Media Should Learn From Cronkite: Grow a Backbone

Today's press too cozy with Washington
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted Jul 26, 2009 9:20 AM CDT
In this Sept. 2, 1963 photo provided by CBS, President John Kennedy talks with Walter Cronkite during a taped television interview at the president's summer home at Hyannis Port, Ma.   (AP Photo/CBS)
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(Newser) – It wasn’t Walter Cronkite’s “avuncular persona” or his reaction to the JFK assassination that made him “the most trusted man in America,” Frank Rich writes in the New York Times—it was his willingness to challenge the halls of power. That’s become increasingly rare in today’s media, which failed Americans on the Iraq war and too often cozies up to politicians. "Journalistic responsibility cannot be outsourced to Jon Stewart," Rich writes.

Cronkite slammed the government on Vietnam; he helped take Watergate coverage national. But “as the Bush administration hyped Saddam Hussein’s nonexistent WMD and nonexistent link to 9/11,” newspapers “too often enabled the fictions,” while networks “were not even practicing journalism.” Lately we’ve seen a Washington Post “salon” scandal and ingratiating press emails to Mark Sanford. In media tributes to Cronkite, “you had to wonder if his industry was sticking to mawkish clichés just to avoid unflattering comparisons.”