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Walter Cronkite Would Have Reported 2016 Election Differently

April 1, 2016

There is a difference between making news and saying something outlandish and hoping for press coverage.

All too often what gets covered this election cycle are the irrational and completely inane comments and tweets of Donald Trump.  When he is not performing as he wishes in a poll, or not the latest headline of the hour is when he creates a verbal rant that makes some in the media wet themselves with joy.

With each painfully stupid remark from Trump comes ratings for the television networks who would cover him nonstop if it were not for those pesky commercials which pay the bills.   So much for the public airwaves being used for the higher ends of our nation.

I again think of former CBS anchor Walter Cronkite in this era when infotainment is gaining ground and the general intelligence level of the electorate is slipping lower. I am most confident if the famed journalist had the ability to cover this election he would do two things at once.

First, he would not elevate the crass and vulgar over the issues of the campaign.   We would not see the ‘blood’ story regarding a news anchor, or allow for body parts to be sized up for the evening news.

Second, he would demand answers to questions posed.  Once a candidate tried to weave and dodge and wander miles from the question Cronkite would insist on an answer or end the interview.  The public airwaves at news time is not the personal territory of a candidate.

Trump has benefitted immensely for having been allowed to use the national airwaves in the fashion we all have observed.  Most recently in the New York Times the value of Trump’s free media coverage has been put at close to $2 billion had the candidate been required to pay.  As the article notes  “no fundraising and advertising effort can match it.”  That poses serious questions and concerns about our entire political process.

Cronkite would have held Trump and others to a higher standard as he appreciated the need for a well-informed electorate.  “Uncle Walter” knew something that is lacking in too many news rooms today.  That would be journalists are not there to provide what citizens want to see, but instead are there to report what citizens need to know.

The time when Cronkite ruled the nightly airwaves was a time when civic duty was a true standard in the news room.  That standard was expected to be met each and every broadcast.

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