Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Way It Is

Walter Cronkite was the nation's elder statesman. He functioned as giver of news, bastion of integrity. Sure, he could be difficult to work for, but he insisted on accuracy. Contrast that with what passes for news and news-givers today. Imagine a time when there was really only one newscast most folks watched. Sure there were other outstanding broadcasters in the latter half of the 20th century, but Cronkite had it all.
Even though he was the one who brought us the first televised war... Vietnam, he also had the courage to speak out against the foolishness of the policy that killed so many unnecessarily. When Cronkite questioned the war, you new you were in the majority all of a sudden.
At 92, Cronkite's passing is a more than just a milestone. It is a painful reminder of what we are left with for journalists. I acknowledge that these are the ramblings of someone growing older, someone sensing the loss of an institution. I realize too that institutions change, grow, reform. Yet, I can't help but feel there is more here.
Perhaps it helps never to have known how it was. Never to have seen how one news person spoke to everyone. He told us about the unthinkable only revealing small bursts of his own emotion. When Cronkite emoted, we followed.
Never to have seen Cronkite at his best makes it easier to watch the ongoing drivel we have today. Makes it easier to take the light-weight analysis, the bleeding headlines, the tabloid standard that passes for journalism but is only bad entertainment. The line is not in the sand, it is in the mud.

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