What’s Happened to Our National Media?
I’m not sure the younger generation can appreciate a time when there were only 3 TV channels, a few AM radio stations and lots of newspapers.
Almost every small town had a local weekly paper. It contained such newsworthy events as Mrs. Fred Smith visited Mrs. Andrew Jones that week.
And if women were ever mentioned in the paper it would not say Mrs. Mary Smith, it would say Mrs. Fred Smith. The husbands name was more commonly used for the women.
Where’s Walter Cronkite When We Need Him?
Walter Cronkite used to be known as “the most trusted man in America.” At that time in America we all thought so. He brought us the nightly news and shared the death of John F. Kennedy with us.
He brought us gavel-to-gavel political conventions. And even though being left leaning he never seemed to let that get in the way of his reporting of the news.
People on TV actually used to do that. They reported the news without interjecting their own political bias or ideology.
It was a more innocent time in America. The news was the story not the person delivering it.
CNN Changed Everything
In the early 90s CNN came along with a 24/7/365 news channel. No one gave it much of a chance because the news, for the most part, was boring.
But there was a Gulf War just starting and we got to see smart bombs and other laser guided weapons.
TV would never be the same.
More channels followed CNBC, MSNBC, NPR, PBS, C-Span, and FOX all brought more news than anyone could absorb into our living rooms.
But it was not all good.
News vs. Entertainment
As competition heated up the need to attract more and more eyeballs became paramount in each networks marketing plan. Advertisers pay for eyes not journalism awards.
Along came network personalities like Wolf Blitzer, Rachel Maddow, Chris Mathews, Bill O’Reilly, and Megyn Kelly.
Each personality bringing more sizzle than steak to the news desk. The pundits were correct.
News is boring unless it’s delivered in an entertaining style. A verbal fistfight between opposing factions kept viewers eyes glued to their sets.
The bigger the controversy the more gasoline was poured on the flames to keep the news story burning. The accuracy of the story became secondary to being first with the story.
Some Final Thoughts
Now we tune in for the personality, not the show content. We need to know what the commentator thinks about each story.
Without that input how will we be able to form an opinion? We have to have someone create our arguments for us.
All the current experts look like they are fresh out of high school. Young and beautiful is the preferred formula.
No one wants an old Walter any longer — trusted or not. His day is over. Twitter posts and sound bites rule the airwaves.
There is no “Most Trusted Man In America” working at any media outlet today. And what’s really sad is no one really wants or cares to be.
There’s no place for trust on the resume anymore. It’s been replaced by what will you do to improve ratings?