The Death of the News Media: How Walter Cronkite Killed My Grandfather

Walter Cronkite dropped out of college in the fall of 1935.  He quit school to pursue a career in the newspaper business.  At the time, many people didn’t realize the true nature of Cronkite’s work.  My grandfather met Walter in…

Okay, I’ll be honest.  My grandfather, to my knowledge, never met Walter Cronkite.  This post actually has nothing at all to do with my grandfather or Walter Cronkite for that matter.  This is an example of how a writer can throw out a deceiving headline with a click bait snippet attached and get you to view something completely unrelated. This happens when a news organization gets desperate when they realize the industry around them has changed, oftentimes in a way that now makes them obsolete.  Instead of admitting to themselves that it’s not working, they instead double down in an attempt to hold on to years gone by.  Think I’m talking about OneStackMind.com?  I’m talking about the entire news media.  I’ll let you in on a secret bigger than Walter Cronkite: the news media is dying and no one wants to admit it.

Back in Walter Cronkite’s days as an anchor for CBS Evening News, he controlled the news.  His 30-minute television show was the face of the media for the entire country.  If there was a story worth hearing, it came from Walter Cronkite.  After Al Gore created the internet for us all to enjoy, some things were bound to change.  Now, instead of one large tube sitting in your living room floor, you have a vast series of tubes that allow you to query any piece of information you care about at any time you want to look for it.  You now have instant access to news, tailored to your likes and dislikes, sent to you through push notifications, triggered as they happen.  You definitely don’t have to wait for the nightly news to tell you what’s going on in the world today.

I think we can all agree that the first to die was the newspaper business.  I am predicting the next to go will be the 24-hour news cycle of cable television stations.  Do you remember when MTV was cool?  You know, when they played music videos and all?  Is MTV even still a station?  The 24-hour news stations are suffering.  Someone in a board room somewhere decided that the way to combat this whole internet fad is to turn away from objectivity and journalistic integrity.  The result is that cable TV news is now in the entertainment business where everything is “BREAKING NEWS.”  Its programming is filled with talking heads, who are nothing more than shock jocks trying to get people to tune in.  Literally, no one out there in cable news cares one bit about giving a balanced interpretation of the news.  The slow and painful death doesn’t stop with just politics; sports reporting has gone downhill along with the news.  ESPN doesn’t show highlights anymore, they get two former athletes to sit on opposite sides of a table from each other and purposely take different sides of an argument.  CNN, MSNBC and FoxNews are no different.  They are each in a nightly competition to see how many picture in picture, guest commentators can fit on one screen.

The main culprit in the ultimate demise of cable networks will be or is social media.  I am envisioning it going something like the photography business.  25 years ago cameras were expensive and very few people could afford professional quality equipment.  If you wanted family pictures, done you had to go to a studio, where you stood in uncomfortable poses, in front of hideous backdrops.  As the cost came down and the quality of cameras greatly improved, everyone became a part-time photographer.  Half ofmy friends on Facebook have photography businesses on the side.  I’m not saying that’s necessarily a bad thing.  What I am saying, though, is that because of this phenomenon, there are fewer and fewer full time photography studios.  Along those same lines, with Twitter and Facebook everyone is now a makeshift news reporter.  If you see a car wreck on the interstate, you will pull out your phone and complain about traffic long before the local news even knows something has happened.  Why wait for the news to pull a smartphone video from social media and report it on their website?  Why wait for an interview with a celebrity or politician, when you can follow them directly on Twitter and learn what they ate this morning for breakfast?  You now can even get the play by play from inside the white house directly from the horse’s mouth.  It’s cutting out the middleman in a way that makes a lot of journalists very, very nervous.

 

I’m not saying anything earth shattering here that you don’t already know.  That’s kind of my point, actually.  Everyone knows it but the cable news just won’t admit it.  One day you will find yourself experiencing the dull pain that comes from listening to Rachel Maddow drone on for what feels like hours or Sean Hannity telling everyone how it feels to be a proud American, and you will think back to this article and realize these people are a far cry from Walter Cronkite.  And that’s the way it is…

I'm a private investigator living on the beach in Malibu. I drive a sweet car and I always catch the bad guys. My fees are $200 a day, plus expenses.

Leave a Reply