Tuesday, July 21, 2009

And that's the way it's unlikely to be now

I haven't said anything about Walter Cronkite as of yet. I remember him, although some time has passed. He signed off the evening news for the last time when I was 10 or 11. But I do remember him being fair and open. At this point it might be for the best that there's no "most trusted man in America." Who could really be, well, trusted with all that trust? But Uncle Walter never abused his audience or dumbed down his stories.

This bit from Canadian TV writer Jaime Weinman struck me.

One more thing that’s notable about Cronkite’s CBS Evening News is how incredibly low-tech it was. This was back when TV news departments functioned as though they were semi-independent of the network’s entertainment arm, and part of that was the contempt for production values: no flashy graphics, little music, and very crude video and audio for the correspondents’ reports. Today, there’s no local news show that would have so little showbiz glitz. Of course, this production style helped the show by re-enforcing the idea that the anchor was telling it “the way it is,” that he wasn’t just an entertainer.

The lack of entertainment TV slickness was a big difference between then and now. Cronkite's successor Dan Rather was/is--I believe--a good and hardworking journalist. And Peter Jennings always struck me as a remarkably thoughtful man. But neither of them were able to stem the tide of Miami Vicification in the newsroom. They didn't have the leverage, even if they saw the problem.

Of course manipulation and obfuscation have long been part of the picture. At present, however, they've reached new heights of professionalism and aggressiveness. And most of us aren't much prepared.


susan said...

Who could have guessed that that a 24 hour news cycle rather than a half hour of considered reporting would make it all surreal? I think Walter understood that as does Bill Moyers but overall the media is a greedy beast. All of which goes to underscore the importance of both our internet connections and our own power of discernment.

Ben said...

The latter is absolutely essential, which too many forget.