The Widdershins

Posts Tagged ‘Journalism

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On Sunday, CNN anchor Chris Cuomo posted an article about some latest poll Democrats must be worried about, adding in his own words: “Democrats need to be for something and about something to make gains with voters.” Someone left a comment that “Dems were about something. The media were about her e-mails.” Cuomo responded to this person: “Main slogan was ‘I’m With Her’ – doesn’t exactly top the list of making it about the voter.”

As anyone who followed the Clinton campaign knows, Clinton’s actual slogan was Slogans.png“Stronger Together.” It was right there on the campaign bus, on the backdrop behind Clinton at rallies, and on the cover of her book of proposed policies. “I’m With Her” was a twitter hashtag started by her supporters, which the campaign sometimes also used. If Cuomo knew this and forgot, or if he literally didn’t know the actual slogan of the candidate whose campaign he covered on CNN for over a year, we’ll never know. His response to people who criticized him for a factually incorrect statement was a link to Chuck Schumer’s Hillary bashing article in WaPo with the words: “’You guys’ like Schumer?” He then went on to say that everyone really missed the point. Yes, everybody missed the point.

The WaPo article Cuomo linked to with Schumer had nothing to do with Clinton’s slogan. It was the classic journalistic whataboutism. Instead of admitting he made such a public mistake, Cuomo deflected, and with a straw-man argument. The intellectual dishonesty would have been breathtaking if it wasn’t so common among journalists.

The same day some in the media celebrated the one year anniversary that Jeff -Jeff MasonMasonbecame president of the White House Correspondents ‘Association. Mason launched his tenure with an op-ed in USA Today titled “Trump, Clinton both threaten free press: The White House Correspondents’ Association is alarmed by the treatment of the press in the 2016 presidential campaign.” Let us remember Trump’s attacks on the free press…so so many. And that at the White House has held almost a month’s worth of off-camera White House briefings. But yes, tell us more about how Clinton and Trump both threaten the free press…

This is all coming on the heels of the preposterous New York Times interview with Donald Trump by Maggie Haberman, Peter Baker and Michael S. Schmidt. (A few days later Baker wrote the NY Times article saying Trump’s treatment of Bob Mueller is exactly like Bill Clinton’s treatment of Ken Starr…) The insane discussion with Trump was pure Trump: confused and malicious. The response of the Times reporters was pure NY Times: confused and juvenile. The reporters (how many NY Times reporters does it take to screw in a light bulb?) all talked over one another, giggled, and let Trump ramble. Nobody corrected him or steered him anywhere. There is a school of thought in journalism that this is how journalists should behave. After countless readers lambasted the trio for not fact-checking Trump’s insanities in real time and to his face, some reporters came to their defense. Nick Riccardi, of the Associated Press, tweeted: “You don’t interview people to ‘call bullshit.’ You don’t interview people to put them in their place or DESTROY them a la John Oliver.”

This is, frankly, preposterous. Riccardi essentially believes reporters are stenographers. To question the subject of their interview with facts is, apparently, bad journalism. One should simply write down what the subject says and occasionally whimper: “And then what happened?” This approach to journalism is what is wrong with American journalism. It allows people to get on TV and blather on whatever they wish. It seems many in the profession do not believe it is their job to correct the facts. I’m reminded of this interview with Jon Snow (no, not Game of Thrones guy) with Carter Page on BBC. Snow’s behavior would horrify American journalists like Riccardi and Haberman (Haberman is only good with twitter snark; that’s easier than putting facts in someone’s face.) Snow has his facts down pat and he doesn’t let Page get away with anything. The results are breathtaking. Because if Snow “destroys” Page, he does so with facts. The idea that facts don’t belong in an interview is beyond preposterous.Screen Shot 2017-07-24 at 9.56.34 PM 1.png

Dan Froomkin posted a lot of fascinating highlights from the Times interview that demonstrated the complete and utter failure of the 3 reporters. (It is to Froomkin’s comments that Riccardi was responding.) You can see them in his thread here:

 

