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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

CRONKITE: BROADCASTING TRUTH TO POWER

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THE LAST OF THE GREAT AMERICAN JOURNALISTS

WHAT REPORTER, MUCH LESS ANCHORMAN, WOULD STAND
UP TO CREEPING FASCISM IN AMERICA TODAY?


1968 DEMOCRATIC CONVENTION, CHICAGO, ILLINOIS
Cronkite: "I think we've got a bunch of thugs here, Dan." video

"Uncle Walter" Called 'Em How He Saw 'Em

Those who have grown up on television news and have never known the hard-working newshounds of the late, great newspaper industry, simply don't know what journalism is. First of all, it's writing, not pointing a mike or a video camera at a talking head, and letting him or her lie his ass off. Second, it's not letting anybody use your newspaper, magazine, radio or TV network to disseminate government, corporate or partisan propaganda. Third, it ain't Fox News.

Walter Cronkite came out of the newspaper business and was one of the pioneers of direct live instantaneous reporting via trans-Atlantic wire services and radio news broadcasts, at just the moment that America needed to see and to hear what was really going on "over there." Along with other young kids like Eric Sevareid and Howard K. Smith, and seasoned newsmen like William L. Shirer and Edward R. Murrow, Cronkite gave it to us straight from Nazi Germany when that nation threatened our very existence. That kind of hard-hitting reporting at great risk to their own lives made that generation of journalists perhaps the finest the world has ever seen, or is likely to see again. The respect that earned them carried over onto television news, and helped that medium to gradually replace print as our primary source of information.

Cronkite was almost as ready to report on the failings and misdeeds of his own government as he had been in exposing the crimes of Nazi Germany. As early as 1968, while LBJ was still in office, Cronkite criticized the build-up in Vietnam in an on-air editorial. You'll never see that nowadays, or hear Brian Williams or Anderson Cooper calling a government thug a thug, but Cronkite did. Unfortunately, the growth of the shallower medium and the steady juggernaut of corporate consolidation have made the boob tube into a coal-chute of bullsh*t directly into the sub-basement of the American psyche for the closet Fascists that own, operate and influence the networks today. If we ever do see another Walter Cronkite, it'll be on a blog, not the tee-vee.

And, sadly, that's the way it is.


THE MUSEUM OF BROADCAST COMMUNICATIONS
"Legendary CBS newsman Walter Cronkite has died at 92."
The Power & The Glory...
' Initially, Cronkite was something of a hawk on the Vietnam War, although his program did broadcast controversial segments such as Morley Safer's famous "Zippo lighter" report. However, returning from Vietnam after the Tet offensive Cronkite addressed his massive audience with a different perspective. "It seems now more certain than ever," he said, "that the bloody experience of Vietnam is a stalemate." He then urged the government to open negotiations with the North Vietnamese. Many observers, including presidential aide Bill Moyers speculated that this was a major factor contributing to President Lyndon B. Johnson's decision to offer to negotiate with the enemy and not to run for President in 1968. Cronkite never stinted on coverage of the Watergate Scandal and subsequent hearings. In 1972, following on the heels of the Washington Post's "Watergate" revelations the CBS Evening News presented a 22 minute, two-part overview of "Watergate" generally credited with keeping the issue alive and making it intelligible to most Americans. '

THE ATLANTIC
"David Halberstam on Walter Cronkite"
The Anchorman Vs. The Crook.
' The men who ran broadcasting had become sensitive about going against the American norm, and being ahead of it. For their purposes now Walter was perfect, he was the norm. For him to be against the norm was like going against himself. In addition, he had a strong self-imposed sense of what the limits of his role were, and the dangers of violating the trust that had been given to him. So it worked; he became over the years one of the most trusted men in America. His more elitist colleagues in print journalism, even if they found him on occasion slow in picking up on certain stories, nonetheless respected his integrity. When political pollsters wanted to check on the credibility of possible presidential candidates, they always included Walter Cronkite on the poll as a benchmark against which the trust and acceptability of candidates could be measured, and Cronkite often scored very high. In 1970, a President who viewed television commentators as a major opposing power center was manipulating political pressure against them, and networks were on the defensive. At a meeting that year between CBS executives and affiliate owners, the resentment and anger of the affiliates against the CBS news team was showing. Cambodia and Kent State had just taken place, and the Nixon-Agnew attacks on TV commentators were their peak. The meeting had been bitter and there was a smell of blood in the air. That night CBS gave a banquet and the management trotted out all the stars, Jimmy Stewart and Doris Day and many others, and they all walked in and received polite applause. And then Cronkite came in and the house went wild, a magnificent standing ovation from the very people who had been echoing the Nixon-Agnew assault on CBS that morning. You can have it both ways. '

