Thursday, June 19, 2014
No one challenged Walter Cronkite's integrity. No one dared. No one would have even considered trying, even if Cronkite's broadcast was contrary to whatever political perspective they held. If Uncle Walter said it, that mean it was true. You could take it to the bank and pay bills with it. Uncle Walter's word was gold. You knew he wasn't shilling for one party or another. I can't imagine him engaging in mindless banter after telling the story of a tragic death or national crisis. But then, that wasn't the way it was done back then.
No, he didn't have a magic screen. He did not have the ability to conduct interviews via hologram. He did not have Twitter, Google Earth or computer graphics. Yet, he had one thing without which none of those things matters: integrity.
Walter Cronkite remains an untouchable icon, as he should. We need heroes. We need heroes in the news media, people who are above reproach by the extremist infotainment pundits who manipulate lesser minds. We need to have a baseline of information that everyone will believe in and accept to be accurate. We can still debate right and wrong, good and bad, but at least we can agree on the facts underlying our debate. We haven't had that agreement in a long time.
But things were different back then, when the news divisions weren't underneath the entertainment divisions of networks. Newsmen didn't banter or do promos and teasers.
Unlike today, there was a factual baseline by which all disagreement could be weighed. We have lost that standard for what constitutes fact, and are now left to create our own set of facts. We denigrate the news media's representations, and pick and choose what reality we wish to adopt. We don't really debate anymore, since we're arguing alternate sets of facts rather than different value judgements based on an agreed-upon set of facts.
Without the standard, we have no common ground. To improve the human condition, we require a standard.
And on the other side of the issue, we have this car full of clowns at Fox News; people who aren't worthy to hold Cronkit's overcoat. And this utter lack of integrity is NOT subject to "interpretation;" it is not a matter of opinion. It is not a poem nor a theory.
Bottom line - in 1997, Fox fired two employees for refusing to include false information in a report on Monsanto's production of RGBH (bovine growth hormone). The employees sued Fox, won, and were awarded $425,000, but Fox appealed the case and won. The court ruling stated,"…the FCC's policy against the intentional falsification of the news - which the FCC has called its 'news distortion policy' - does not qualify as the required 'law, rule or regulation' under section 448.102.'"
Furthermore, on Feb. 14, 2003, a Florida Appeals court ruled there is absolutely nothing illegal about lying, concealing or distorting information by a major press organization. The attorneys for Fox argued that the First Amendment gives broadcasters the right to lie or deliberately distort news reports on the public airwaves.
How do any of these people sleep at night or look at themselves in the mirror?
We're talking about men and women that not only misrepresent the facts, but change the story from day to day, without any sort of retraction or explanation, just like in Orwell's 1984, where the characters Jones and Rutherford are recognized as heroes of the state one day, and denounced as traitors the next, and Winston Smith (the main character) merely changes the story in the news archives, as though it was never any other way. And all the smaller, lesser minds think nothing of it.
We are a nation suffering from short term memory. Fox talking heads tell it one way, then another, and no one calls them on the switch, much less the original lie.
There is not ONE of my friends, family, former college classmates or online friends that has to think about any of this for more than a second. There are simply professions that should be held to a higher standard; journalists, doctors, scientists, religious leaders, amongst others. It's about integrity. It's about pursuing and telling the truth, no matter where it takes you, regardless of one's personal feelings, beliefs, philosophies, or political leanings.
Ask any farmer in my neck of the woods; men whose word is bond, who seal many business deals with a mere handshake, not a contract. If your word is no good, you're not worth much. Integrity is everything. It cannot be bought.
Indeed, where Fox News and others are concerned, Uncle Walter has left the building.