To commemorate the 100th post on the blog, as well as pay respects to Walter Cronkite’s passing, here’s the very first podcast courtesy of the Opinions Blog. Enjoy!
Or click below if you’d rather read the transcript for the podcast…
(Note: My statement that I thought that Clusterstock, the site that John Carney works for was “decent-enough” may have been prove wrong. Damian Ghigliotty, a freelance writer, wrote on his blog about his own experiences with Clusterstock, and it’s not a particularly flattering picture.)
The problem with holding off on a blog post is that, inevitably, someone will seize your idea and either you find this out after your own composition hits the web, filling you with a bizarre sense of buyer’s remorse, or, in my recent case, right before you’re about the write the darned thing.
Walter Cronkite’s death was one that certainly had great effect for a great swath of Americans, particularly those of the older generations and in newsrooms nationwide. As a journalist-in-training and a wee 20 year-old, my own feelings on his passing were conflicted, a sentiment that appeared to be echoed by a quick piece written by John Carney.
Titled, “Walter Cronkite Meant Nothing to Me,” and brought to my attention by Mediaite’s barren, lifeless newsletter (which I can’t seem to unsubscribe to), I thought that Carney would, despite the tacky, traffic-prostituted title, hold opinions similar to mine in trying to analyze the death of a media powerhouse whose reign had ended before my time.
But boy, was I wrong.
“Well let’s face it. Cronkite was important to the kind of people whose memories of our public life is full of Kennedy and King assassinations, the hippies fighting cops at Democratic convention in 1968 (grammar error his), the 60’s culture wars, Watergate, Gerald Ford, Vietnam, the oil crises, Elvis’s death and Lennon’s murder, Three Mile Island and Jimmy Carter’s 1979 summer meltdown,” Carney says, and this is all well and good. Then, his point rockets off of the rails in a way similar to a roller coaster constructed by his namesake.
“I care about that stuff the way a guy storming the beach at Normandy cared about the Spanish American war. It’s more well-painted walls.”
I’m actually not sure where to start. Should I begin with how Carney, who has spent his life practicing law and currently is the managing editor of Clusterstock, a business reporting site, is comparing his own emotional state over hearing about a media magnate’s death with the state of soldiers taking part in D-Day?
Now, I could be wrong here, but soldiers facing machine gun fire certainly wouldn’t be thinking about the Spanish-American war. But that’s most likely born from the fact that they were being shot at, not from a privileged yuppie attitude. Of course Carney doesn’t care about Cronkite’s death, he’s too busy fighting for his country on the shores of France, where he also finds the time to post a picture of a hot dog on his blog and watch T.I. videos.
Let’s ignore the preposterously terrible metaphor for just a moment (unless Carney, sitting at his computer looking at a recently-refreshed CNN.com, suddenly came under fire from Germans and heroically shouted something like, “Damn the news anchors, full speed ahead,” though I suppose he wouldn’t get the reference, since the American Civil War is also a well-painted wall).
The impression that I get from Carney is that history is of no significance, not matter the context. Even as a member of the media, as an editor of what appears to be a decent-enough site, Cronkite’s death bears no consequence because the geezer is old hat. If it came before Carney’s heyday, then he simply doesn’t give a damn. Kennedy’s death? Meh, just some bloke whose head shattered to bits. The Vietnam War? C’mon, the nation’s entirely past that, we certainly aren’t dealing with the ramifications of that. Cronkite? As if any journalist would ever hold him in high regard. He had a mustache for crying out loud! What a weezened boor!
If that is the impression that Carney intended, subconsciously or unconsciously, then I’d like to say very sternly that you are an idiot. The sort of idiot who would write something such as this, taken from a July 17th post on his blog regarding The Dark Knight…
“People say Ledger’s death was untimely but it couldn’t have been better timed. He’s the only person involved with this movie who’s lucky enough not to have to see his performance in it. And death seems to have been a great career move. It’s hard not to suspect that the film’s editors were spooked out of cutting his performance to size.”
And then, admit that he haven’t seem the film, and that he, and I quote, “formulated this opinion without any basis whatsoever.” So is he a farce? Is this intended to be satirical, a sort of post-modern attempt at humor by posting thoughts so unfounded, so base that they are elevated to the highest halls of artistic accomplishment? Is the Cronkite post writing with the same intention?
Cronkite, to me, wasn’t an anchor, he wasn’t my source of information and his death doesn’t pull at my heartstrings in the same way it does to my parents or grandmother. But as a practitioner of journalism, as a member of the media, the ideals that he stood for, objectivity, factual basis for one’s statements and a well-realized worldview, are just as relevant now as they’ve ever been.
His own personal bias in politics was well-known (though exaggerated, as they were by Sarah Palin in a tweet not too long ago) but to my knowledge he didn’t wave his own preferences in your face in the same way everyone seems to nowadays. Apart from his stance on Vietnam, I got the impression that he did an admirable job living up to the nearly impossible ideals that are ingrained into my noggin every time I go to a journalism class.
Just because something’s old doesn’t mean it’s obsolete, just because a man was the icon of an era in which media was delivered differently doesn’t mean his means of communication are discredited. And there is an important distinction to be made between comments he made as an anchor and during his later years, a distinction lacking in the article by Peter Feld that Carney links to.
Ah, but let’s not wallow in the sorrow of a legend’s passing, of the departure of a man who, politics aside, still inspires journalists today to do their best to live up to the profession’s tenants. Because, as Carney wisely tells us at the closing of his piece, Cronkite’s death makes him feel young again, fills him with a sort of vigor. I can only hope that, given his sentiments, future generations browsing through obituaries feel the same way about Carney’s passing.