A few weeks have gone by since Walter Cronkite’s passing. But it may be many years before the news industry regains the type of trust he once engendered.
The transition from a news society built on three major networks to widely-segmented programming is now ingrained in American culture. And while the overall evolution is mostly positive, certain facets of it are rather disconcerting. In essence, the dumbing-down of the news to appeal to the base instincts of wide audiences is well, unappealing.
Niche-oriented news programming is a good thing. But just as Cronkite wanted to remain relevant to audiences, the hosts of some of these shows – particularly the more bombastic politically-grounded ones – need to bear in mind that they too have a responsibility to be fair and honest. Political leanings aside, calling the president of the United States a “racist” is reprehensible.
While the “boring” Cronkite-like stories don’t get the huge spikes in viewership, they are more likely to have staying power. At some point, the audiences attached to those shows that become unreliable will just stop tuning in. Already, the cable TV host that referred to President Obama as a racist has lost advertisers.
At least that’s my philosophy. My first journalism job was in New York City with the McNeil-Lehrer Report, a half-hour devoted to one issue and without pictures or self-aggrandizement. Today the show has evolved. But its central task remains the same: to inform audiences without inflaming them.
Call me old school. But that’s my style too, which is to say an adherent to the Walter Cronkite school of journalism ###
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