Saturday, July 18, 2009


Generally speaking, an obituary of esteemed personages are written as a celebratory rendition of the individuals achievements in life. Punches are pulled and a certain amount of agrandissement is allowed. Afterall, who really feels comfortable speaking ill of the dead? Other than Harold Jackson of the Guardian. Mr. Jackson uses the occasion of US-newsman Walter Cronkite's death as a platform to air some rather not so nice things about those horridly uninformed former colonists:

Astonishingly, no one thought to question the phrase that became his professional trade mark, intoned at the end of each nightly bulletin: "And that's the way it is."

That, in fact, was simply the way it appeared to Cronkite. As one of the founding fathers of America's network television news and as managing editor of the CBS evening news for 19 years, his evaluation of world events helped shape his country's electronic reporting into the extraordinarily insular and inadequate chronicle it has become. That, in turn, opened the door to Rupert Murdoch's current brand of unashamedly partisan news coverage.

During Cronkite's reign, the standard television bulletin, from which most Americans drew their picture of the world, lasted for 22 minutes. The consequent pressure to condense or omit means that events in vast tracts of the globe remained unknown across the world's most powerful nation.

For all Cronkite's insistence that he was a reporter rather than a front man, there was little evidence that he tried to inculcate a mission to inform at CBS. The prevailing philosophy was, and remains, to offer all the news that fits. With no national press to fill the gap, it has meant that for generations of Americans the broad sweep of foreign policy has wavered on tides of popular ignorance.
Not to be content in finding yet another venue for such learned brilliance, Mr. Jackson continues:

In 1950 he was poached by Edward Murrow of CBS to develop the news department of the network's television station in Washington. "We literally figured it out as we went along'' he said later. "For an old newspaperman it was like carrying a printing press around."

But the analogy is inept: print has always been simply the vehicle for the editorial message. Television, as Marshall McLuhan shrewdly observed, itself became the message and Cronkite was one of those who failed to resist the trend.

Important developments for which there was no film were reduced to sound bites which barely touched the national consciousness. Nor, as became apparent in crises like Carter's dithering over the neutron bomb, had a mechanism been devised to give viewers a coherent account of policies and ideas, except to make them crudely personalised.
Crudely personalised, well .... we would never get that sort of thing out of a writer for the Guardian now would we Mr. Jackson?

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