. This did not in any way diminish Lennon, rather it got to the simple heart of the matter and let Lennon’s impact on his fans and on popular music speak for itself.

    I read the news today, Oh boy….

  64. 64
    Dennis-SGMM says:

    Cronkite began his career in journalism in 1936 so he paid a lot of dues before he appeared on television in the Fifties. That’s one difference between him and the current crop of anchors. Another difference is that in Cronkite’s heyday news organizations had actual reporters stationed around the the world.

    @Bruce (formerly Steve S.):

    He openly wept at the death of Kennedy, one of the more fervent cold warriors our country has ever known.

    This isn’t the first time that you’ve exhibited your ill-informed animus toward Kennedy. At the time JFK was elected president all national politicians were fervent cold warriors. Any pol who ran on the notion of dismissing the threat posed at the time by the USSR would have been lucky to be elected dogcatcher. Unless you lived in those times (And I did) you haven’t the slightest fucking idea just how much the tension between the West and the USSR permeated the lives of everyday people. It was reflected in our politics and our politicians: all of them.

  65. 65
    JR says:

    Oddly, I just listened to this podcast with Chuck Todd explaining un-persuasively defending his reporting style to Glenn Greenwald, and I thought about Cronkite and how he would have handled Bush and the aftermath.

  66. 66
    Indylib says:

    I was actually lucky enough to, very briefly, meet Walter Cronkite in 1987, when I was 20. I was going to school at Arizona State and was frightenly enough a journalism major at the time. I had been meeting with my advisor and was waiting for the elevator door to open and when it did, out stepped Walter Cronkite with the head of the Public Programs department. My mouth dropped open and I stood in their way for several seconds before I moved back to let them out of the elevator. The Dept. Head happened to know who I was because it was summer semester and I had been in and out of the PP dept. office off and on for several weeks and she introduced us. I have no memory of what I said. I believe I stammered something about being honored to meet him and probably not much else.
    He spoke on campus that night, the crowd wasn’t very large, I mean how the hell many people stay for summer school in Phoenix? I remember being so impressed with him, he was physically a pretty big man, and he had that incredible deep voice. He spoke about journalistic ethics. I wish he had been able to pass on the wisdom he shared with a bunch of college kids that night to the idiots that pretend to be journalists that are on TV now.

  67. 67
    JK says:

    @Skepticat: @HRA:

    There will be no self-reflection on the part of the news media. TV news execs of today are a bunch of whores who only care about ratings. TV news execs once viewed news programming as a public service and weren’t consumed with Nielsen ratings.

    Tonight, I saw a clip of Walter Cronkite saying that the major role of the news media was to give people the information they need to know not to provide them with information they want.

    24 hour cable news is dumbing our country down to death.

    Cronkite had 1,000 times more gravitas than all the knucklehead anchors on cable news put together.

    I would trade Joe Scarborough, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Lou Dobbs, Chris Matthews, Bill O’Reilly, Geraldo Rivera, and Greta Van Susteren in a nanosecond for Walter Cronkite, Howard K. Smith, Eric Severeid, John Chancellor, Marvin Kalb, Edwin Newman, Sander Vanocur, Roger Mudd, Frank Reynolds, and Ted Koppel.

  68. 68
    KG says:

    It use to be, from what I’ve read, that the networks had news broadcasts because it was required as part of their licensing by the FCC.

    Cronkite was much before my time, what I’ve seen of him has been clips, but just like watching clips of guys like Joe DiMaggio or Ted Williams and then watching baseball today, I can see how there has been a drop in, for lack of a better word, class. In this regard, I kind of understand what George Will was talking about a while back when he was bitching about blue jeans. But then again, most things look classier in black and white.

  69. 69
    ellaesther says:

    You know, idk. I don’t want to suggest that Walter Cronkite wasn’t great, because he was, that’s undeniable. And shalom alav, may he rest in peace and may his memory be for a blessing, zichrono l’bracha.

