Home > Journalism, Media, Politics > Cronkite: Not a Stenographer

Cronkite: Not a Stenographer


A couple of days ago I had a post on Walter Cronkite that was really about the goofy mishaps that arise when one dumbly does search-and-replace on a document. In a more serious vein, I’ll mention a Glenn Greenwald post from the same day. Since I find everything Greenwald writes valuable and interesting, I could link to his posts daily. I try to limit my references to him. But I’ll succumb to temptation this time.

As part of Greenwald’s continuing critique of the common practices of today’s mainstream media, he uses the occasion of Cronkite’s death to contrast Cronkite’s work with that of today’s media stars, who are little more than stenographers. Worse, as Greenwald details regularly, many leading people in the news business explicitly state that their job is to report both sides of an issue, applying this doctrine even when one side is blatantly false or defended by nuts only.

Below is one passage from Greenwald on Cronkite and these issues. But there’s much more, all worth reading.

[Cronkite’s] most celebrated and significant moment — Greg Mitchell says “this broadcast would help save many thousands of lives, U.S. and Vietnamese, perhaps even a million” — was when he stood up and announced that Americans shouldn’t trust the statements being made about the war by the U.S. Government and military, and that the specific claims they were making were almost certainly false. In other words, Cronkite’s best moment was when he did exactly that which the modern journalist today insists they must not ever do — directly contradict claims from government and military officials and suggest that such claims should not be believed. These days, our leading media outlets won’t even use words that are disapproved of by the Government.

Despite that, media stars will spend ample time flamboyantly commemorating Cronkite’s death as though he reflects well on what they do (though probably not nearly as much time as they spent dwelling on the death of Tim Russert, whose sycophantic servitude to Beltway power and “accommodating head waiter”-like, mindless stenography did indeed represent quite accurately what today’s media stars actually do). In fact, within Cronkite’s most important moments one finds the essence of journalism that today’s modern media stars not only fail to exhibit, but explicitly disclaim as their responsibility.

Categories: Journalism, Media, Politics
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