The death of journalist David Brinkley brought the usual cries of how terrible the state of TV news is these days. Newsweek magazine, always a predictable source of establishment angst, praised Brinkley as one of a kind and far superior to the "blowhard" TV news types these days. I felt quite a breeze as that insult whizzed by.
Anyway, Brinkley was unique and skilled and an innovator, there's no doubt about it. He was one of the few TV anchor people who never pandered to the powerful, and his skepticism separated him from the fawning majority of television types who, above all, want access to the famous and infamous. For Brinkley, accurate analysis and information were the goals, and if that offended somebody, so be it. He also had style and wit, something severely lacking on broadcast row these days.
But the new era of instant information rendered Brinkley and many other broadcast veterans almost powerless. No longer is the American public a captive audience, and no longer will the folks settle for an expressionless recitation of the news. With the advent of the Internet and round-the-clock cable news, the audience quickly knows the basic facts of a story.
But often along with those facts comes instant spin and contradiction. Informational fog develops, leaving busy Americans in need of context. They want to know how the journalists they trust feel about things that are important to their lives. The news consumer is almost desperate for someone to define the truth of the matter.
Thus, the good ole days when the Brinkleys, the Cronkites and even Tom, Dan and Peter could simply introduce stories in measured tones are coming to an end. The audience for dispassionate TV news is shrinking; the demand for passionate reporting and analysis is on the rise.
That trend, of course, is like a cross in front of a vampire for the TV news traditionalists. They hate that. Even though newspapers have editorialized from the very beginning of this republic, and print columnists are legion, analysis during a TV news broadcast is still very daunting for many network news types.
The question is, why? I had to ask Peter Jennings five times on my program if it frustrated him to keep his opinions to himself all the time. He finally admitted it did