    What I question is the notion that news was better in that distant time of Once. I mean, yes, sometimes it was, and sometimes it wasn’t. They were shilling for this, or getting paid for that, or being sponsored by the other, or not reporting on FDR’s wheelchair and mistress, or not reporting on JFK’s back or mistress(es). The biggest reason Vietnam got such huge coverage when it finally did was because every mother’s son was going. If we had a universal draft now, you can bet we’d be hearing a lot more about Iraq and Afghanistan.

    I guess that what I mean is that the struggle to get to the truth is always epic. Some years/decades, we’re lucky, and a handful of people are better at it than others, and more dedicated. We don’t have a lot of that now, I will grant you (!), but it’s not like people didn’t used to want to make more money than they deserved or get away with not actually telling the truth. That is always there, will always be there. It comes and goes, and to the extent that we as a society support truthfulness and courage generally, it will come more often. We (us, here, on this board) can have some impact on that, and then the next Walter Cronkite will me one of our kids, or our neighbor’s kid.

    Ahem. Ah, IMHO.

  70. 70
    Zuzu's Petals says:

    @General Winfield Stuck:

    Me too. I was only 13, but the shock and sadness was overwhelming.

  71. 71
    Zuzu's Petals says:

    @Dennis-SGMM:

    Not just that, it just seems silly to equate crying at the man’s death with support for his cold war policies, whatever they were.

  72. 72
    JK says:

    @ellaesther:

    it’s not like people didn’t used to want to make more money than they deserved or get away with

    There was a very brief period in the history of television when network execs were willing to tolerate low ratings for news programming because they thought they were doing a public service

    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    What I question is the notion that news was better in that distant time of Once

    News was better in the sense that tv execs had far higher standards when it came to what person they would allow on air to pontificate and offer his or her opinion. Just look at the names in the final paragraph of my post #67 and try to argue that broadcast standards have not diminished substantially in the past 30 years.

  73. 73
    Fax Paladin says:

    A favorite Linda Ellerbee story from And So It Goes was about the piece she did for NBC Nightly News on life for reporters on the New Hampshire campaign trail. She closed the report by quoting an old saw: “You’ll meet a lot of interesting people in journalism, my son — most of them other journalists.” The picture under these words was of John Chancellor and Walter Cronkite sitting together at a bar. “It looked like Mount Rushmore, if Mount Rushmore drank,” she wrote…

  74. 74
    ellaesther says:

    @JK: Well, that’s what I’m saying, you see. “There was a very brief period in the history of television when network execs were willing to tolerate low ratings for news programming because they thought they were doing a public service.”

    Yes, the quality has dropped since that specific, brief period. But it was pretty low beforehand, too. It comes and goes, depending, to some extent, on the times and the demands of the public.

    I’m just questioning this tendency we have of looking back into some misty past, at the heroes that emerged (in whatever field or endeavor) from a difficult time, and behaving as if they were representative of something larger, rather than jewels in a load of crap. Mostly, human endeavor is a load of crap, is what I think I’m trying to say.

  75. 75
    WereBear says:

    There was a certain amount of BS on the news back then, but it was Official BS that was pretty well CYA’d at the time.

    Now, news anchors just repeat whatever the heck anyone says, without lifting an eyebrow hair, or bothering to refute it in any way.

    Cronkite was a real reporter. I believe he maintained that was what he wanted to be… and I can’t give the man any higher praise than that.

  76. 76
    R. Kashman says:

    Stepping out of lurk mode….

    I’ll miss Cronkite, and Doug recalls right, he was a straight shooter with no ass kissing. I grew up with him. “Journalism” has been gone for some time.

    Great piece on his legacy here.

  77. 77

    If you’re really interested in what happened to the news (it wasn’t just Arledge), check out News War and especially part 3, where you get to watch Jeff Jarvis expand his big head, but also hear from some heavy hitters about what happened to the news (hint: “60 Minutes” is partly to blame for making the news div. into a profit center).

    And I’m really getting tired of the hagiography of all these people (a whole hour on Maddow about this? huh? I guess since they spent days on Russert, they figure a few hours will do for Uncle Walt). There are a shiteload of baby boomer favs who are going to be passing on soon. I hope they don’t do this stuff with all of them.

