July 24, 2009

Walter Cronkite was way before my time, so I knew him solely as a pop culture reference and through a scant selection of YouTube videos. There is, however, this great documentary I saw earlier this year called Four More Years about the 1972 Republican National Convention. You can see it here. When they interview him, he stresses the importance of getting news from a lot of sources to become a more informed person and, hopefully, not as subject to bias. By that time, Cronkite had already declared the Vietnam War, like, totally unwinnable, dude, and (I’m just assuming here) had become somewhat of a persona non grata among conservative circles. Apparently there was this minor kerfuffle about him not standing for the National Anthem once (he was taking journalistic neutrality very, very seriously or something, I guess?), and there’s this great little scene where future president Ronald Reagan seizes on it and frames it as Us versus The Unpatriotic Liberal Media (“Gee whiz, folks, maybe it’s just me, but I happen to believe people should respect America”) during a pep rally thing. It’s basically the first draft of the “why isn’t Barack Obama pledging allegiance to the flag/wearing a flag pin/fellating the flag???” talking points that propagated so well in the 2008 campaign.

So who is this generation’s Walter Cronkite? Well the votes are in and it turns out it’s late night funnyman Jon Stewart! Now, of course, that was merely an opinion poll, which is why I’ve decided to determine the next Walter Cronkite scientifically. I have measured various TV personalities on a toolishness-likability axis. The results are tabulated below:

Wolf Blitzer David Gregory
Brit Hume & co.
Charles Gibson1
George Stephanopoulos1
Brian Williams2
Keith Olbermann3
Anderson Cooper4
Dan Rather5
Katie Couric

1 Not all that familiar with, to be honest.
2 He has gravitas, can hold his own against Jon Stewart, and apparently is hip with the indie musics. But there’s something perversely phony6 about him that I can’t quite put my finger on.
3 Kind of in a gray area between “likable” and “massive tool.” The main problem with him is that he can’t decide whether he wants to be Edward R. Murrow or Jon Stewart, the result being an awkward mishmash that falls fall short of both.
4 Basically Brian Williams Lite.
5 Again, not all that familiar with him and “likable” might be a stretch. The “Rathergate” thing7 was a whole mess but I don’t think it warranted him being fired, which felt more like a sacrifice to the “kill the liberal media” crowd. It is a little depressing to see him wandering the halls of The Daily Show and The Rachel Maddow Show.
6 In the full Holden Caulfield sense of the word.
7 EXPLANATION/REMINDER: Basically, CBS News did a story about how Bush had gone AWOL from the National Guard (which is true by the way) but used some pretty suspect documents that weren’t properly authenticated or something. A conservative blog determined it a fake, which resulted in Rather getting fired. For a while this was the only thing of any real significance accomplished by THE BLOGOSPHERE, which should be supplanting the dastardly MSM any day now.

So who does that leave? PBS dweebs like Bill Moyers, who nobody watches so they’re irrelevant, and Rachel Maddow, who seems trustworthy and could do a passable job at seeming all respectable-like if she dropped all the cutesey liberal snark that infested Olbermann’s show. But once you host an openly partisan pundit show you’ve pretty much alienated about half the potential mainstream audience, and you’re essentially doomed to that niche forever; i.e. she can never host Nightline. So she’s out too.

And so, the final result is…. Kurt Loder?!?