Walter Cronkite – CBS News Anchor
My God, what’s happened to news reporting in our country? It was once an honoured and trusted profession. Walter Cronkite was the poster child for reliable, firsthand news reporting on CBS for decades. I grew up with his reporting and analysis in the 1950s and 1960s. He was many times voted the most trusted man in America, and urged to run for President by both parties. As a testament to his objective and non-biased news coverage no one ever knew which political party he favoured.
Compared to the news reporting of yesteryear, today’s so-called news reporting is an abortion. Blogs and Vlogs passing themselves off as credible news agencies, cable news outlets like FOX News (on the right) and MSNBC (on the left) offering up provocative and salacious pieces of yellow journalism (often made up), even mainstream agencies like ABC, CBS, and NBC prostituting themselves for ratings and the pursuit of the almighty buck.
Venerated print newspapers across the country have disappeared or gone digital. Pieces once relegated to the OpEd (Opinion Editorial) pages now appear on page one as hard news. News anchors, reporters, and photojournalists are regularly fired or disciplined for plagiarism, non-vetted news pieces, or outright lying to enhance their reputations for higher ratings and pay. Some of the biggest names in broadcasting have fallen victim to these unethical behaviours, including such notables as Dan Rather and Brian Williams.
It’s now a full-time job for the consumer of news to fact check each reported item (an almost impossible task). Today even Facebook posts pass for hard news, and are shared from friend to friend as truth spoken by God. Ethics (and even morals) have been sacrificed at the altar of capitalism, and the heart of truth has been ruthlessly ripped (still pulsating and dripping blood) from the body of our social fabric. Truth in reporting is gone (probably forever). Walter Cronkite must be rolling over in his grave.
The beginning of the end came about when the reporting of the news became big business instead of a fiduciary responsibility. I saw the same thing happen in banking; as a banker I had a government (and ethical) mandate to act in a fiduciary capacity (a position of trust) towards my customers. That changed during my last ten years in banking, and after thirty years I quit the profession in frustration and rage. Journalism has suffered the same fate. They’ve reneged on the promise of public trust, and sold their soul to the devil.
What can you do as a consumer of news? Very little I’m afraid. You can try to do what I do, but it takes a lot of time and effort and isn’t always successful. Here are a few suggestions if you’re interested:
- Stick to mainstream reporting venues like ABC, CBS, and NBC
- Look at foreign reporting venues like BBC, CBC, and others for a different perspective
- Avoid cable “news” like FOX News and MSNBC for hard news (these are opinion venues for the most part, and what is presented as hard news is anything but)
- Blogs, Vlogs, and personal commentary are not hard news venues
- Study your history (reading books). Doing so will often let you separate fact from fiction
- Social Media is not your friend when it comes to educating yourself
- Fact check everything that seems overly provocative or salacious. Here are some good sources, but they’re not infallible: FactCheck.org, PolitiFact.com, OpenSecrets.org, Snopes.com, TruthOrFiction.com, and Hoax-Slayer.com.
As interested and concerned American citizens we shouldn’t have to resort to fact checking our own news sources, but the sad truth is we must do it if we are to stay factually informed. You can do your part by not sharing opinion pieces as hard news (just because it agrees with your point of view). If you’re sharing factual hard news tell those you’re sharing it with how you vetted the piece. Don’t succumb to provocative, salacious, yellow journalism that purports to be something it’s not.
Stephen F. Dennstedt
Photographer, Writer and World Traveller