  78. 78
    Ash Can says:

    I too am old enough to remember when Walter Cronkite was anchoring the news on CBS. I must say that, as often as I saw him, I don’t remember all that much about him from his news broadcasts. And you know what? That’s the point. The old-school journalists compiled the facts and reported them, period. And if they expressed any opinions, they were deeply embedded within those facts. They weren’t flamboyant, they weren’t emotional, they didn’t let — or force — their personalities to overshadow the information they were conveying. And that’s how Walter Cronkite was.

    Some of you may know that in recent years, Walter Cronkite was the host for the PBS broadcast of the Vienna Philharmonic’s New Year’s Day concert. He was, not surprisingly, classy, elegant, informative, and thoroughly enjoyable in this role. This year, Julie Andrews took over for him. She did as fine a job as he, but when I saw this program change, it made me fear that his health might be failing. We have indeed lost a giant, among journalists in particular and people in general.

  79. 79
    Brachiator says:

    @ellaesther:

    What I question is the notion that news was better in that distant time of Once.

    The time is not that distant, and there is easily available documentary evidence by which we can judge.

    I guess that what I mean is that the struggle to get to the truth is always epic. Some years/decades, we’re lucky, and a handful of people are better at it than others, and more dedicated. We don’t have a lot of that now, I will grant you …

    You’re right here. There are people who carry on the tradition. But not only do they have to deal with greed, censorship and an often bored and easily distracted public, sometimes they risk their lives to bring the story. And lose (A Fearless Activist in a Land of Thugs).

    NATALYA ESTEMIROVA is gone now. Her executioners forced her into a car in front of her home in Chechnya and sped away with her on Wednesday morning. She managed to shout that she was being kidnapped, her last known words documenting the beginning of the crimes against her, just as she had documented crimes against uncountable others.

    The link thingy doesn’t appear to be available to me (using Chrome/Windows). Those interested can read the rest of this at the New York Times site.

  80. 80
    ellaesther says:

    @arguingwithsignposts: Well, I’ll take that over the solid, back-to-back Michael Jackson coverage that was going on over there. I have a pet theory that Rachel Maddow just HAPPENED to be gone from the day he died to the day of the memorial service, because she said “Look, I am not doing this. And you owe me some vacation time. Where’s my fishing rod?”

    Do not disabuse me of this theory. It makes me happy.

  81. 81

    @ellaesther:

    Well, I’ll take that over the solid, back-to-back Michael Jackson coverage that was going on over there. I have a pet theory that Rachel Maddow just HAPPENED to be gone from the day he died to the day of the memorial service,

    Oh, me too. I will not disabuse you of that theory. I’d never thought about it, but I like it as well, and I’ll adopt it as my own.

  82. 82
    NoName says:

    I could not comprehend that Kennedy had died until Walter Cronkite told me it had happened.

    News in the 60’s was so much different than now. We saw the blood, we heard the screams….. we watched people die on our TVs.

    That has not happened in almost 50 years.

    We are sheltered from who we are and what we do.

    We are less because of this.

    News is not entertainment. It should tell us what is happening around us. To us… because of us.

  83. 83
    JK says:

    @arguingwithsignposts:

    Good to see you posting again. Hope your situation has stabilized. I can identify with the feelings you wrote about the other day. Take care and don’t let the bastards grind you down.

  84. 84
    Ash Can says:

    @arguingwithsignposts: BTW, you look mahvelous tonight. :)

  85. 85
    ellaesther says:

    @arguingwithsignposts: I’m glad you like it! We can make bumper stickers and apply for grants, and before long, we’ll be an academic discipline!

  86. 86

    @JK:

    Thanks. I just got back from a day-trip to a large midwestern city with a friend of mine and although my legs are incredibly sore from walking around downtown, my disposition is improved somewhat (mainly thanks to the BJ commentariot and proprietor).