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A few weeks ago Dump’s chief cheerleader Kellyanne Conjob said that journalists’ Twitter feeds “are a hot mess.” The obvious irony of her remark can’t be avoided, of Silence-Deafens1course. But like a broken clock, for a person who talks as much as she does, she’s bound to say something true and that might have been her one true statement. Journalists’ Twiter feeds are a hot fucking mess. I’ve been following a few, and see many more re-tweeted. And the problem with legitimate reporters having Twitter feeds is that their commentary turns them into pundits. Maggie Haberman (everything is Clinton’s fault all the time), Katy Tur (after SOTU Dump became President with Capital P) and Jake Tapper (everything is Clinton’s fault) constantly engage commenters, defending their own opinions. I don’t particularly care that they have anti-Clinton opinions, but any opinion they so openly express and defend makes them no different than Jeffrey Lord. Of course we can’t expect reporters not to have opinions. But airing them as they all do brings into question their reporting. Bill O’Reilly mixes news and opinion into one telecast. Is it really so different when Maggie Haberman files a Clinton story in the NY Times and then writes on Twitter that Clinton is obviously at fault for not pushing Trump/Russia story harder during the election? The line between Haberman and O’Reilly blurs.

The latest onslaught of Hillary bashing comes from publication of a new book called “Clusterfuck” by Fuckface Fucktard and Fuckity Fuckass. I might have gotten the name of the book wrong and misspelled the names of the authors. But it’s something like that. The book is the first in what will surely be many years of autopsies of Clinton’s campaign. The gist of it is that it’s all Clinton’s fault, and mostly Robby Mook’s fault. (Nobody was allowed to speak to Hillary except via Huma and Mook is a “professional political assassin”.) The sources are, of course, largely anonymous. And the content isn’t really surprising.

What is also not surprising are the reviews. I know a graph I posted last week showed that Washington Post’s anti-Hillary coverage was only second to Fox’s, but somehow New York Times’ has always carried much more weight. (And I wonder if Chris Cillizza’s Clinton Derangement Syndrome skewed WaPo coverage overall. He is truly demented and has transferred his psychosis to his new job at CNN. More on Cillizza below.)

Michiko Kakutani reviewed the book in New York Times:

“Shattered” underscores Clinton’s difficulty in articulating a rationale for her campaign (other than that she was not Donald Trump.) And it suggests that a tendency to value loyalty over competence resulted in a lumbering, bureaucratic operation in which staff members were reluctant to speak truth to power, and competing tribes sowed “confusion, angst and infighting.”

Kakutani has a long history of reviewing both Clintons’ books and it’s not a good history. Compare to Steven Ginsberg review in Washington Post:

Does it really matter who was pissy at whom in Brooklyn when we still don’t know what role the Russians played in the election or why FBI Director James Comey publicly announced a reopening of the e-mail investigation in late October? Those questions are largely left unexplored here, other than as targets of Clinton’s post-election ire.

I also liked this paragraph from Ginsberg:

Much of the post-election analysis has criticized Clinton and her campaign for focusing on “reach” states such as North Carolina instead of putting more resources in the upper Midwest. That view is both echoed and called into question in “Shattered,” which depicts a vexing Goldilocks-style problem for Clinton across the region.

In Wisconsin, she didn’t show up enough. In Michigan, local organizers thought it was best that she stayed away. In Pennsylvania, she campaigned as aggressively as anywhere in the nation. In all three, she lost by less than 1 percent of the vote. So what should she have done?

Charles Pierce wrote a great takedown of New York Times’ Clinton problem. It’s worth reading in its entirety. Pierce reaches back to William Safire and Whitewater, the source of Times’ Clinton Derangement Syndrome.

Several other reporters and writers also pointed to the nonsense of the book’s premise and the subsequent flogging of Clinton.

Dave Weigel of WaPo tweeted: “Obviously Clinton screwed up by forcing every cable channel to play Trump speeches live for a year.”

Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo: “Remember: Every losing campaign was run by idiots. Every winning campaign by geniuses. Rinse, repeat.”

Greg Sargent of The Plum Line: “Weird how people who cite Nate Silver constantly suddenly don’t ever cite his conclusion about Comey impact.”

And, of course, Paul Krugman: “When journos who hyped e-mail pseudo-scandal pile on over HRC campaign errors, it’s partly CYA over their own role n Trump disaster.”

