We’ve come a long way from the days when Walter Cronkite was “the most trusted man in America”. Uncle Walter was anchor of the CBS Evening News for almost 20 years, and he consistently topped the polls on the question of trust. He was there to guide TV viewers through so many huge events – the triumph of Neil Armstrong making that “giant leap for mankind” on the surface of the moon, the tragic death of a President on the streets of Dallas, and the resignation of another because of the scandal known as Watergate. There was never any question that Cronkite spoke the truth, or at least “the best available version” of it.
What a sad contrast it is to observe the downfall of Brian Williams at NBC. It appears he basically made up a story about a brush with death that never happened in Iraq in 2003, and he repeated the made up story again and again. It was a grievous insult to America’s veterans, and it was veterans who blew the whistle on Brian.
Even though he only ranks 23rd on polls about ‘the most trusted people in America’, just two months ago, Williams signed a new contract with the Peacock network that pays him $10 million a year. This year he will only get half of that.
In a move that has no precedent, NBC has suspended their news anchor without pay, for six months. ‘Throwing him under the bus’ hardly begins to describe what has happened here, and it’s difficult imagine that Brian Williams will ever anchor an NBC newscast again.
All of this is happening at a time when the news anchor is diminishing greatly in importance in both the U.S. and Canada. More and more of us are watching their news online, or not in real time, thanks to evolving technology. So much has changed, and the whole concept of journalism is also evolving.
Hopefully that evolution will never come to embrace flat out dishonesty by overpaid anchors.
I’m Roger Currie