In the 1950's the setting for a television newscast consisted of a few maps and a clock on the back wall. There were no satellite feeds from Rome, or Paris or Baghdad because there were no satellites. If the anchorman wished to show us visuals of a news event his staff would have to crank up the old 16mm projector or display an enlarged photo. There were no cable news stations because there was no cable. We got our news from the Big Three; CBS, NBC and ABC.
Today, we have computer enhanced news sets, satellite feeds, mobile phone feeds, twitters, blogs, Internet media support and we have a plethora of cable news stations to augment, and segment, the news audience of the Big Three.
So, why do media historians consider the 1950's as the golden age of television news?
Well, to begin with, the TV news anchors in the 50's were seasoned journalists who had learned the value of integrity in the presentation of the news. Over at CBS the great Edward R. Murrow was holding down the throne, augmented by Walter Cronkite and Eric Sevareid, NBC had Chet Huntley and David Brinkley. ABC, at that time, was a floundering 3rd network that tried a number of network anchors but couldn't compete with the outstanding news crews at CBS and NBC. It would be another two decades before ABC's Sports Chief, Roone Arledge, would take over the network and would turn ABC news into a powerhouse of news technology.
With today's technology you would think the news today would be far superior to the old newscasters. Not so. Until the 1980's, and the explosion of cable news, a viewer would have no clue as to the political leanings of his favorite news anchor. Today,we are faced with the "constant caterwauling" of opinion interspersed with our news. While Brian Williams and Diane Sawyer seemed to present the news with a neutral bent, Katy Couric just spews forth with liberal drivel that gags me. The cable news stations are even worse. While CNN has tried to steer the middle ground on news objectivity they waver and weave and very, very often fail to cover their liberal bias.
Worse yet are the extremes that exist at Fox News and MSNBC. Fox News has a real nut job (read Joe McCarthy) in Glen Beck, who sees conspiracy at every turn, and Fox has far too many of their news journalists joining in the "analyst" role which clouds our perception of the validity of their news presentations. But it is MSNBC which really takes the cake. Rachel Maddow, the now defunct Keith Olberman and a slew of old liberal political hacks makes MSNBC the bastion of extreme liberalism which destroys the reputation of that network. While Fox News will trot out a host of liberal analysts to allow a "fair and balanced" presentation, MSNBC assails you with liberal propaganda and rarely allows a conservative viewpoint to be presented.
I have always gauged the efficiency and objectivity of a newsman by whether or not I can tell his political leanings. Up until twenty years ago it was entirely possible to watch the news and believe you were getting the straight scoop. Today I must "stake out a neutral position" and ferret out the "facts" for myself. I'll watch a little of Fox, a little NBC, a little ABC, some CNN and read reliable Internet news sources.
How I miss old Walter Cronkites' "And That's The Way It Is" upon signing off from the CBS Evening News. Walt learned from Murrow that the facts will speak for themselves and need no spin in their presentation.