I do wish Krugman would walk over to Maggie Haberman and Glenn Thrush and smack them.

A note about Cillizza. His Clinton hate is truly one of the most rabid among the media. I try to think of someone who might match it at the moment and really, I can’t think of anyone who’s not, say, Rush Limbaugh. After his latest “It’s all Hillary’s fault” article from today, an Unworthy writer Parker Malloy put together a collage of some of Cillizza’s articles from WaPo on Clinton. (The handle in the images reads CillizzaCNN, but that’s because he’s changed it to his current job; the old username from WaPo days was not archived separately.)

 

If you want to know what real, fearless journalism looks like, read the story of Elena

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Elena Milashina

Milashina from Novaya Gazeta.  Milashina is the reporter who told the world about the kidnapping and torture of gay men in Chechnya, reports that put her life in danger. Novaya Gazeta is the same newspaper Anna Politkovskaya worked for. Politkovskaya reported a lot on Putin’s actions in Chechnya. She was murdered.

Another example of courageous reporting, also from Russia, is in this Jim Rutenberg report.

It’s important American journalists pay attention to these stories. Because Trump wants to be like Putin. And if Trump becomes Putin, he’ll go after journalists first.

 

Complicit

Posted on: April 12, 2017

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“The lowest form of popular culture – lack of information, misinformation, disinformation and a contempt for the truth or the reality of most people’s lives – has overrun real journalism. Today, ordinary Americans are being stuffed with garbage.” – Carl Bernstein

“When I entered politics, I took the only downward turn you could take from journalism.” – Jim Hightower

When the Pulitzers announced that David Fahrenthold of Washington Post was receiving an award for National Reporting “For persistent reporting that created a model for transparent journalism in political campaign coverage while casting doubt on Donald Trump’s assertions of generosity toward charities,” no one was surprised. He was the highly favored candidate. Fahrenthold was one of the very few mainstream reporters who did not spend the 2016 election cycle sifting through Hillary Clinton’s stolen e-mails. One of the very few. (Because of his reporting on Trump’s charity donations, Fahrenthold was also the one to receive the Access Hollywood tape when NBC spent days trying to decide how and when to release it.) Fahrenthold began his investigation into Trump’s supposed (and non-existent) charitable donations on something of a hunch. He remembered Trump once saying on TV that he would donate $6 million to veterans groups and Fahrenthold wondered if Trump followed through on the promise. So he started researching and found a Pulitzer.

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Do you know who didn’t find a Pulitzer? Anybody who was sifting through Hillary Clinton’s stolen e-mails. The vast majority of the news media spent 18 months questioning Clinton on her use of a private e-mail server and then combing through tens Screen Shot 2017-04-11 at 8.09.37 PMof thousands of stolen e-mails from the DNC and Clinton’s campaign. All they found was a risotto recipe and that one time Clinton and Huma Abedin split a crème brûlée. There
was also gossip. But nothing that a sane person could interpret as in any way significant to a Presidential campaign. And yet, according to statistics, E-MAILS was the topic of more conversation on the news than anything else. Though we might think the NY Times was the most egregious in their anti-Hillary coverage, it was – in fact, the Washington Post that by far led Hillary-hate; second only to Fox News.

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When CNN’s Jake Tapper was told by Robby Mook that there are allegations about stolen DNC e-mails and Russian interference via WikiLeaks, Tapper’s incredulous eye-rolling response should shame him for the rest of his life. (It won’t.) Not because he didn’t just take Mook’s word for it in the moment. But because Tapper never called any of his sources, whether in Congress or in the Intelligence Community, and ask: “Hey, what is he talking about? Anything to this?” Because he might have gotten an affirmative response and landed the biggest story of his life. By that time the FBI was alredy investigating Trump’s possible collusion with Russia. And the Gang of 8 in Congress was about to be briefed. Harry Reid would fire off multiple public letters to FBI Director James Comey, imploring additional information to be disclosed on Trump and Russia. To no avail. Comey was silent and the media treated Reid like a deranged lunatic. Very few reporters looked into these stories. Kurt Eichenwald of Newsweek was one, and was widely derided by the Left and the Right. When David Corn of Mother Jones published an article about the Steele dossier in October, he was laughed at too. When Franklin Foer of Slate published an article claiming that a Trump server was communicating with a Russian Alfa Bank he was laughed at as well. His allegations were infamously dismissed by the NY Times as “Investigating Donald Trump, F.B.I. sees no clear link to Russia” in an article by Eric Lichtblau. It is a headline that should be tattooed on Lichtblau’s forehead. (Lichtblau recently left the Times to be CNN’s lead investigative reporter…) The NY Times was flat out wrong. And they conducted an interview with Harry Reid for the story, and then threw it out unused. The story remains up, un-retracted. We, of course, now know for a fact that the Times was wrong. The F.B.I. was investigating Trump and they saw links to Russia. And Alfa Bank’s communications with Trump servers is one of the lynchpins of the investigation.

