Friday, July 17, 2009

And That's the Way it Was

Walter Cronkite died today, at the ripe old age of 92.

Fortunately I'm not quite old enough to remember Cronkite in his heyday, as the anchor of the CBS Evening News and "the most trusted man in America." I can't speak about my personal experiences with Walter Cronkite, and the New York Times can talk about his impact much better than I.

What I can talk about is what I think his death symbolizes. It will surprise none when I say that it represents the death of T.V. news, or at least, the trust Americans have had in it.

Cronkite made no aspersions to be a pundit, for either the Right, the Left, or anyone in between. His job was just to find and report the news, and when he did it, he did it earnestly and with care, and everyone trusted him because they knew this.

Cronkite had the luxury not to reach his prime in a polarized country, at least, not one where that polarization was played out across 100 different network and cable channels every night. For to be sure, Hawks vs. Doves, Traditionalists vs. Civil Rights Activists, Communist haters vs. sympathizers, and many others had their battles under Cronkite's watch, but those groups in the pre-information age never relied on T.V. newsmen to fight those battles for them.

Today, with FOX, NBC, CNN and all the rest of the alphabet fighting for every little piece of the ratings pie that they can get, everyone who reports the news on television has to take a stand. If they don't pick a side, the rest of the media will sweep them into one category or another.

When John Stewart went on Crossfire and effectively buried the show with his passionate deconstruction of its entertainment-based underpinnings, he shone the spotlight on a serious problem, which is that television news, both local, national, and cable, has, almost by necessity, lost virtually all it's credibility, and I'm not sure that there's anything anyone can do about it.

The trusted, impartial televsion news anchor and television news broadcast died today with Walter Cronkite. I'll be getting my news from newspapers and the Internet. If I want a good laugh or some entertaining video bites with my popcorn, I'll throw on FOX News or CNN.

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