With the passing of Walter Cronkite, I am reminded how much worse and less professional news reporting has become. "Uncle Walter" was trusted because he was objective and honest. He also had some historical understanding and knowledge of the back-story in the news he reported. This is gone forever. And he acknowledged in his later life that news reporting and journalism no longer served the public as it once had.
I doubt that most people reporting the news today even know what professional journalism is. Imagine, for example, FoxNews billing itself as fair and balanced. And aside from token and promotional tours, where have the current news anchors ever served? Former ABC anchor Peter Jennings at least spent some time in the Middle East as an on-the-spot reporter. Where have Brian Williams or Katie Couric served? More importantly, how "trained" has the American public become to spin-journalism, bias-journalism, shallow-journalism, etc.? Those couplets are contradictory. Journalism is something far different.
Nothing more clearly points this up than the "special news" stories reported locally and nationally. Often we see local TV stations reporting how they helped someone get medical treatment that they had been denied. Thus these people come begging to the TV station, and then the clout of the station is used to get them help. It never occurs to the TV station that the far bigger story is that an American citizen has to beg to get healthcare and/or medical help.
Imagine how long the Rwanda genocide took place before American media picked it up! Actually, far too much foreign news reporting is done for American media by foreign journalists and news organizations. How many times do you hear an American network news report from a foreign location being posted by someone with a British accent? That's because the American networks have only sparsely placed foreign reporters. The BBC and Independent Television News [ITN] have to do the work that should be done by American television. American journalism was once held in high esteem worldwide. No longer.
Walter Cronkite was a UPI reporter during World War II. He knew his news, he lived the news, he cut his teeth on doing a professional, on-the-spot news report. And then Edward R. Morrow, a giant in the field of network news, hired Cronkite at CBS. Walter Cronkite, by his own admission, was not a TV news reporter or anchor, he was a journalist. He wasn't hired for his handsome face. How different things are today. Today's news anchors look like they came out of central casting. After a couple tours to Vietnam he told his nightly news audience, which was huge, that he thought we should get out of Vietnam. Imagine that happening today! Who from the networks stepped forward to say that our adventure in Iraq was illegal and doomed for failure from the beginning? People who know Middle East history knew.
The result of all this change is that today we have news reported for ratings and story selection based on how it shows flames or explosions or car chases. There is no depth in today's news reporting. Today's news reporting presents itself as fair and balanced when it hosts people whose professional income is based on how they play to a particular audience. If you have a Republican commenting on a subject, somehow magically you have balance when you also present a Democrat. We now have professional political commentators who know little or nothing about the subjects that they are hired to comment about. Walter Cronkite and Edward R. Morrow are absent from professionalism they represented, and now we have news-for-ratings. Where in the hell is journalism?