So what happens when journalism is wrong? Journalists love themselves because they say their job is to hold the powerful accountable for wrong-doing. But what happens when journalists are wrong? What happens when entire media empires fail to see the biggest story of their lifetimes and chase a red herring, plunging a nation into a crises? Where, to paraphrase, does a person the media ruined go to get their good name back? How do we collectively crawl our way out of the hole the media threw us all in?

The answer, I fear is…nothing happens. They pay no price. When the NY Times and Judith Miller published Dick Cheney’s fake stories about Saddam Hussein’s WMDs, then watched Cheney go on television and cite the Times as proof that Hussein had WMDs, and the country went to a catastrophic war in Iraq…nothing happened to the NY Times. They threw Miller out, as if her reports were not approved by editors above her and as if lawyers and standards/practices didn’t sign off on her reports. The Times paid no price. And they will pay no price for Clinton’s e-mails either.

Society of Professional Journalists writes: “Report the story, don’t become part of it.”  I wonder how they feel about NY Times’ Maggie Haberman receiveing an adoring write-up from CNN, as the reporter Trump hates the mostest. NBC/MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell sees Maggie and raises her by being the most hated reporter of all the Presidents in Politico. And CNN’s Brian Stelter is the Young Messiah of Washington Post’s ode. Each of these articles was reposted on social media by the author, the subject, every other reporters both sides work with. It’s a veritable journalistic circle jerk of love and adoration. There are no consequences for their failures – to them. The only consequences belong to us. The only ones to pay will be the public, which now clings to the same reporters who brought us to hell to help dig us out. “Democracy Dies in Darkness,” Washington Post says. Except they broke all of the lights.

 

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Don’t blink anyone! You might miss a major development from the White House. The Drumpfster Fire Shit Show is showing no signs of slowing down. No amount of Russian hooker urine can extinguish it. It’s the Chernobyl and the Fukushima meltdowns combined and the fallout will span the globe. Although not if you ask a Republican. Everyone is just great if you ask a Republican! Everything is going according to plan…

In a matter of a day Drumpf held an emergency situation room meeting in the middle of a dining room and fired/accepted resignation/encouraged retirement of a man named Flynn. First, the Mar-al-Lago disaster. Picture it: Drumpf, Japanese Prime Minister Abe, wives 16708703_10154983688274761_4762941159713180703_nand friends, are having a wonderful $20,000 (give or take) dinner surrounded by dozens of their closest friends/donors. When suddenly news arrives that North Korea (which would within the next 24 hours assassinate the rightful heir to their throne by two female assassins who poisoned him with a dart in the middle of a Malaysian airport!!!!), anyway, before a 007/Jason Bourne assassination of a perceived rival and brother, North Korea’s demented leader launched a missile towards Japan. So naturally, Drumpf and PM Abe go into full Presidential mode by hunkering down at their dinner table, cell phone flash lights activated, figuring out how to respond. Their dozens of closest friends/donors are witnessing this, taking photos, posting to facebook. Because an international crises as reality television is where we are right now. This is all perfectly normal! All the Republicans think so! HRC’s e-mail server: bad. Classified documents about a rogue/crazy country that may start a nuclear war disseminated and discussed in a crowded room: good. Nobody wanted to miss the entrée. When you paid thousands of dollars for access, you better get a good show.

Oh, and let’s not forget Rick. Rick is The Man. Rick carries a briefcase with him that contains the nuclear codes. Rick is posing for photos with guests. Rick is The Man!

