I Still Miss Tom Brokaw

"Never let the facts get in the way of a good story." 

A familiar lament from political flaks, complaining about shoddy reporting. I was known to utter those words during my flakking years. (One guy notoriously inaccurate would write from his own clips. If he got it wrong the first time, every follow-up story would be similarly wrong. I learned to get to him early.)   

Brian Williams has been suspended for six months, for not letting the facts get in the way of a good story. Anchoring the evening news ain't what it used to be.

Long before a career that would lead me eventually to both sides of the camera/microphone, I was weaned on network television news.

At 5:30 p.m. every evening in our wood-paneled family room, deep in the bosom of Pleasant Valley, from our trusty Zenith (we upgraded to color TV in '71) emanated the familiar and unmistakable sound of a teletype and the announcer's dulcet tones.

"This... is the C-B-S Evening News with Walter Cronkite...  and... Roger Mudd at the U-S Capitol... and... Bernard Kalb in Saigon... and... Dan Rather at the White House... and... Charles Kuralt on the road."

Probably just because I wanted to be different, I preferred NBC. Huntley-Brinkley. ("Good night, Chet." "Good night, David.") But in our house, when it came to anchorman choices, father knew best.

A good friend remembers the era sitting at her father's knee, hearing Walter and Chet report on "guerilla warfare," while visualizing M-16 and machete-toting hominids (hominidae?)

I have long since grown weary of what passes for journalism today on TV. It's not so much that the rules have changed, it's more that the societal tectonic plate shifting we're living through is especially hard on what's left of journalistic ethics.

I can't pinpoint the exact date when I quit watching network news, but I suspect it was about the time Tom Brokaw retired.

Guys like Cronkite, Huntley, Brinkley, Frank Reynolds were my father's generation's anchormen. Brokaw, Dan Rather and Peter Jennings were mine.

Back then, it was all about fairness and accuracy.

I still remember a pissed-off Reynolds in 1981 bemoaning his own team's less-than-stellar effort, after reporting that Jim Brady was dead, during live coverage of the assassination attempt on President Reagan. 
"Let's nail it down. Let's get it right."

Network news is still a consumer-driven product. Most of the eyes watching the HD flat today (read: younger than mine) are just fine with vague ambiguity driving network news judgment calls.

It's because they don't turn on the network news and expect to see actual news.

I can't say that I'll miss Brian Williams anchoring NBC Nightly News. It'd be like saying I miss dinosaurs or double-knit leisure suits.

And that's the way it is... Tuesday, February 10, 2015.