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August 10, 2009 | by  | in Opinion | [ssba]

Who’s the next Walter Cronkite?

American Politics

Walter Cronkite was known as the most trusted man in America. He was anchorman for the CBS Evening News for 19 years. He was that man in the living room lounge with you and your family every evening; he told American families about events like Vietnam, the death of President Kennedy, Watergate, Iran Contra, Presidential elections, Moon landings, The Beatles—the big ones.

Mr. Cronkite died last month. A black hole opened up in broadcast media. This man was a part of your life—via this medium we call “the news”—and there was a vacuum caused by his absence. I’m sure there’s a New Zealand equivalent.

So now, people are starting to ask themselves the question, “Well, now who’s the most trusted man in America?” Where is that guy I trust to give me the facts as he found? Where is that guy with integrity? This is CBS Evening News, after all; these are benchmarks of journalistic professionalism. In essence, who is the next Walter Cronkite?


First look at what we’ve done with the news. We have the “conservative” media and the “liberal” media. Fox is right, CNN is left. As contestable as that statement is, that’s what we think. We know and acknowledge this. And it’s all pseudo-newsy. Glenn Beck says, I’m not a journalist, I’m an entertainer—while he entertains us with current events with a “FOX News” logo spinning around behind them. We have Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, and Tucker Carlson.

Will Ferrel in Anchorman is more credible and likable.

Of course, these aren’t news broadcasts; it’s punditry. It can all be as groundless and fact devoid as they please.

So who’s the next Walter Cronkite?

The answer should be easy. Dan Rather anchored the CBS Evening News after Cronkite retired in ’81. Logically, he would be the next Walter Cronkite because he succeeded Walter Cronkite. Except Dan Rather was sacrificed at the alter by the network for daring to investigate President George W. Bush’s suspect military history.

Ironically, Dan Rather recently addressed a non-profit group called the Aspen Institute—begging for media reform.

“A truly free and independent press is the red beating heart of democracy and freedom. This is not something just for journalists to be concerned about, and the loss of jobs and the loss of newspapers, and the diminution of the American press’ traditional role of being the watchdog on power. This is something every citizen should be concerned about.

“I feel particularly strong about coverage of the wars. […] I just can’t stand to leave those guys out there, fighting, dying, bleeding, getting torn up and say, ‘Look, it’s page 14 news.’ Or ‘Sorry, not on tonight’s newscast.’ It’s an example of the problem, that and not having the watchdogs.”

The Aspen Daily News reported that Rather urged President Obama to establish a White House commission on public media. That’s right; he said public media. Our private, for-profit, news media hasn’t been serving us well. That’s why nobody trusts anything about the American news anymore.

Our media incites racism to sell a corporate agenda. Our media fails to report that the protestors who are shouting down healthcare debates at these town hall meetings are being bussed in from out-of-district by PR firms hired by lobbyists for the insurance industry.

They’re using under-informed Americans to lobby for the insurance companies who make a profit by denying them care when they have a medical emergency. These are ridiculous people who don’t know what they’re for or what they’re against. It’s guerilla marketing by a corporate lobby.

It all stems from the same problem: how we finance political campaigns—what representatives really represent. We need public campaign financing. We need a strong public media on the public airwaves—doing a public service, a la BBC News. We need a public health option because our system, as is, is driving us bankrupt and, because it’s for-profit, it’s totally counterintuitive. All these protests and fuzzy-news are a smokescreen for huge, well-moneyed, well-lobbied, special interests who would face competition from a public option.

I trust Dan Rather. Since my question remains unanswered, I agree with his call for reform—across the board. It’s time to start moving forward again.


About the Author ()

Andrew Mendes is an American studying International Relations and Public Policy at Victoria. He enjoys following politics and reading lots of news.

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