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And then, if you can believe our lives, that wasn’t even the craziest thing that’s happened all week. The crazies thing that’s happened all week (writing this on Tue night) is we are finally getting real evidence of Russia setting up a Kremlin satellite office in Washington DC. I won’t go into the Michael “Lock Her Up!” Flynn details because we are watching this shit develop in real time. But as of now, Rethuglicans still don’t think there’s any reason to investigate anything. Paul Ryan, McTurtle, Chaffetz, all say there’s nothing to see here and let’s move on. Rand Paul says it’d be crazy for Republicans to investigate other Republicans. And it’s hard to argue with his logic! Give this for Rand Paul: he’s not lying. He’s not pretending that there are any principles at stake. It’s all about party loyalty. Which was an interesting thing I realized when I was talking to a Republican friend on Monday. She doesn’t really care about Trump one way or the other. She just cares that a Republican is in power. She detested “Barry.” She thinks McTurtle “is a pussy” who allowed Barry to get away with everything. Hillary is the biggest criminal ever. So there we are. For many people who still support Drumpf, it’s really just about Republicans being in charge.

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And Mike Pence is being built up as the victim in all this. Supposedly Pence had no idea Flynn had spoken to the Russians about lifting the sanctions. LOL. Is this just the beginning of setting up Pence as a man of principle who would make a great POTUS-46? And do you know who else is the victim in all this? Michael Flynn if you believe this nonsense.

In any case, so far HRC’s only comment on this topic was a re-Tweet of a comment by Philippe Reines.

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I get a feeling that the only person who might be enjoying all this insanity is HRC and maybe Obama.

I also think that considering Hillary Clinton’s vast criminal network and the trail of murdered bodies she has left behind over the decades, Michael Flynn is lucky to still be alive.

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In the meantime, do not unbuckle your seatbelts. There is a lot more of whatever this is to come. Even as I write this CNN says they have names of Trump campaign officials who spoke to the Russians, but not releasing names yet because they are waiting for comment from the White House. And Drumpf’s staff, which includes a former contestant from his show, getting into a physical altercation with a reporter. Or maybe not. Apparently a secret recording was made but it may have been edited before being played for some journalists. This is our life, welcome.

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I leave you with a song I’ve been listening to for a couple of weeks, since I’ve discovered this remarkable young singer. Troye Sivan is 21 year old South African/Australian and this song, “Heaven,” is a balm for the soul. He wrote it about the pain and joy of coming out as gay, for all the people who have done it before him and for those who will do it in the future. “Without losing a piece of me, how do I get to heaven? … So if I’m losing a piece of me, maybe I don’t want heaven.”

 

 

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As a new year begins and Drumpf’s inauguration approaches a few interesting developments have enveloped us. Things that signal what is to come in the next 4 or 8 years (or forever, who knows.)

Remember when the Rockettes were told that they would have to perform at Drumpf’sjames-dolan inauguration, and then after a public backlash the management and the union (which is meant to protect them, but didn’t) said that participation wouldn’t be mandatory?  It’s not over yet. While kicking for Drumpf at the inauguration may not be 100% mandatory (just, you know, strongly encouraged if you know what’s good for your dancing career), Marie Claire and Rolling Stone report that participation at the White House’s 4th of July celebrations will be obligatory. Madison Square Garden executive chairman James Dolan held a “private” meeting with the dancers, which was secretly recorded by one of the Rockettes.

One dancer said, “I mean, it just sounds like you’re asking us to be tolerant of intolerance.” He paused to consider his answer and said, “Yeah, in a way, I guess we are doing that. What other choices do we have? What else would you suggest?”

“I don’t believe it’s going to hurt the brand,” he said. “And nobody is more concerned about that than the guy sitting in this chair.”

Herr Dolan is very concerned about the brand, and that right there is everything you need to know about Mr. Dolan, ladies and gentlemen.