  87. 87

    And, I’m truly sorry for Uncle Walter’s death, but I’m also truly disappointed to see it sucking so much air up on MSNBC (especially after watching that guy dissing Gov’t Sachs in the earlier post and knowing how much stuff is going on these days). The president has six senators who are standing in teh way of health care reform, another gop moran got caught with his pants down, and I could go on, but I think you get the point.

    I think Cronkite would be disappointed in the hagiography, imho.

  88. 88

    @ellaesther:

    Yes, and we can question why Keith Olbermann didn’t take some vacation time as well. Maybe come up with a theory of “competing progressive dissonance” or something. Win-Win, I say.

  89. 89

    @Ash Can:
    {blush} thanks. :)

    Now back to teh snark and biting wisdom. i don’t want to wear out my counseling welcome. i might need it again sometime. :)

  90. 90
    JK says:

    @arguingwithsignposts:

    I hope to get my own disposition up a few notches in the near future. I’m currently in a place that resembles what you previously described.

    Unfortunately, 24 hour cable news is really a misnomer. They’re in the entertainment business not the news business. C-SPAN isn’t journalism in the truest sense of the word, but for my money Washington Journal gives me a better rundown of real news than all of the programs on the cable news channels combined.

  91. 91
    alex milstein says:

    I spent about 20 years of my career in the TV news business, beginning in April 1972 when I was hired as a ‘broadcast assistant’ – virtually a go-fer – at CBS News in New York.

    It was the time of Vietnam. It would become the time of Watergate. I would end up as an associate producer, but it was in my go-fer days that I occasionally delivered wire copy to Mr Cronkite. I was 24 years old, and I didn’t care that I was making a hundred bucks a week. I was at CBS News! My friends were envious.

    Every now and then Eric Sevareid would be walking through the halls. And Charles Collingwood. These were the real legends. Guys who started out as scrappy newspaper and radio reporters before this new-fangled TV thing started happening.

    Now they are all gone, and what we have now in their place are essentially actors playing the part of TV anchors. A guy who looked like Walter Cronkite wouldn’t even get hired these days.

    And if something like Watergate broke today, all you’d have is Hannity and Rush saying it’s no big deal, CNN telling you ‘both sides of the story,’ i.e., Democrats did some bad things too. And remember Clinton. ’nuff said.

    And like torture, and wiretapping, and computer monitoring, and a war illegally foisted on the world, the investigation would go nowhere and eventually would be forgotten.

    After all, there was no blowjob involved. Instead, we all got screwed.

  92. 92
    2th&nayle says:

    @General Winfield Stuck: Hey, thanks for the link there General! I’ve been needing that add-on for a while. Thx again.

  93. 93
    Beej says:

    @Fulcanelli: Yeah, the guy in WV with the blog does a pretty good job. I just read the transcript of the Greenwald-Todd podcast. Todd’s reasons would have shocked and dismayed Cronkite. I’m old enough to have sat transfixed through the deliberations of the House Judiciary Committee when they were discussing whether or not to impeach Nixon. They were carried live on all the networks for days and days, and Cronkite and company reported on the hearings several times a day. Incidentally, the overall effect of those hearings was not boredom or some cynical conviction that it was all just left-right politics. It was fascination and admiration for the seriousness and deliberation with which the entire Committee approached the whole process. I’d wager that most of the people who watched those hearings came away with a higher opinion of Washington than they’d had before. It was a tutorial on how the process is supposed to work.

  94. 94
    freelancer says:

    @arguing:

    And I’m really getting tired of the hagiography of all these people (a whole hour on Maddow about this? huh? I guess since they spent days on Russert, they figure a few hours will do for Uncle Walt).

    To re-quote myself from the Open Thread:
    The MSM is going to be hard-pressed paying more tribute to Walter over the embarrassing, fellating postmortem suckfest of Tim Russert. Anyone taking bets on who the TV media will have spent more time eulogizing?

    That being said, I’m 27, so I only know the narrative that has been created in pop-culture and journalism’s academia. But even my father, who was in kindergarten on November 22, 1963, and was 10 years old during Apollo 11, knows how much of a lynchpin Cronkite is in our historic 20th century history.

