Sunday, July 19, 2009

An American Loss - Walter Cronkite

Walter Cronkite has died. Everyone must know this by now.

The death of a legend, a 92 year old man, will not garner the extensive coverage or hysteria that continues for the former "King of Pop" but his loss, to many people, is more significant to our culture. Cronkite had character with a small "c" rather than flaunting himself as a "Character"

He was a major contributor to Broadcast Journalism unlike his heir apparents today who are involved in "News Entertainment" industry. Cronkite reported news and did not make news excluding his infamous report on his belief that the stalemate in Vietnam would continue on for years. In the glory days of television journalism, reporters such as Cronkite did not report their opinions or indicate their reactions to what they reported. They presented the facts and left it up to the viewer to develop their own opinions and conclusions. How different it is today. It is so obvious on all the networks of how and what the executives through their "pretty boy" and "pretty girl" news readers want the viewers to believe and think. I have no doubt that the infusion of personality as well as the focus of form over substance has greatly contributed to the decimation of credibility and integrity in broadcast journalism.

I remember Cronkite broadcasts along with the Huntley-Brinkley reports. Their authoritative no nonsense demeanor in reporting news events was reassuring and evoked trust in the television media. You never got the feeling that their were leading you down a path of their choosing. You never believed that they were spoon feeding you and doing your thinking for you. They understood that it was not their job. They ensured that it did not become part of their job. They were reporters and not commentators.

Their detached professional demeanor evoked credibility and confidence from the viewers.

It was ironic that during the coverage of the Indonesian hotel bombings, CNN's anchor, Anderson Cooper was interviewing an eye witness to the bombing. The eye witness stated that he had come upon a badly mangled body of what he believed to have been a suicide bomber. Anderson Cooper in his whiny and snivelled voice, only marginally less irritating than Aaron Brown whom he replaced at CNN, then asked the eye witness if he was able to determine the "Nationality" of the remains.

Credibility? Let's see - someone apparently straps a quantity of high explosives around their body and detonates the device. The suicide bomber's body is subjected to the full force of the explosion. An eye witness states that the body was very badly mangled and a supposedly top notch journalist asks "Could you determine the nationality?"

I was not aware that a person's nationality could be determined on sight. American? Irish? French? Canadian? Saudi? Yemeni? Sudanese? Indian? Pakistani?

Identifying a person's nationality by the way their appearance is impossible. Added to this, the fact that the remains were badly mangled makes such a question ridiculous.

Knowing that Anderson Cooper graduated from Yale University I assume that he is not stupid although some people might argue and even point out that at least one Yale graduate with a "C" average was indeed very stupid. I will continue in my belief that a Yale graduate is too smart to naively ask if an eye witness could identify the nationality of the mangled remains of a suicide bomber.

I suspect that in asking such a ridiculous question, Anderson Cooper was fulfilling a need to become part of the story, a need to make the story more entertaining, or perhaps something more sinister as well as disturbing. Perhaps he was asking the question that he assumed his audience was wanting to ask. If so this arrogance on his part is inexcusable - assuming that the majority of his audience are that stupid and that he must speak for them so that their voice could be heard.

Walter Cronkite would not allow his personal opinions and ego to sway his reporting. He never asked ridiculous questions that are too often made in today's media.

We may mourn the death of Walter Cronkite, but we should also mourn the loss of a powerful symbol of what American broadcast journalism once was and what it stood for.

For our culture the loss of that symbol transcends the loss of the man.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Bro LXA,
    I could not have said it better.There was a comfort knowing that Walter would bring you the TRUE each night without bias. You could sleep easy knowing you would know what he knew the next evening. How sad we have strayed so far away from that kind of trust in a real reporter. NO trust in Katie!!! J