THE NATION
"Walter Cronkite: Definitional Journalist Saw Big Media's Flaws"
Now out of the belly of the beast, Cronkite attacks the beast.
' The reporter, editor and anchorman from 1962 to 1981, whose name remained synonymous with American journalism to the day he died, fretted in particular about a 2003 move by the Federal Communications Commission to relax media ownership rules. After the commission approved proposals that would permit a single media company to own television stations that reach up to 45 percent of American households, and that would permit a single media company to own the daily newspaper, several television stations and up to eight radio stations in the same community, Cronkite said, "I think they made a mistake, I do indeed. It seems to me that the rule change was negotiated and promulgated with the goal of creating even larger monopolies in the news-gathering business." Cronkite also argued that the networks needed to get more comfortable with criticism. He believed that, after years of battering by conservative media critics, the networks were too averse to taking risks. During the discussion about whether a network anchor might question the wisdom of the Iraq war, he said, "If they (the networks) didn't do it, I think it would be because they are afraid to get in an ideological fight - or that doing so might lose them some viewers. ... I think that is a bad thing, a bad way to decide how to approach a story." '



(cross-posted at Democracy For California by cosanostradamus)


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Suggestion Box & Tip Jar We would like to make over this blog to make it easier to access, to read and to comment on. We would also like to serve our readers better by providing more of what you need and want to see. All serious suggestions will be considered. We hope to move to our own domain in the near future, and we would like to ask for your financial assistance in doing that, and in upgrading our hardware & software. Small one-time donations and larger long-term subscriptions are welcome. Exclusive advertising is also available. If you think we are wasting our time in doing all this, please let us know. If you wish to help us, now is the time. As always, negative bullsh*t from right-wing trolls will be sh*tcanned. Thank you to everyone else. Please send feedback & PayPal contributions to cosanostradamusATexciteDOTcom. Thanks.
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2 Comments:

Blogger Geezer Power said...

Yep, back in those days, Cronkite was the news. If you wanted a leftist view, you read Time magazine and if you wanted a right wing view, you read the US World News Report. All things change, I guess, but there is still the Rolling Stone...kinda G:

8:23 AM, July 21, 2009  
Blogger Cosa Nostradamus said...

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Yeah. Our local head shops carried some local underground papers, as well as The Realist, the East Village Other, The Village Voice, and all the Zap Comix. Our school library actually had the IF Stone Weekly and various liberal and conservative magazines. Our local daily papers sucked, and then there was the NY Times, which my father got on Sundays: Pompous twaddle, always. I liked Look & Life for the fotos, and Esquire & The Saturday Evening Post for the stories. Never liked Time or Newsweek. They always seemed to be pushing an agenda, trying to tell us what to think, instead of just presenting the facts.

I found I had to read a lot of history books to understand what was going on in Vietnam and with Civil Rights and race riots, communism & capitalism, etc. Our school curriculum was pathetic, but I managed to get access to the huge libraries at Rutgers and Princeton, so there was plenty of info there.

I never did much trust the media, after I began to realize how willfully ignorant, or deliberately deceptive they were on so many subjects. I got a lot of my news from Pacifica Radio in NYC, WBAI. They had their own reporter in Vietnam, that little station, all listener-sponsored. I was even on it a couple of times. A cat may look at a king, but not an anchorman, though. That's what I don't like about the corporate media: They're too good for us. F**k 'em.
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10:50 AM, July 21, 2009  

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