    The dude was old school. I very much remember the morning, and ad lib broadcasts of 9/11. The networks had a plan and content assembled for the airtime surrounding the events of Apollo, but the professionalism and the classic nature of his reports distinguished him in the midst of ongoing history.

    http://forgetthisnoise.blogspo.....h-boy.html

    The youtube capture of the broadcast of July 20, 1969, yeah we can see, what we would now call the boring, blah, blah attempt to fill the space left in the broadcast air, the mundane seconds in between the most momentous seconds of all of human achievements, but one thing we don’t see in this footage or any other is the modern day cable news hackery of mindless, baseless speculation.

    i don’t want to wear out my counseling welcome. i might need it again sometime.

    I don’t mean to speak for Cole, but as a semi-daily BJ commenter, you can vent here whenever you need. I, for one, will be listening.

  95. 95
    Batocchio says:

    I think the biggest factor was that TV news divisions were not originally expected to turn a profit. The networks were getting use of the airwaves, so they approached it as a public service and to earn credibility. Then they went for profit, as noted upthread.

    I remember Cronkite on TV, but not well, because I was pretty young. His seminal moments I know from footage – and there’s a lot of it. How many narrative films feature clips of him? And he appears in plenty of news docs, obviously.

    What’s pretty remarkable is that, in some ways, Cronkite, Murrow and that breed were less accountable or at least much more powerful than most journalists today – but they treated it very seriously and responsibly.

  96. 96
    Batocchio says:

    @Beej:

    Thanks – that’s a really great picture. And while there’s plenty of appetite for fluff in America, to paraphrase Pauline Kael, there’s a big difference between what news audiences want and what they’re willing to settle for.

  97. 97
    Screamin' Demon says:

    As a kid in the late sixties and into the seventies, I remember Cronkite, although not everyone I knew was enamored of him. We were at my grandmother’s house one night, and she asked my dad to turn on the news. He tuned in CBS, and she freaked. “Turn that sonofabitch off! I watch the Huntley-Brinkley Report!”

    “What’s the difference?” Dad asked her. She set him straight. “If I don’t hear about it from Chet or David, it didn’t happen!

    No one in broadcasting history has ever had a better voice than Chet Huntley.

  98. 98
    Andy K says:

    @Bruce (formerly Steve S.):

    He did his best to get Ronald Reagan elected by reminding us every single night that hostages were being held in Iran.

    And if he hadn’t reported on the biggest ongoing story of 1979/80, he’d have been doing his damnedest to get Carter re-elected?

    IMO, you could toss out all of the other memorable bits of work that Cronkite did, but the guy deserves many hours of praise solely on the basis of how he facilitated Sadat’s trip to Jerusalem in 1977.

  99. 99
    Donna says:

    It was a day like all days filled with those events which alter and illuminate our time. And YOU were there.

    at the dinner table, if we had nothing to say about our day, my father had us recite that (which was really pretty amusing to us kids). We watched that show religiously.

  100. 100
    HRA says:

    The Iran hostage taking was a big story that had gripped the nation’s attention. The difference compared to now was there was no lengthy personal essay on the failure of Carter being aired as there was about Bush by KO. The criticism came after the hostages were safe and not as intensely as we would see today.

    What the form of reporting in those bygone days achieved was to allow the people to have their own discussions over the issues in person with others of their acquaintance.

    Lifestyles of a different era allowed it to be this way. In a Leave it to Beaver atmosphere, you were not going to get news about mistresses being secreted into the WH. That is only one small part of what you were not going to see or hear then.

