September 10, 2004

Where's What must be the crankiest geezer on the Vineyard

Remember this gem from last month?

Lamenting the lack of depth in television news, the man considered the most trusted person on TV, Walter Cronkite, ends his current job this coming Tuesday right back where he started, as a newspaperman.

In his final column in a year-long stint writing for the King Features Syndicate, Cronkite, 87, calls his decades as the nightly news anchor for broadcast network CBS "rewarding," but "not entirely satisfactory" due to time limitations that prevented deep reporting of any one story.

"We're talking about covering one of the most complicated and important nations of the world ... and it's patently impossible to do an adequate job of covering the major stories of the day, around the world, in 17 minutes," Cronkite recently told Reuters, alluding to the on-air time in any half-hour news telecast.

The veteran reporter, who has covered presidential elections and armed conflicts from World War II to the Vietnam War, said he would like to see the numerous news "magazines" on TV devote more time to "instant documentaries" of current topics instead of "so much coverage of sex and Hollywood and crime."

In his farewell passage for King Features, Cronkite writes that because newspapers can provide depth and breadth, they can become a "custodian of our history."

"The decent newspapers try to be fair and present both sides of a disputed story in the community and our nation, and that is the essential of our history," he said. "It is where historians go to do their research. This is an absolutely vital link in the chain of culture that we call our democracy."


There are some things that each medium -- television and newspapers -- does distinctively. Television, of course, gives viewers a better sense of how people look and act, but newspapers provide a record that can be stored for people to read and study events for years to come.

In the case of presidential elections, Cronkite said the TV industry should be forced to give away air time to candidates to avoid multi-million dollar TV ad campaigns and keep offices from being up-for-sale to the candidate who raised the most money.

The newsman said he values the Internet as a research tool, but he finds some stories published on the Web -- scandals especially -- play too fast and loose with the facts.

"I am dumbfounded that there hasn't been a crackdown with the libel and slander laws on some of these would-be writers and reporters on the Internet. I expect that to develop in the fairly near future," he said.

Say goodnight, Walter.

Posted by Steve at September 10, 2004 11:05 AM | TrackBack
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