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April 18, 2014 / 18 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Howard Kurtz’

The Truth About Cronkite

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

A new biography of the late Walter Cronkite has forced even admirers of the iconic CBS anchorman to reassess the man long held up as a paragon of journalistic ethics and objectivity.

Newsweek media critic Howard Kurtz, for example, writes that in reading Cronkite, by the historian Douglas Brinkley, he “came to realize that the man who once dominated television journalism was more complicated – and occasionally more unethical – than the legend that surrounds him. Had Cronkite engaged in some of the same questionable conduct today – he secretly bugged a committee room at the 1952 GOP convention – he would have been bashed by the blogs, pilloried by the pundits, and quite possibly ousted by his employer.”

Kurtz also notes that in 1968 Cronkite secretly met with Robert Kennedy and urged him to run in the Democratic primaries that year against President Lyndon Johnson. “Soon afterward,” writes Kurtz, “Cronkite got an exclusive interview in which Kennedy left the door open for a possible run – the very candidacy that the anchor had urged him to undertake. (Kennedy announced three days later.) I am shaking my head at the spectacle of a network anchor secretly urging a politician to mount a White House campaign – and then interviewing him about that very question. This was duplicitous, a major breach of trust.”

It was Cronkite’s good fortune that his heyday came and went in the era prior to the arrival of cable news, talk radio and the Internet. In that far-off time, Americans watching television had to settle for the Big Three networks and a smattering of local stations. There was little recourse for viewers who weren’t comfortable with the narrow worldview promulgated by a relatively small group of liberal middle-aged white men living and working in close proximity to one another within a few square blocks of prime Manhattan real estate – a neighborhood, if one can call it that, as unrepresentative of America as any neighborhood could possibly be.

In such a homogeneous media universe, it was easy for someone like Cronkite to assume that whatever he passed along to Mr. and Mrs. America would be accepted as unvarnished truth, free of any bias or spin.

In the years following his retirement in 1981, Cronkite revealed himself to be the liberal many of his critics always suspected him of being, which was his right, of course, but it does raise questions about the slant and emphasis he brought to the job when putting together newscasts in the tumultuous Vietnam/Watergate years.

Cronkite also revealed a daffy side, as when he responded to a question from Esquire magazine in 2006 about whether Oprah Winfrey would make a good president. “Well, apparently so,” he responded. “She seems to have an understanding of our problems. A great deal of that probably comes from being African-American and suffering the indignities of that. And se certainly has shown that she has a literate approach to solving problems. So I’d like to think she’d make a good president”

This is the same Cronkite who, when a new videotape from Osama bin Laden surfaced a few days before the 2004 presidential election, saw it as some nefarious plot hatched in the bowels of the Bush White House. Appearing on CNN’s “Larry King Live” on the Friday immediately preceding the election, Uncle Walter formally linked hands with the nuttiest of conspiracy-mongers:

“So now,” Cronkite told King, “the question is, basically, right now, how will this affect the election? And I have a feeling that it could tilt the election a bit. In fact, I’m inclined to think that Karl Rove, the political manger of the White House, who is a very clever man, that he probably set up bin Laden to this thing.”

So it was all a Karl Rove production, according to the Crank named Cronkite. Can you picture the scenario? Karl Rove, anxiously pondering the latest tracking polls, puts in a call to bin Laden, hiding in a cave somewhere in scenic Afghanistan, and asks him to give Bush a boost by releasing a video.

That’s the way it was, apparently, inside the mind of one of the most undeservedly over-hyped men of his generation.

Good To Wrap Fish In

Wednesday, June 13th, 2001
There’s a certain maxim among media critics (and if there isn’t, the Monitor just coined it) that goes like this: If all seems right in the world of journalism, you probably haven’t opened up that day’s New York Times.Yes, another column on the Sulzberger family rag, undoubtedly to the dismay of an otherwise personable fellow we’ll call S.G. from Brooklyn who complains every time the Monitor takes a lighted match to the Gray Lady. But what choice, really, does the Monitor have?The Times has always been a rather arrogant institution, but there was a time when that arrogance was almost understandable. Nowadays, though, with the once-great newspaper an amalgam of mind-numbing political correctness and inexcusable sloppiness (the syndicated columnist Deroy Murdock has quipped that ‘The New York Times’s ‘corrections’ box soon may swallow the entire paper’), anyone who defends it either hasn’t read it closely in years or is simply inclined to living in the past.

That the Times has increasingly blurred the line that, in theory at least, separates opinion from reporting should be obvious to anyone without a ‘vacancy’ sign between his or her ears. Why, the Times’s own managing editor, Bill Keller, let slip an admission of his paper’s sneaky subjectivity in a recent interview with Washington Post media columnist Howard Kurtz.

Commenting on the Times’s series on race in America, Keller said that what made the project unique was the decision not to have each article ‘build up to a fourth or fifth paragraph where the writer stood back, cleared his throat and told you what to think. We trusted readers would draw their own conclusions and maybe disagree.’

The clear implication, of course, is that Times reporters usually do try to tell the reader ‘what to think.’ But for those still slow to catch on, Keller went even further, acknowledging that the Times has a habit of, in his words, ‘giving you a little editorial elbow in the ribs.’ Remember, Keller was speaking here of news stories, the last place any unsuspecting reader should have to expect ‘a little editorial elbow in the ribs.’The Times’s editorial leanings can be glimpsed, to one degree or another, in just about every piece the paper runs. One of the more blatant examples of the skewed, dishonest reporting that results from such a policy was on display in the Times’s coverage of last month’s Cincinnati riots – coverage that accomplished the neat trick of never once actually mentioning the word ‘riot.’

Instead, the Times – with its trademark deference to the sensitivities of what its editorial writers would no doubt call ‘the minority community’ – chose to describe the events in Cincinnati with innocuous euphemisms like ‘sporadic protests and vandalism.’

U.S. News columnist John Leo observed with disgust that the Times’s neutered language -doesn’t more than 100 homes and businesses set on fire or ‘the bullets whizzing by my head,’ as one resident put it.”

To better understand just how distorted a picture of the riots the Times gave its readers, consider this uncensored account by columnist Michelle Malkin in the New York Post:

‘In multiple scenes reminiscent of the brutal attack on white driver Reginald Denny during the 1992 Los Angeles riots, black Cincinnati rioters beat and bloodied white motorists. The assailants hurled cement bricks at their victims as they drove by, and used baseball bats and bottles to damage their cars. WCPO-TV reported that ‘Protesters pulled several drivers out of their cars and hit them and their vehicles with bricks, rocks and glass.”

The Times, by contrast, basically shrugged off the bloody mayhem with the inane statement that groups of young blacks had merely ‘alarmed whites.’

John Leo put it best: ‘Because the Times smothered the news instead of reporting it, readers had almost no clue about the ferocity of what was happening in Cincinnati.’

And Jackie Mason had it exactly right when, in a momentary fit of seriousness, he urged the Times to change its slogan from ‘All the News That’s Fit to Print’ to ‘All the News That Fits Our Agenda.’

Jason Maoz can be reached at jmaoz@jewishpress.com

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/media-monitor/good-to-wrap-fish-in/2001/06/13/

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