There are no more Walter Cronkite’s
Walter Cronkite was the face of news reporting in America for many years. Others joined him, David Huntley and Chet Brinkley, Eric Sevareid, and more who reported the news without distortion or interpretation.
Oh, that we had such reporters today.
When Cronkite or the others interrupted a television show with the words “we interrupt this broadcast for breaking news,” it was for something that mattered. They told the story, relayed the information, and left the commentary or analysis for those who made their function clear.
Cronkite’s integrity and honesty were so highly respected that, when he went to Vietnam in 1968 shortly after the Tet Offensive and gave a brutally frank report on the conduct and state of the American involvement, his words turned the tide of American support for the war.
After Cronkite’s report, President Lyndon Johnson told his close personal advisers, “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost the American people.” As history shows, Vietnam was a death knell for Johnson’s administration. Cronkite’s reporting, not criticism, not condemnation, not opinion, just his reporting of the facts on the ground in Vietnam was what made the difference and changed the course of a government.
President Trump’s approach to critical reporting is to attack the source. Such tactics will remain effective until news broadcasters develop a reputation for integrity that withstands such attacks, the absence of such reporters is sad and troubling.
Today’s 24/7 breaking news agenda driven media thinly disguised as reporting is a pox on America and the tradition and powerful voice of an independent and trustworthy free press.
News today is blood sports entertainment. Broadcast media, amplified by social media, has turned news into the Roman Circus. Truth becomes the moral equivalent of Christians fed to lions. The lions being the talking heads misdirecting facts to suit their particular bent and twisted into truth tearing carnivorous attacks.
The reason we ended up with such a divisive election is the result of the media widening the chasm between liberal and conservative philosophies. America’s strengths have always been its ability to embrace a centrist policy. Neither too left or right wing. Marginalizing the extremes on both sides and melding the best into a successful strategy.
Clinton made the error of trying to embrace Sanders more extreme foreign policy agenda and social programs, perhaps out of some sense of recompense for her gerrymandering the convention, and it hurt her in middle America.
Trump exploited this by firing up the extremes of the right, the xenophobic isolationists, and distorting the threat of illegal immigration. His embracing the “criminalization” of his opponent with the “lock her up” chant is a playbook out of many authoritarian governments throughout the world.
And it worked, Sanders supporters who couldn’t vote for Trump or Clinton voted for third parties or didn’t vote at all. Some Democrats crossed over to Trump because of a perception that he was the lesser of two evils.
All of this facilitated, compounded, and occluded by a profit-driven media seeking only to boost ratings.
The print media, a dying breed due to the changing nature of technology and the short attention spans and dirge of analytical thought among Americans, still has not found a way to preserve its place despite continued outstanding reporting by many of the established newspapers.
In the final analysis, until the news is no longer considered entertainment, we will continue down this dangerous road. Those of us who recall the Cronkite’s of the world, in whom you could place your trust in the truth of the reporting, long for a return. Those raised on the 24/7 media circus don’t understand what they’re missing, or the damage it does to the country.