Obama, honoring Cronkite, yearns for old style journalism

September 9, 2009

NEW YORK – He called him “Mr. Cronkite” and wished they had been friends.

cronkBut more than anything, President Barack Obama, speaking at Walter Cronkite’s memorial service, honored the standards the veteran CBS anchorman used as a journalist — and seemed to long for them again.

“We also remember and celebrate the journalism that Walter practiced – a standard of honesty and integrity and responsibility to which so many of you have committed your careers,” Obama told the audience, which included many of the U.S. media elite.

“It’s a standard that’s a little bit harder to find today.”

Is it? Has journalism changed for the better or the worse since Cronkite’s day?

Obama acknowledged the troubled state many news organizations face. 

“Even as appetites for news and information grow, newsrooms are closing. Despite the big stories of our era, serious journalists find themselves all too often without a beat, ” he said.

“Too often, we fill that void with instant commentary and celebrity gossip and the softer stories that Walter disdained, rather than the hard news and investigative journalism he championed.”

Obama said Cronkite — known as “the most trusted man in America” — would have found a way to navigate the changing media landscape if he were alive.

“Would he have been able to cut through the murky noise of the blogs and the tweets and the soundbites to shine the bright light on substance?” Obama asked. “Somehow, we know that the answer is yes.”

What about today’s crop of journalists? Is substance taking a beating? Let us know what you think.

Photo credit: Reuters/Jim Young (Obama at memorial service for Cronkite)


We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

Gee, I don’t know. Why don’t you ask the folks at Fox and the Washington Times.

Posted by borisjimbo | Report as abusive

I can’t get through more than 7 minutes of Bill O’Reilly.

Posted by Jason | Report as abusive

If news papers and journalists, in general are supposed to be a “watch dog” then (1) who’s watching the watching dog? and, I guess the dog can’t see to the right since all Fido sees is everything leaning left.

Posted by Steve | Report as abusive

…..yes, and we’re wishing for old times statesmen!

Posted by Tim | Report as abusive

When I was young I was taught about “Yellow Journalism” in the early 1900s. It seems to be back in vogue in the early 2000s.

Posted by Andy B | Report as abusive

There are some very loaded adjectives in the article above. We are still experiencing an exponential growth in information, both in quantity and quality. People are much more informed and opinionated than 20/10 years ago. No, substance is improving as more people get access to and debate quality information.

Beats me why modern ‘fad’ communication channels receive so much attention while Rome burns.

Posted by Casper | Report as abusive

They is very little real journalism out there these days. No network or cable news has a real investigative department and newspapers are struggling just to stay open. 24 hour news networks regurgitate the same stories over and over with the opinions of pundits replacing investigative journalism. In this case I’d have to change the old saying to No News is Bad News.

Steve, there was a day when the press didn’t need a watch dog, they were bound by something called ethics. A strange and unfamiliar word these days I know but sadly ethics and real journalism have both been killed by the repetitive non-news networks.

Posted by Eric H | Report as abusive

It seems less that ethics have left the newsroom as that entertainment has entered it. Few of the men and women working hard for the 24 hour news shows are doing it without some sort of moral compass. However, no network has retained the news without adding in a healthy helping of entertainment to fill the gaps.

“All successful newspapers are ceaselessly querulous and bellicose. They never defend anyone or anything if they can help it; if the job is forced on them, they tackle it by denouncing someone or something else.”
H. L. Mencken

Posted by Daniel | Report as abusive

hi eric h unfortunately we all suffer from the same complaint,we tend to believe what we want to believe,and the different media are catering to this reality.We can throw back different stats to prove that our side has the moral high ground till we are blue in the face.But in the end ,the out come of events will determine how history is written.If Iraq becomes a stable democracy and a strong supporter of America then Bush will get the credit.If the Obama presidency ends up like the Jimmy Carter term then the socialist experiment will hang around the democrats neck for many years.I will not try to make political capital out a possible another terrorist attack, but that will be a cliff hanger for dems as well.But if socialism comes to America and it is all that Obama believes, and he is right then he will be considered one of the greatest,But in meantime i will watch Fox and you carry on reading the New York Times.

Posted by brian lee | Report as abusive