|Clockwise from top right. Pioneer TV anchors Peter Jennings, |
Chet Huntley & David Brinkley, Walter Cronkite.
In an earlier post, I recounted my memory of Lowell Thomas’s evening news radio show. To maintain bias neutrality between media types, today’s focus is television news anchors of the 1950s and 60s. I will apologize up front. This good intention lasted until I wrote this phrase: I’ll admit to being biased toward the newscasts of the past.
Keep reading. You’ll see what I mean.
Outside the local television’s kid programming, I remember two distinct television events in the 1960s. The first was John Glenn’s successful orbiting of the earth. That happened on my birthday in 1962. The second was almost exactly 21-months after Glenn’s flight. President Kennedy’s death and funeral was the first time I remember evening network programming preempted. I was not happy. They kept playing the same footage over and over and over and…
That sounds like several cable news networks today, doesn’t it?
|Our television didn't look exactly like this... but it was awfully close!|
There were only three nation-wide television networks in the time period of focus (of the first part of) this post. Remember the apology above.
ABC, although it broadcast the first regular newscast, used a merry-go-round model for anchors for their first thirty years. Only two anchors lasted over two years. Peter Jennings was anchor or co-anchor three times. The third time for him was a charm. He occupied the anchor seat from 1983 to 2005. I don’t know if it was the lack of continuity or us not getting equal quality signals for all stations on our TV antenna that created the lack of memory for ABC news while I lived at home.
NBC News was the first to have a successful regularly scheduled evening news program. I don’t remember the earliest anchors. I remember Chet Huntley & David Brinkley. They were co-anchors from 1956 to 1970.
CBS was the most watched news program in my home. Walter Cronkite is the CBS anchor I most remember. While researching this post, I learned there is good evidence that the term anchor was first used to describe the job Cronkite was doing.
“Walter Cronkite was a lifelong newsman who became the voice of the truth for America as a nighttime anchorman,” is the first sentence of Cronkite’s bio on Biography.com.I hope he saw that before his death. I’ll be proud to have that said of me after I die.
I remember Cronkite’s closing catchphrase, “And that’s the way it is.” Or not… keep reading.
He was also famous outside the hard news arena. CBS ran a regular television program titled, You Are There. This television program ran 147 episodes. It was a series of “news reports” by Walter Cronkite. Although Walter sat in a then modern television studio, he reported historical events as live newscasts.
I remember Walter Cronkite for acting human in his broadcasts. I watched him mourn John F. Kennedy’s death. I remember his indignant reaction to the death of Kennedy’s suspected killer, Lee Harvey Oswald. I watched him choke up when Neil Armstrong uttered his famous first step on the moon line.
I’ll admit to being biased toward the newscasts of the past.
Much of what I see on network television newscasts and essentially all of what I see on cable news channels isn’t news.
Was it “the way it was” when
Walter Cronkite signed off?
Walter Cronkite signed off?
It’s almost impossible to be unbiased in reporting of events. If you don’t believe that, take the time to watch this 6-minute and 20-seconds video. Be sure you have a pencil and paper. The clip is a news broadcast of an exercise in the accuracy of eyewitness testimony.
So, all news is biased and always has been. And, bias is not restricted to electronic news venues—think William Randolph Hurst and Yellow Journalism.
noun: yellow journalism; plural noun: yellow journalisms
1. journalism that is based upon sensationalism and crude exaggeration.
"equating murder and dismemberment with smoking pot is the worst yellow journalism"
1895: from the appearance in an issue of the New York World of a cartoon in which a child in a yellow dress (‘The Yellow Kid’) was the central figure. The color printing was an experiment designed to attract customers.
, the use of lurid features and sensationalized news in newspaper publishing to attract readers and increase circulation. The phrase was coined in the 1890s to describe the tactics employed in furious competition between two New York City newspapers, the and the .
And now back to our regularly scheduled program.
My problem with the way most news is presented today is the unabashed bias shown too often—almost all the time on certain cable news giants, and still too often in other venues. I’ve even seen “breaking news” described, “John Doe about to announce if he thought about giving the media his opinion of Current Situation in World Area.”
When did thinking about doing something become reportable news?
And what value is anyone's opinion of a situation they are not meaningfully connected to?
Enough venting. I close with this
I’m convinced that when Walter Cronkite said,
“And that’s the way it is,”
he was much closer to the truth than the vast majority of news outlets today.
"Was news "newsier" back in the day?
My answer is a resounding YES!
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