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The Most Trusted Man In America

PASADENA, CA – JANUARY 15: Walter Cronkite speaks during the PBS segment of the Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour panel discussion at the Ritz Carlton Hotel on January 15, 2006 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images).

Most people reading this never had the opportunity to hear, “The CBS Evening News with Walter Chronkite.”  On March 6, 1981 Chronkite (November 4, 1916 – July 17, 2009) signed off for the last time with his signature phrase, “And that’s the way it is.”

Reporting Vs. Opinion

If you asked 100 people on the street if today’s news is biased you’d probably get 100 yeses. What set great newsmen of the past apart from today’s talking heads was their reporting of the news — not the editorialization of it. These broadcast giants like Edward R. Murrow and Chronkite gave you who, what, where, when, why and the how of the story.

How Things Change

Is there any newsperson you trust today? Sometimes the line between journalistic integrity and personal opinion seem in stark contrast to the news reporting of the past. Most people who watched Chronkite on a regular basis had no idea how he voted. Today is only takes a few minutes to accurately label today’s newscasters.

Cronkite’s successor, Dan Rather, almost single handedly destroyed CBS News credibility when he and three producers reported a story about George Bush’s military service during the 2000 election. The documents they used were debunked as being produced on modern computer word processing programs that were not available in the 1970’s at the time of Bush’s military service. Rather ended up suing CBS but courts dismissed the case.

Talking Heads

Today’s news stars are no longer on the nightly network news. They are the opinion makers of talk radio and the cable news networks. Virtually all of them simply regurgitating their own political biases with little fact or conformation presented.

Now, instead of hearing the facts and forming our own opinions we are told what to think by these high priced “pretty people” broadcasting from lavish sets and shiny desks. Their million dollar graphics and perfectly quaffed hair is hard to distinguish from an episode of, “American Idol.” I keep waiting for the number to call where I can vote on my favorite stories.

Some Final Thoughts

I’m finding that getting the facts on any news story can be an exhausting process. Those of us on the air that talk about current events can’t trust Internet, TV or radio reports without two or more confirmation of the facts.

Even then it’s often hard to decipher fact from fiction. I lost track of the inaccuracies reported during the Boston Marathon Bombing last year by all the networks. I wonder if Walter Chronkite and Edward R. Murrow are looking down on news reporting today and asking, “What the heck happened?”

News has become a lot like art. “I don’t know art but I know what I like.” I have no clue if his or her facts are correct but what great hair. Who thinks for you these days?

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