Quality: Fact and Opinion
Remember the "War of the Worlds," Orson Wells' great radio play? It convinced the nation that aliens had landed and were taking over New Jersey. Superbly produced and brilliantly voiced, the "War of the Worlds" was believed because it was radio, and in those days public news on radio was trusted as the truth. When television first became an ubiquitous part of national life, people believed in it absolutely simply because the medium itself seemed so powerful. It portrayed a reality that could be seen, after all. And we all had been taught, in the fashion of good skeptics, to "trust our eyes." That television portrayed falsities, inaccuracies, and untruths as easily as any medium was a lesson that took years to learn.
New media are always trusted at first. They have such promise, such a scent of truth. It takes time to learn skepticism in the face of each turn of technology's wheel. In the halcyon days of radio, the world trusted comforting voices, like CBC broadcaster Lome Green's in Canada, assured that words scripted on the page and read into a microphone were gospel. A generation ago, TV anchor Walter Cronkite was the standard by which public realities were measured. What he said the nation, and perhaps the world, accepted. Since then, however, we have learned to be skeptical of the data presented on television and to consider the source of its news pieces, even when there are pictures to accompany the anchor's words. What do they know, anyway? We do