  101. 101
    geg6 says:

    I am another ancient here who remembers Cronkite well and fondly. Those of you who are obviously too young to have lived in those years can have little idea how different journalism was then compared to now. When I see ill-informed posts about how Cronkite was the same sort of shameless shill and ill-informed bloviator as the people in the media today, I am quite sure that person is too young to have lived it. Cronkite was a journalist in the truest sense of the word. He treated his elevated status as a trust he’d been given and he never betrayed it. I saw him at a lecture he gave at a local university a few years ago and he was fascinating, humble, and quite critical of today’s media. He talked of his struggles to keep his own views out of his newscasts and explained the very few times he felt compelled to editorialize, such as the ones on Vietnam that convinced LBJ to not run in ’68 and on Watergate. He said his emotions couldn’t be hidden only twice, when he had to announce JFK’s death and during the moon landing. But he also said that he was often quite emotional about many things he reported and worked mightily to keep his feelings out of the broadcast. It was his broadcast with the Vietnam editorial that finally convinced my dad (then a Republican warhawk) that the war was a lost cause and the nightly broadcast’s excellent coverage (of which he was Executive Editor) that sent Dad on his journey to his final stance as a liberal Democrat. One story I remember about him that seems to illustrate the kind of person he was occurred during the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal. The Cintons went to Martha’s Vineyard to try to get away from the craziness and attempt to work on their relationship. The press and papparazi were relentless. Cronkite got in touch with them and offered to take them on his yacht so they could have some rest where no one could bother them. It was one of the few times during that insane period that they were able to relax and reconnect with themselves and each other. He was a great newsman and a great person. RIP.

  102. 102
    bob h says:

    I don’t recall Brian, Katie, Charlie, et. al. going to Iraq and saying “this is b.s.”.

  103. 103
    A Mom Anon says:

    I’m almost 50 and Cronkite was part of my childhood. I barely remember JFK being assassinated,but I do remember my dad coming home from work early and holding me on his lap while we watched things unfold on TV. That was one of the few times I remember seeing Dad cry. The whole country was in mourning,pretty much. It wasn’t a political thing as much as it was the shock that someone could just shoot the President,just like that. Of course,I was just a little kid then,so I’m sure I missed alot of the more grown up aspects of all this.

    You really can’t compare the news of today with then. Media consolidation wasn’t the huge issue it is now,the airwaves were supposed to belong to The Public then. Now in theory that’s the case,but in practice,not so much. Guys like Murdoch think they own the airwaves,and no one is really enforcing that they’re wrong about that. Back in the day,there was at least some responsibility to tell the truth,actual journalists went after stories,even the big time anchors.

    I liked Cronkite,I miss that kind of news broadcast.

  104. 104
  105. 105
    GregB says:

    Has Bernard Goldberg shown up on Fox to piss on Cronkite’s grave yet.

    -G

  106. 106
    Poopyman says:

    I’m just grateful we still have Daniel Schorr, though I fear his time may be coming to a close soon.

    IIRC, Daniel Schorr was also one of “Morrow’s Boys”. He was (and is) always proud that he was on Nixon’s Enemies List. Think about how our current crop would react if they found they were on Bush’s list.

    Schorr was born in 1916, same as Cronkite, and their approach to journalism is very similar. There’s no one on the horizon with such a detached approach to journalism anymore.

  107. 107
    Greg VA says:

    It may have been pointed out before, but Cronkite set out to be a journalist and eventually got into television. The majority of today’s anchors set out to be TV stars, and choose journalism as their path to fame.

  108. 108
    passerby says:

    “Conkrite thought they were big enough that they didn’t have to kiss anyone’s ass.”

    Before 24/7 cable came along, there were only 3 commercial networks and they were, essentially, the only game in town. TV went off around midnight–they’d play the Star Spangled Banner and then static until 6am.

    So Cronkite, Huntley and Brinkley did not have to whore around with the clowns that were spawned by the 24/7 cable tv phenomenon in order to keep their market shares.

    Brian Williams, and other modern day “news anchors” have to pimp themselves, shamelessly fishing in any hole they can find to catch that elusive fraction of a percent of viewers in hopes of bumping up ratings for the sake of more advertising dollars.

    We hang on every word and react on cue to whatever crap they report, whether it’s Michael Jackson’s death, Obama’s reversal on some campaign promise, or some bigoted US Senators leading the charge on the fight for white supremacy.

    Is it any wonder that our society is vulgar and devoid of character?

    Blow up your TVs.

  109. 109
    linda says:

    Think about how our current crop would react if they found they were on Bush’s list.

    instead, they are delighted that bush deigned to confer a nickname on them. that makes them special.

