Friday saw the death of Walter Cronkite, greatest of the great generation of TV news-people. He is perhaps remembered most for the broadcast in which he condemned continued US involvement in the Vietnam War (can’t embed that vid but here’s his report on the assassination of JFK).
Cronkite and contemporaries like Dan Rather set the standard. They were informed and they gave informed opinions – not using the fiction of journalistic objectivity as a cover for ignorance like today. They were voices with authority, voices worth listening to when news was taken as a serious business. That was before they decided that TV was all about the visual image and news had to be ‘fun’.
Now, they’ve replaced real reporters with anchors who just read the tele-prompter. Interchangeable pretty young things that usually don’t understand the issue they’re talking about* – the woman: a blonde, conventional good looks, the man: dark hair, square-jaw, short back and sides.
We won’t see the likes of Cronkite again. There is no place for them in modern media.The could-be Cronkites of today don’t go into journalism. (Slate.com has a good piece the training of journalists here)
It’s easy to say we’ll miss you Walter. Fact is, we’ve been missing you and journalists like you for decades.
[* speaking of which I’ve been meaning to get this one off my chest for a while. June 6, Peter Williams (one of the good ones, I had thought) anchoring One News reporting on D-Day commemorations reads tele-prompter: ‘It was the day the Allies returned to Europe’. How many eyes saw that and didn’t realise it was completely wrong? (The Western Allies had landed in Italy in 1943, and of course both the UK and USSR were in Europe) Why make a statement like that without knowing its truth? Why not check? Guess they just don’t care. Cronkite wouldn’t have got it wrong. He would have known the facts relating to the story because it was his job]