Sunday, July 19, 2009

Goodbye, "Uncle Walter"

"That's the Way It Is."

For 19 years, that familiar phrase was heard in millions of homes across the United States on a weekly basis. The words ended the evening newscast of the man called the "Most Trusted Man in America," Walter Cronkite. From 1962-1981, "Uncle Walter" gave a concise telling of the days events in a voice that was a combination of authority, objectiveness, and trust.

This weekend, that voice was stilled forever... Dead of complications from Dementia at 92.

I doubt Cronkite's death will have much media impact as, say, Michael Jackson's death and the carnival surrounding it. While Jackson was a very good entertainer, Cronkite offered more substance... informing us of the major stories of the day and sometimes even impacting the stories himself.

Two big examples of that include his 1968 comment on the Vietnam War, where he said the best we could hope for was to leave the conflict with honor. President Lyndon Johnson was reported to have said afterwords, "If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost Middle America." It was a major factor in LBJ's decision not to run for re-election in 1968.

Another example was Cronkite's interview in the late 1970's with Egyptian president Anwar Sadat. Cronkite asked Sadat what he thought would be a "throwaway" question, or a question that most people knew the answer to and wasn't of any real substance. That question was would Sadat be willing to visit Israel? Sadat surprised a lot of people, including Cronkite when he said "Yes". That set the wheels in motion to what became known as the Camp David Accords in 1979, the first peace treaty between Israel and one of her neighboring countries.

Despite reporting on the events of the day (and sometimes playing an incidental part of them), Cronkite always kept his opinions and biases in check. Sure, he would offer up the occasional commentary on his newscast, but he kept it at the end of the newscast, never during. And he made sure people knew it was simply his opinion and not any official stand. Reporters from CNN, Fox News, and the major networks could stand to learn a thing or two from that objectivity.

That attention to objectivity, and detail, might have saved Dan Rather's job. When he reported on the memo about George W. Bush not reporting for the National Guard as ordered, he relied on his producer and didn't check the facts of the story himself. Had it been Cronkite who was going to air such a politically-charged story, he would have made darn sure to check the facts himself... after all, it was his butt on the line. Rather got lazy. That, combined with the fact he had come out a few years before as a die-hard supporter of the Democrat party, put the idea in many minds that the story was a "hatchet job", sparked by political bias. It cost Rather his credibility, and eventually his job.

Not to say "Uncle Walter" didn't have his political beliefs. He was very much a die-hard Liberal, even going so far as to advocate a limited "world government". But during his time behind the anchor desk at CBS, he kept his politics in check, and didn't publicly express those opinions until well after he left CBS. In fact, he was a registered Independent so his detractors couldn't accuse him of bias one way or the other... But the greatest testament to his objectivity was the criticism from the Left that he was biased towards the Right, and vice versa.

Nowadays, with inundation of instant news via the Internet, cable and satellite news, and the plethora of screaming talking heads like Chris Mathews, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly and Keith Olberman, I doubt we'll ever see someone as "fair and balanced" as Walter Cronkite delivering our news... in a non-biased, apolitical, objective fashion.

And that's truly something to mourn.

Friday, July 10, 2009

my two cents-again

With all the blog wars that are going on in the South Dakota Blogsphere, I'm reminded of some key words of wisdom from my friend Michelle...

"Winning an on-line argument is like winning in the Special Olympics. Sure, you may cross the finish line, but you're still a retard."

Something to think about...

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Remember to Say "Thank You"

"I bear this cross with honor, 'cause freedom don't come free."

--Toby Keith, "American Soldier"

As you get ready for your picnics, your trips to the lake, your last-minute trip to the fireworks stand to get the last gross of bottle rockets and sparklers, I want you to stop and think for a minute about where you got your freedom on this Independence Day.

Did you get it from Barack Obama and George W. Bush? No.

Did you get it from media talking heads like Bill O'Reilly, Arianna Huffington, Rush Limbaugh, and James Carville? No.

Did you get it from organizations like the Sioux Falls Argus Leader, The New York Times, The Washington Post and USA Today? No.

Did you get it from celebrities like Brad Pitt, Paris Hilton, Bruce Willis, and Susan Sarandon? No.

Did you get it from academics from such places as Berkely, South Dakota State, Columbia University, Harvard and Dakota State University? No.

Did you get it from community organizers like ACORN? No.

Did you get it from bloggers like Todd Epp, Steve Sibson, Cory Heidelberger, Pat Powers, Dakota Women and me? No.

So where did you get your freedoms that you're celebrating today on this Independence Day?


We got them from the (mostly) men and women who have sacrificed their time, bodies, minds, and lives so that we can enjoy our lives in freedom and security. For 234 years, starting in Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts, these individuals sacrificed their blood, so we would not have to sacrifice ours. THEY won us the freedom to act like idiots with our lives... to mock our country and feign embarrassment to the rest of the world... to celebrate the morons that throw shoes at our Presidents....

...and the freedom to call the people who have fought and died for our freedoms morons, rednecks, butchers, brainwashed robots, rapists, and baby killers.

These people are our greatest heroes.... they suffered through the hellish winter of Valley Forge. They shed blood at Bull Run and Shiloh. They went through Hell on Earth at Normandy and Omaha Beach. And they are fighting off those who would do us harm in Iraq and Afghanistan.

These brave men and women are indeed heroes. They have put their lives on the line, doing something that the rest of us either can not or will not do. Defend and ensure our freedoms with their lives.

So as you get ready to light off your fireworks, or get ready to play volleyball, or get ready to bemoan the state of our country, take the time to think of the soldiers, sailors, and pilots who have given the ultimate sacrifice so that we will not have to.

Think of them... and thank them.