Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Cronkite moment

Saturday was the anniversary of another of those Great Moments in Journalism History: The Walter Cronkite comment on the Tet offensive that allegedly caused LBJ to lament that if he'd lost Cronkite, he'd lost Middle America, after which the rest is history.

Think again, says the proprietor of Media Myth Alert: Even if there was agreement on what LBJ said, he was probably too busy toasting John Connally at a birthday dinner in Austin to have seen and said all the things that make Cronkite's editorial such a perennial favorite in the Great Stuff Journalism Does Hall of Fame.

That doesn't make Uncle Walter a bad person. It does suggest that journalists are as prone as anyone else to use history as way of organizing the world to put themselves and their role in a comfortable light (that's one reason the occasional j-history syllabus still crops up with "we've got the best press EVAR" at the top). The world is a tidier place when heroic reporters can bring down a presidency by themselves, but it's the sort of phenomenon we're going to have trouble replicating in real life.

I've enjoyed W. Joseph Campbell's work before, and I'll be looking forward to the myths book.

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