Then there’s the story of everybody least favorite Moe Joe Scarborough and his love affair with Trump. Joe – and Mika Brzetaedtaisdksnksy – spent New Year’s Eve with Drumpf at joe-and-drumpf Mar-a-Lago. NY Times’ Maggie Haberman tweeted this seemingly innocuous tidbit and Joe had a full on meltdown. Why were Joe’s panties up in such a furious twist? Because some people think schmoozing like that is not appropriate for a journalist. Joe thinks everybody can go eat a bag of Dick Tracies. He says he’s just trying to secure an interview with Drumpf and wants Drumpf to feel comfortable. I don’t know why Joe thinks a politician must feel comfortable with the journalist. Washington Post’s media critic Margaret Sullivan doesn’t either.

Despite all the silliness that’s piling up here — and it is getting almost as tall as Trump Tower — there is a serious principle at hand. It’s this: There should be some distance between journalists and elected officials. If that doesn’t exist, independence and impartiality are sure to be questioned. And rightly so.

And in other media related news – everybody favorite blond right-winger Megyn Kelly has announced that she is leaving Faux News and is going to NBC. This may or may not be bad news for Faux. Her program is their 2nd highest rated, but I think her disappearance from the Faux roster won’t make a difference. The right-wingers hate her because they thinkmegyn-kelly she’s too liberal. So let’s not worry about Faux News. But this is quite the blow to NBC. Their interest is obviously monetary. Kelly has been gracing magazine covers, including Vanity Fair, for months. Because she occasionally asks a tough question of a right-wing politician, a question Hannity and O’Reilly wouldn’t ask – suggests to some on the Left that she is an impartial journalist. Many friends of mine have posted on Facebook how much they do like Kelly. Horseshit. Megyn Kelly is a right-wing nutjob. Just because the Right is now so far to the Right that it’s a dot to us doesn’t mean that she is that far off it. Problem for reasonable people is that the media and public embrace of Kelly legitimizes her Right-wing insanity, which includes declarations that Jesus and Santa Claus were most definitely white and that the Black Panthers are destroying America. Her arrival at NBC – which also gifts us the previously discussed Moe Scarborough and soon Greta Van Susteren  – is certainly creating an odd Right-wing wing at the network. This isn’t good news folks.

Just a tiny bit (very tiny) of good news though. After House Rethuglicans met at night andrethuglicans in private and in secret to gut the Office of Congressional Ethics – a shitstorm hit the fan. After a public outcry and a media firestorm Rethuglicans backed off. Even Drumpf tweeted
a critique. But it’s important to note that Drumpf doesn’t object to gutting OCE. He wants to get rid of it. And he had Baghdad Conway on the boob tube bashing it. Drumpf doesn’t even object to how Rethuglicans tried to do it in secret in a late-night meeting without a single Democrat present. Drumpf only objected to the timing of their actions. So while they have backed off for now, we can expect them to do this again in the near future with full support from the White House.

 

Walter Cronkite

Walter Cronkite

A nice man has died. His closing comment at the end of each broadcast made you feel like you were getting the news just as it was. I can say I sort of grew up with Walter Cronkite since his was the news channel we had on in our house during the days when there were fewer than 4 to choose from. He brought us the news in a straightforward manner and I don’t remember anyone challenging his delivery or style. He was just there to inform. Never silly, never partisan, never condescending toward his audience.

During the Vietnam War he sunk the ship of LBJ by proclaiming what some knew to be true. We were mired in an unwinnable civil war and to continue this slaughter of our own troops was untenable. Upon hearing that commentary, LBJ was heard to mutter, “If I have lost Cronkite, I have lost middle America”. Many believe that Cronkite’s assessment led to LBJ not seeking another term in office. The war went on unabated for a few more years, but Cronkite exposed the folly of this mad adventure, and because he himself was so esteemed by the public there seemed little reason to doubt him.

He was once considered the “most trusted man in America”. A huge honor as it suggested that the public had come to view their elected officials with skepticism. For thirty years he dominated our airwaves with his thoughtful and controlled manner, something rarely seen since. It was Cronkite, showing his emotion for the first time in front of the cameras, who announced the death to a stunned nation when JFK was shot. He kept us riveted to our seats that long weekend, a nation who had never witnessed such an event up close and personal, yet he kept us calm in our shock of what was playing out before our eyes. Bereft, we turned to Cronkite because he felt so comforting and we recognized that he shared our grief as well in this moment of our history.

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