Where are you, Mr. Cronkite?

By WES BROOKS,

Happenstance brought this week’s tune back in circulation for me. As most all of us know, life’s road can be a bit bumpy at times.

For a good friend of mine, the road had become positively third world, i.e. rough, bleak, and unpredictable.

You know, like when you ask a question and they answer “it doesn’t matter” or “I don’t care” and you immediately know they aren’t just answering your question, they’re talking about their life?

Yeah, like that.

They talked; I listened. Luckily, this person had a shared a love of music so I knew when I made the following recommendation, they’d understand. Based on what they told me, they needed hear something powerful and uplifting. Something visceral and real. They needed The Who!

Specifically, they needed The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again” from their 1971 release, Who’s Next.

Let’s get into it.

I believe I’ve finally reached my tipping point with televised “news.” Outside of maybe CBS’s 60 Minutes, I simply do not trust it anymore. I’ve searched from one end of the dial to the other hoping to find a modern-day Walter Cronkite. I’ve reached the conclusion that person doesn’t exist.

 

We'll be fighting in the streets

With our children at our feet

And the morals that they

worship will be gone

And the men who spurred us on

Sit in judgement of all wrong

They decide and the shotgun

sings the song

 

Mr. Cronkite earned the nickname “Uncle Walter,” “Mr. Ironpants,” and “King of the Anchors” because when he reported the news it was just that, the news.

Granted, in his day there was no such thing as live coverage.

For what little satellites of the day were able to provide for live broadcast, networks typically wouldn’t air those kinds of feeds because there was no way for anchors to provide context for what viewer was watching, and as Jack Ruby showed us all, the networks didn’t want to air another murder.

 

I'll tip my hat to the new constitution

Take a bow for the new revolution

Smile and grin at the change all around

Pick up my guitar and play

Just like yesterday

Then I'll get on my knees and pray

We don't get fooled again

 

To be fair, Mr. Cronkite did offer his opinions regularly, but he made sure we all knew that was exactly what we were getting—his opinion.

We, as a nation, trusted Uncle Walter.

So much so that his editorial “Report from Vietnam: Who, What, When, Where, and Why?” in which he stated that the conflict in Vietnam was “unwinnable” caused then-President Lyndon Johnson to say, “If I’ve lost Cronkite, then I’ve lost middle America.” Translation: to preserve his legacy and avoid public scrutiny, Johnson declines his party’s nomination for a second term.

THAT is powerful.

In my opinion, today’s network/national TV news (I’m not talking about local news channels) is opinion-based rhetoric driven by each media outlet’s insatiable desire to get the “news” to you first rather than get it to you accurately.

It begs the question, “do we need 24-hour news coverage?”

Can we at the very least require that all of the 24-hour news networks (e.g. Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, et al) must provide a disclaimer for every segment they air that is speculative or opinion based?

The change, it had to come

We knew it all along

We were liberated from

the fold, that's all

And the world looks just the same

And history ain't changed

'Cause the banners, they are flown in the last war

 

To be clear, I don’t mean to paint each of the 24-hour news networks as void of informative content.

Unfortunately, it’s buried under 23 hours of what amounts to an anchor, two guests who share the anchor’s political ideation, and one poor soul with opposing views who spends the entire time on-air being talked over and berated by the other three. It’s the same scenario on every single network—every single one.

Watching these play out on TV is maddening. I mean, what happened to decorum?!??

I want unbiased, nothing-but-the-facts-ma’am journalism.

If the standards of journalistic integrity are still intact, I think the newspapers are the only place left where we can find credible reporting. And we’re going to have to be patient if we expect it to factually accurate.

I’m sure you’re probably thinking, “of course you think that, Wes, you write for the paper!”

Well, let me provide the following disclaimer before I go any further: I am not employed by Hub City Spokes nor am I compensated in any way for writing this column. The opinions I offer here are 100 percent my own.

 

I'll tip my hat to the new constitution

Take a bow for the new revolution

Smile and grin at the change all around

Pick up my guitar and play

Just like yesterday

Then I'll get on my knees and pray

We don't get fooled again

 

Before breaking a story, a reporter has to have not one but two credible sources that will corroborate their story. You can imagine how hard that must be for a reporter to get?

Take the Watergate burglary for example. The TV networks didn’t break that story; it was broken by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein—two beat reporters from The Washington Post.

They spent years interviewing people and searching for credible sources who would go on record. Their efforts, and their editor, Ben Bradlee’s, efforts to hold them accountable through every step of the process, produced one of the biggest news stories of the 20th century and the benchmark of investigative journalism.

The newspapers shouldn’t be persecuted, they should be celebrated. There are reasons the press are given special protections by the 1st Amendment to the Constitution. They embody ultimate check and balance between “big brother” and all of us.

Pick up a newspaper. It may not be new news, and it may not be news you like or agree with, but that doesn’t make it wrong.

Plus, you can feel more confident that what you’re reading is more accurate than what was launched at you on the TV the night before… and your brain will thank you that it’s not staring at your phone or television.

 

P.S. As I was finishing this article, some whacko ran into a small newspaper outside Baltimore and opened fire on reporters just because he didn’t like what some of them wrote. My heartfelt prayers go out to them. If I know anything about journalists, this won’t scare or discourage them. They’ll be galvanized and motivated.

As they should be.

 

When he’s not rocking his socks off, Wes Brooks spends his days as the Development Coordinator at the DuBard School for Language Disorders at The University of Southern Mississippi.

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