And That’s The Way It ……Was by
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(15 Stories)

Prompted By Broadcast News

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My family was one of the last in our community to get a television.  Although my Dad was quite a “news wonk”, his current events information came from newspapers. and radio. Even after we got a t.v.  I don’t recall our family watching the  news very much.

The legendary  names of the broadcasting greats from my childhood are not as familiar to me as they might be for most.  Except for Walter Cronkite. Considered the “most trusted man in America” during the 1960’s and ’70’s,  his image was that of an unbiased reporter just communicating “the facts”. He  prided himself on  “objective reporting”. but Cronkite   did not just report “the facts”, he came to reasoned conclusions based on the  facts. When he reported  on the  Vietnam conflict, he predicted it would not end in a victory, but in a stalemate.  His  influence was so pervasive that it launched  the myth that it was the reason LBJ decided not to run for re-election. And  Cronkite’s analysis of the Watergate scandal perhaps pushed the public opinion that forced Nixon to resign. His signed  off his broadcasts with the signature phrase: “…..And that’s the way it is”. But  in  keeping his standards of objective journalism, he omitted this phrase on nights when he ended the newscast with opinion or commentary.

To the listening public Cronkite’s analysis made his reasoned opinions sound like facts.  There was somehow something so honest about his demeanor that Americans looked upon him as a  family member or friend whom they  could trust implicitly. 

In the 1990’s I heard a different view of the famous broadcaster,  in a morning radio show called  “Imus in the Morning”, The host, Don Imus, developed a show with  political banter and news.  Imus had a stable of comedians, several of which impersonated famous people.  One of the personalities  that was mimicked was Walter Cronkite, who was portrayed as a wild conservative. It seemed ridiculous to me, because everyone thought of Cronkite as the consummate unbiased reporter. Most people  had no idea as to how Cronkite really felt about politics, and that was his appeal.

The Imus comedian who  created this nutty conservative broadcaster had no knowledge as to Cronkite’s beliefs.  And I was made aware of this when Cronkite was the guest speaker at my  niece’s graduation from Brandeis University a few years after he retired. His address could have been given by a supporter of Bernie Sanders: progressive and strongly in the Democratic sphere.  But during his career as a broadcaster, his  stories were never tainted by these political beliefs. 

The business of broadcasting the news has been forever changed.  After Cronkite retired there seemed to be a  dramatic descent  of “objective reporting”. No matter what their political persuasion, Americans tend  to be 100% suspicious of  any reporter whose facts  they do not agree with. Exacerbated by  social media, tweets,  Fox News and MSNBC, news reporters, even those who might present ” objective reporting”,  will  never  be fully trusted by most Americans.  There will never be another Walter Cronkite and “that’s the way it is.”…… no more

Profile photo of Sara Gootblatt Sara Gootblatt


Characterizations: well written

Comments

  1. Thanx Sara for your thorough and astute picture of Walter Cronkite, his era and his stamp on TV political reporting.

    I’m sure he was a sought after graduation speaker, and am so glad you heard him at Brandeis after his retirement when his speech confirmed his liberal stance.

    Not surprisingly, several of us have written stories about Cronkite this week including me, and am about to read the others!

  2. Betsy Pfau says:

    Unfortunately, you are correct, Sara, and as a society, we have suffered because of that loss of objectivity. In fact, our democracy is on the brink due to it. You point out something very important and sad. Thank you for this.

  3. Marian says:

    Very interesting about Cronkite’s personal politics. These days it’s impossible to separate the broadcasters from their views. Definitely “no more.”

  4. Suzy says:

    Great story, Sara, and thanks for telling us about Don Imus, as well as Cronkite’s graduation speech at Brandeis. I love that four of you writers picked the Cronkite signoff for your story titles, because he really was the epitome of someone we could trust.

  5. Thanks, Sara for reminding us of Cronkite’s periodic news analysis. During the Vietnam era, I didn’t watch much television and was alienated from any form of corporate media, but I did have the perspective to recognize that Cronkite was distilling his end-of-show editorials with clarity that pulled no punches from the “light at the end of the tunnel” crowd.

  6. Khati Hendry says:

    We still look for information about the world, and decide the best place to get it. There just isn’t much agreement about a neutral source. Sometimes I find the BBC interesting because it is all so deadpan and factual, and it covers more of the world, although their opinion and interview shows are not at all like that. Sometimes I wish I didn’t endorse the shows I do, because they seem so grim, but the events that ensue seem to bear them out–so there you have it.

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