  110. 110

    The problem with Daniel Schorr in his dotage is that Simon uses him as the “purveyor of common sense” and “presumption of knowledge”. Granted, NPR is generally aimed at a whiter, slightly more liberal audience than America as a whole, but within that demographic that’s what Schorr functions as.

    There is no one fount of true knowledge and if there were one, it wouldn’t be in Washington, DC.

    During the week NPR uses Cokie Roberts for the same function. She and her husband Steve Roberts worked as CIA propagandists under Gloria Steinem at an international student festival (off the top of my head I think it was the one in Helsinki, in 1961). You can look up and read Steinem talking about her role in it in a NY Times article in 1967. Then Steinem was reintroduced to America as a feminist, whence she worked under another CIA protege, Clay Felker at Ms Mag while being squired around nightspots by Henry Kissinger.

    If you go back to early 2008 reread her op-ed piece in the New York Times on the eve of the New Hampshire primary then try to suss exactly what the purpose was of saying women have it worse than African Americans. A principle of all rulers is to divide and conquer. After you read her piece, think of it as agit-prop and try to remember your reaction to it at the time.

  111. 111
    SGEW says:

    Somehow seems related:

    Hilzoy’s last post.

    The adults have left the room.

  112. 112
    geg6 says:

    Poopyman: You’ve hit on one of the things I find so astonishing about the David Gregories and Chuck Todds and David Broders of today’s journalism: their utter cooption by the very people whom they are supposed to cover. Great journalists like Cronkite and Mudd and Halberstam never considered their jobs to be maintaining access and staying in the good graces of the powers that be. In fact, it was a badge of honor to be considered their enemies, regardless of party or ideology. They took seriously what Jefferson said their mission should be by virtue of the special status the Bill of Rights granted them. Jefferson said they were expected to hold the government accountable. Cronkite and some others did that. I cannot say the same for 99.9% of journalists today. Apparently, that is being left to the bloggers, the only real jounalists out there today. With the sole exception of the comedians (Maher, Stewart, Letterman, and Colbert), that is.

  113. 113

    HRA wrote: “The Iran hostage taking was a big story that had gripped the nation’s attention. The difference compared to now was there was no lengthy personal essay on the failure of Carter being aired as there was about Bush by KO. The criticism came after the hostages were safe and not as intensely as we would see today.”

    Actually, that’s not how I remember it at all. Granted, there is no subtlety at all in much of television reporting today, but there were plenty of people sticking the knife (and then the fork) into Carter. If you recall, Nightline was created precisely to cover this story. “This is day one hundred and seventy three…” It was a daily reminder that Carter was weak. When Ollie North was caught up in Iran-contra no one mentions that he was part of the planning of the failed hostage rescue plan under Carter. Curious, no?

    Now that we know how the senior Bush and Bill Casey were involved with the mullahs to hold onto the hostages until after the elections people need to look back at how the hostage situation was reported on in the media.

  114. 114
    passerby says:

    @Bob In Pacifica:

    “A principle of all rulers is to divide and conquer. ”

    This. (sorry steve s.)

    It’s the predominant strategy–and purpose–of the media. But, shhhhh. We’re not suppose to acknowledge that. You know, tinfoil hattery and all that.

  115. 115
    Mike in NC says:

    Walter Cronkite, Edward R. Murrow, Eric Sevareid. etc. would have never shown a political bias towards the left or the right.

    Those guys came up during the Depression and WW2. You think they’d be intimidated by a Sarah Palin or Joe the Plumber type? They were also actual reporters and journalists, not the empty suits and GOP talking point stenographers who dominate the current 24/7 news cycle.

  116. 116
    Bruce (formerly Steve S.) says:

    “You needn’t wait till you’re dead for that, Bruce. You’re an asshole tonight.”

    I’m sure Walter would be proud of you.

  117. 117
    Bruce (formerly Steve S.) says:

    He openly wept at the death of Kennedy

    “Uhm, most people did. And it had nothing to do with his cold war stance.

