In recent years there has been much speculation about the quality of punditry, or lack thereof in Journalism today. The discussion is primarily about the rise of opinion-oriented Journalism. That is if you want to tack on the word journalism to what is essentially intellectual retch.
In the history of mass media and media marketing the unbiased, totally trustworthy, straight-faced, father-esque anchorman hunched over their desk delivering information in a level strong voice is a relatively new phenomenon. Since the invention of the printing press and the first heady decades of radio the things that have been given to the people as truth have almost always had a particular political or ethical bent to it. What we’ve come to think of as “traditional journalism” is hardly traditional in such a context.
The late Walter Cronkite in his heyday existed in a starkly different age than we know of today as far as information and its dissemination is concerned. To say that only a few corporate entities had complete control over information that could influence what people thought they knew and would know was not an exaggeration. Especially in the world of television where you were considered lucky to get more than three stations. Yet these institutions chose not to abuse their power and chose not to betray the people’s trust.
In a good example of what I call ‘real power’ they chose not to pander to political and capitalistic pressures and tell people what they knew they wanted to hear.
In their fidelity to the facts they were defying forces that could have provided them with material wealth and power. Even in the days of Uncle Walter people still wanted to hear the things they liked to hear.
They could, and did, in their nigh-uncontested monopoly over America’s eyes snub mankind’s inherent social desire to identify, and categorize the world according to their pre-existing opinions. They could do this because of the lack of competition. In other words they could give the people something other than what they really wanted because no one was offering what they really wanted. All while they were still getting what I believe they needed.
And then Rush Limbaugh happened, and the people were given what they wanted on a national level. Cable television became available to the mass market and, due to legislation passed during the Reagan era, standards for balanced political speech upon broadcast media were abolished. The internet subsequently became available, and a new age of information democratization was ushered in. Then Fox News was squeezed out of Rupert Murdock’s hind-quarters, CNN embraced blogging as a viable source of cheap trustworthy content, and YouTube became huge which gave a voice and face to every shmoe with something to say regardless of his expertise on a given subject, and Uncle Walter no longer had a place behind his desk.