Thursday, July 30, 2009
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
At his best, and Cronkite was frequently at his best with coverage of Vietnam and civil rights, he demanded that his "correspondents" (a revered titled at CBS) challenge the dinnertime viewer. Were, as Pat Murphy suggests, the network news divisions given a half hour every night to report what "viewers wanted to hear" or what "they needed to know?"
It was Cronkite's considered judgment - the editorial judgment of an old United Press International (UPI) reporter - that determined the story content of the nightly "broadcast" The CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite was never a "news program" or "show." Playing the role of Managing Editor, Cronkite served up what we needed to know as opposed to what might have gone down easier with a TV dinner.
Cronkite's broadcast anchored a different time, before 24-hour news cycles and endless "talking heads" on cable. It is a time long gone and Cronkite's passing begs the question: can any reporter or news organization command such respect again? More importantly, perhaps, do we news consumers care any more about Cronkite's type of content? Do we want journalism to challenge us...or give us an escape from what we really need to know?
In a 1996 inteview with the Newseum, Cronkite was asked about his regrets. Not surprisingly he had some: http://www.newseum.org/news/news.aspx?item=nh_CRON090714_2
It is a cliche that the old UPI man would have abhorred, but we'll not see his like again.
Unfortunately, that's the way it is.