Bashing Broadcast News: Walter Cronkite Describes a 'New Class of Itinerant Illiterates Who Blight the Broadcasting Side of Journalism.'

Article excerpt

THE RELIANCE OF TV news programs on microscopic sound bites and the trend of many newspapers toward lean stories is not all their fault, legendary anchorman Walter Cronkite recently told a Los Angeles audience.

The main problem, Cronkite said, lies with the nations education system, which is turning out youngsters with little knowledge or curiosity about government and other issues.

"Despite all our technology, we somehow are falling far short of communicating all our information," he said. "We have a younger generation so uninformed that they are unable to exercise their franchise of democracy. So we are entertaining more than informing?"

In this process, he added, "Too many newspapers are trying to compete with television in supplying entertainment rather than news."

Cronkite, a former anchor and managing editor of the CBS Evening News for 19 years, spoke as master of ceremonies at the presentation of the 33rd annual Distinguished Achievement in Journalism awards given by the University of Southern California Journalism Alumni Association.

Award recipients were Diane Sawyer, ABC News journalist and co-anchor of the network's PrimeTime Live magazine show; Edwin Guthman, a Pulitzer Prize winner and former editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer who currently is a USC journalism professor; and C-Span, the privately funded cable company that provides gavel-to-gavel coverage of Congress, national political conventions and other events. Brian Lamb, C-Span's founder, CEO and president, accepted the award for the company.

Cronkite, who got his start in journalism as a United Press reporter and World War II correspondent, said having a future audience for broadcast and print news depends on revamping schools "so we are turning out intelligent human beings who will demand the information we can give them if the market is there?"

"We must teach them to be curious, to want to know about government, to ask questions, to be skeptical so they will not become cynical. Educate them so they will demand better television and better newspapers? …