Monday, July 20, 2009

Walter Cronkite, R.I.P

On Friday, legendary news broadcaster Walter Cronkite died at age 92. Cronkite anchored the CBS Evening News until 1981, and he was likely the most respected person in television news history.

At the height of his power, Cronkite was voted the most trusted man in America in a poll, and it was a reputation that stuck to him. These days many Americans view journalism and the media with a lot of cynicism. This alone should show us how much the media (and the United States) have changed in the last three decades.

Cronkite represented an era when news was reported sharply and to the point. This was before 24-hour cable news channels so the responsibilities of the nightly newscasts on CBS, NBC, and ABC were immense. Since then, everything has changed, and not for the better in most cases.

Now, most television journalists are known as much for their personality as for the news they report. Not good. Additionally, most of these people are easily identified with a political ideology. Also, not good.

These problems took place back in Cronkite's day as well, but not to the level we see today. Some dismissed Cronkite as a liberal, but he felt the news was the thing. These days, most electronic news journalists seem to be more interested in pandering to an audience to guarantee ratings instead of reporting what the public needs to hear. Many news programs are nothing more than a bunch of people yelling at each other. Cronkite thought this was a form of pandering (are you listening Keith Olbermann?).

Cronkite was a legend, and surely we all realize that we do not lose these types of people every day.


Joltin' Django said...

I certainly appreciate the cultural significance of Uncle Walter. However, I'm glad I live in a world in which the news I receive is not limited to what CBS, NBC, ABC and the New York Times wanna tell me about.

Chris said...

Good point about how we have lots more access to more media outlets than 30 years ago. It's a good thing even if a lot of those outlets don't always serve the public good.