    Uhm, yeah, that’s why I called him “mainstream”. Funny how hysterical some folks get when you call the recently deceased Walter Cronkite “mainstream”.

  118. 118
    dmbeater says:

    Cronkite was from the era prior to the modern celebrity “journalist”, which is what describes the Williams, Russerts etc. of the modern journalism era — before the business side of media had taken over the journalism side to such an extent that the “journalists” themselves are simply extensions of the business of making money off of “news.”

    On the other hand, he was from an era which pompously stressed the alleged objective journalist allegedly “telling it like it is” (which game they still try to play). To their credit, although these guys may have been disguising their point of view about things, they were much more devoted to delivering the story based on objective data rather than the current manipulation of the narrative. Cronkite called bullshit on the Viet Nam war well before it was politically safe to do so — imagine any of the current blowhards having done that with Iraq during the Bush years.

  119. 119
    Brachiator says:

    @passerby:

    Is it any wonder that our society is vulgar and devoid of character?

    America has always been vulgar. It is, paradoxically, one of our greatest strengths. On the other hand, America has rarely been devoid of character. There are time when real character is hard to find, and often various people work hard to distract people with flash, charisma, and the always potent phoney populism of someone like Sarah Palin.

    But there are always people who rise to the occasion. Uncle Walter was certainly one of them. I would think that Ted Koppel, at his best, is another example.

    Blow up your TVs.

    Where you been? TVs got blowed up a long time ago. Soon it will be time to blowed up the InterTubes.

    Bruce (formerly Steve S.) — Uhm, yeah, that’s why I called him “mainstream”. Funny how hysterical some folks get when you call the recently deceased Walter Cronkite “mainstream”.

    It’s not that. It’s that your description of Cronkite as “mainstream” is not nearly as significant or meaningful as you apparently believe. To describe Cronkite as “mainstream” is as trivial as describing him as “right-handed” because it says nothing about his excellence as a journalist or the quality of his work.

    Those guys came up during the Depression and WW2. You think they’d be intimidated by a Sarah Palin or Joe the Plumber type? They were also actual reporters and journalists, not the empty suits and GOP talking point stenographers who dominate the current 24/7 news cycle.

    They also came along when TV journalism was new, when there were fewer rules or expectations (for example, was TV news supposed to be like a newspaper or radio with pictures or its own thing?). But as TV journalism has become more of an industry, a profit center with its templates, rituals and expectations, and as cable and the Internet provided new competition, broadcast news has become more concerned with keeping viewers and desirable demographics than with fulfilling any public service in providing news and information.

  120. 120
    Bruce (formerly Steve S.) says:

    “It’s that your description of Cronkite as “mainstream” is not nearly as significant or meaningful as you apparently believe. To describe Cronkite as “mainstream” is as trivial as describing him as “right-handed” because it says nothing about his excellence as a journalist or the quality of his work.”

    Sweet Jesus, this is facile.

    There is one overwhelming triviality in this discussion, and that’s the “things were different in his day” winsome crap. Christ, that’s the kind of dreck I expect from the righty blogs.

    The hagiography is reaching epic proportions. Cronkite decided that Vietnam was a “stalemate” in late February of 1968. The general public were split on the question of the “handling” of the war by mid 1966, and a majority disapproved of the “handling” by mid 1967. Cronkite, like most mainstream news people, was a follower, not a leader.

    One could go on, but there’s no point swimming upstream against mindless sentimentality.

  121. 121
    Bruce (formerly Steve S.) says:

    “Cronkite was from the era prior to the modern celebrity “journalist”,”

    Walter Cronkite, Ed Murrow, Barbara Walters, Hugh Downs, and Mike Wallace say “hi.”

  122. 122
    LanceThruster says:

    Probably too late to the thread to get a response but does anyone remember what Walter did to piss CBS off when they let him go? It was supposedly for poor ratings but CBS said he would do investigative journalism pieces for them in the future but they never materialized. I read Cronkite was unhappy with the bum’s rush they gave him and was let down over the fact that they did not honor their commitment to have him do special reports.

    Exactly whose toes did he step on?

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