James McPherson's Media & Politics Blog

Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist


  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association and a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media.

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The way it is: Cronkite sails off

Posted by James McPherson on July 18, 2009

 The king is dead. And no, I don’t mean the seriously over-covered and probable pedophile Michael Jackson. I mean Walter Cronkite, the king of TV anchors and one of the last anchors who could legitimately be considered a true reporter.

Cronkite was the most-respected man in America during the glorious days when news mattered more than opinion on television, when we cared more about international affairs than we did about whether Brad Pitt twitters while in the restroom or his views on viewing porn at work.

In those days an anchor was expected to be first and foremost a journalist, not a refugee from a morning entertainment program or a reality show. Of course, expectations were higher then for presidential candidates, too.

Speaking of Cronkite, in my first book I noted how his replacement by Dan Rather as CBS anchor reflected changing priorities in television news, with a dramatic change in the set design to complement Rather’s skin tone and, in the words of Cronkite biographer Doug James: “CBS News temporarily worked out of its Washington studios while the entire New York set was transformed from Cronkite’s slightly worn-looking newsroom to Captain Kirk’s bridge aboard the starship Enterprise.”

Finally, speaking of my books, a personal note: I recently was honored to find that my latest book had been one of six finalists for the Frank Luther Mott/Kappa Tau Alpha Research Award for the best book on journalism and mass communication based on original research published in 2008.

I didn’t finish in the top 3 (though a friend of mine won), but as they all say at the Oscars–it’s an honor just to be nominated. Previous winners of the award (given since 1944) have included Robert McChesney, John Naisbitt and David Halberstam.

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5 Responses to “The way it is: Cronkite sails off”

  1. zelda said

    Congratulations! Terrific James.
    Good to see you here.

  2. Joy said

    I’m glad to see Cronkite could pull you out of hiatus. i think it was a worthy event for sure.

  3. Luis Lopez said

    Jim-

    Like Joy, I too am glad that Cronkite’s passing pulled you out of hiatus so that you could comment about his legacy. Even though I was born a few years after his retirement, I learned about his contributions to the journalism world throughout the years and grew to admire his tenacity and adherence to strong, well-developed journalism, something that is sorely lacking today, unfortunately.

    Also, congratulations on the nomination. I haven’t gotten a chance to read your book, but I’m sure it was well-deserved.

  4. James McPherson said

    Thanks, all. Just back from several days of camping–it’s nice to hear from you all.

  5. […] little about the profession. One thing we had in common, however, was our lack of respect for what television news had already become. Cable news arrived in the year we met (CNN was founded that year), which has […]

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