(Authors Note: I do not think I am alone in this but there are only a few people on the air waves I have come to trust. I trust them to be honest, honorable and fair.The first person to earn this distinction is my life was Walter Cronkite. There has been several since but the list is really short. Today one of those people, Neal Conan, has signed off the air for what I hope is not the last time. I have only been listening to Talk of The Nation for a little over two years now but in that time I have come to respect Neal and his commitment to both sides of the story. I will miss him and wish him the best on his next grand adventure.)
The date was January 20th, 1981. A group of twenty or so teenagers gathered together on this cold Midwest night for a farewell party. Not for those who graduated mid-term from our high school class that year but to say farewell to a trusted and respected friend Walter Cronkite. This was it, his last night reporting as the anchorman for the CBS Evening News.
Now I know there are some who will read this and say we were just looking for reason to party. But the truth is we felt like we were losing a trusted friend. We believed Walter Cronkite because he was not hyping the news.He simply reported the news with great accuracy and depth that,in my opinion, has been missing since that day. I felt like I was witnessing the end of an era in news reporting. In retrospect we were watching the moment were reporting went from simply that, reporting the news without compromise to an era of selling the news.
I feel part of the problem lies squarely on us the end user if you will of today’s TV news programs (or for that matter of any news medium). We are ” busy ” people and we have a lot of data input coming into our mind every second of every day. There is the cell phone, text messaging, IMing, streaming video and audio, faster computers equal faster downloads and storing of even more data and there is family, friends and work. Keeping up with all our responsibilities in our lives makes it hard to keep up with or even have a national or world view. So we let the the media “tell” us what to think without cross checking the facts. That takes time we simply do not have.
And why is it that we do not have the time to really form beliefs that are our own. I mean we think the beliefs we have are really our own, but are they really? When was the last time you took time out for a walk in a quite setting or set off by your self to reflect on what you believe and what you believe you believe? To separate the fact so to speak from the fiction? Last week? Last month? Maybe last year or the year before? In today’s fast pace world it is more important than ever to slow down and debrief from the days bombardment of information. If we don’t I think we lose little bits of what and who we are and it is replaced by outside opinions that are not our own. Believe me I am writing this because I struggle with this too.
When Walter Cronkite would sign off the air he would say ” And that’s the way it is” followed by the date. And we believed it to be so. Starting today we need to slow down a little and reflect on the day so when we can say “And that’s the way it is August 1, 2009” and believe it is so.