We are an ignorant nation right now. We’re not really capable of making decisions that have to be made at election time. I do not think we’re bright enough to do the job that would preserve our democracy, our republic. I think we’re in serious danger. — Walter Cronkite, 1976
They called him Old Iron Pants because he occupied the anchor chair at CBS for a generation. My generation. In 1968, following Walter Cronkite’s unprecedented three-minute commentary that changed America’s perception of the Vietnam War, President Lyndon Johnson was said to have remarked, “Well, if I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost Middle America.”
Walter was one of my heroes. He, along with the Washington Post reporters who broke the Watergate story, inspired me to earn a degree in journalism, an honorable, useful, and important occupation as exemplified by Cronkite’s integrity, skill, and longevity.
He was America’s guide through the good, the bad, and the ugly from 1962 to 1981. Wars, assassinations, civil rights, elections, moon landings, kidnappings, hijackings, Watergate. His confident, avuncular presence and reassuring baritone took us from Camelot to Morning in America. In 1972, he was named in a national poll as the “most trusted man in America.” At Walter’s funeral service in 2009, President Obama called him “a voice of certainty in an uncertain world.”
What IS certain in this world is that the 2016 presidential campaign is a disgrace. The whole world is laughing at us. There is no “most trusted” man or woman in America to unequivocally call out the lunatics and have it mean something. The wackos are interested in preserving life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, but only for some of us. “There is no such thing as a little freedom,” Walter said during a commencement address. “Either you are all free, or you are not free.”
There is no Walter Cronkite to say, “Stop the insanity, America. Just fucking stop it.” And there is little journalism happening today on television. News programs and their pundits have agendas that are fractured into niches, each with multiple lenses to skew their coverage either right or left.
Now instead of conveying facts and investigating candidate claims and assertions to help voters make intelligent decisions — instead of asking candidates the hard questions — the media stoke the flames of ignorance for entertainment and ratings, effectively abdicating their responsibility as guardians of the public trust. We interrupt this free airtime for Donald Trump and his family of brands to bring you this paid political message from Donald Trump.
The news directors are missing in action, out having cocktails with ad agency media buyers until November, and probably long afterward. Fox News has cancelled its coverage of the next GOP debate because the clown prince won’t appear — and neither will the ad mega-revenue his participation would have guaranteed.
This is broadcast journalism in the age of insanity when candidates argue on live TV about who has the biggest dick. Good idea for a game show. The Biggest Dick. We already have the contestants. The biggest loser is America.
Walter sat on his balls at the anchor desk night after night for 20 years and never mentioned them. But he had them. That today’s broadcast “journalists” do not is a certainty.
And that’s the way it is.