Jewish World Review March 14, 2005 / 3 Adar II, 5765
Did you see that the most trusted man in America, Walter Cronkite, disrespected Dan Rather by saying CBS News should have dumped him a long time ago? Wow, with an uncle like that, who needs extended families?
Cronkite's critique came 24 years too late. When I worked at CBS News in the early '80s, everybody knew that Walter resented Dan for pushing him out. ABC News wanted to hire Rather, and the only way CBS could keep him was to throw Cronkite out the door with a $1 million a year stipend. Walter took the cash and shut up. Until now.
Welcome to the wonderful world of broadcast journalism, where I have toiled for nearly 30 years. It is a brutal arena where the knives are sharp and the toughest Kevlar vest in the world will not protect you forever. A variety of CBS News people are now hammering Rather because his power is greatly diminished. And that's the way it is, with apologies to Mr. Cronkite.
So why should you care that a bunch of overpaid men and women dissect each other in the halls of network TV news buildings? Don't they all deserve what they're getting? I mean, nobody's forcing them to earn six figures assembling information.
The reason you might want to care is that TV news is now the main source of information for the Republic. Most Americans don't even watch it, but perceptions are formed by what the tube spews out. The late night comics, the bloggers, the cable guys (that's me) and the radio big mouths (me again), all pick up stuff from network news and pass it along to you. The problem is that the folks who set the agendas for TV news are not like you. In fact, many of them DON'T like you. You are groundlings, semi-barbarians who can't tell excellent sushi from the cheap stuff.
Thus, what matters to you is often ignored or slanted by the TV big shots. For example, radical Professor Ward Churchill, a traitor earning $92,000 at the University of Colorado, was all but ignored by the network evening news broadcasts. Also, the Social Security debate is heavily weighted toward the democratic position because, in the eyes of the network people, you're not smart enough to invest your own money. They need to protect you from you. Not that they really care, but it does make the network overseers feel better knowing they can control what you can and can't do.
Regular folks don't often venture into network news employment because it is a strange and frightening world. The competition and pressure are unrelenting, and backstabbing rules the day. Only the calculated and tough survive. Most people simply don't want to live that way, leaving the network news locker rooms chock full of ambitious strivers.
Which brings us back to Walter Cronkite and Dan Rather. Both men are superstars, American icons. Both are millionaires many times over and can have pretty much anything they want.
They should be slapping each other on their respective backs. But we all now know that is not where the slaps are landing. Another defining moment in the world of network TV news.
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JWR contributor Bill O'Reilly is host of the
Fox News show, "The O'Reilly Factor," and author
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