Monthly Archives: October 2015

Do You Trust the Media?

I mentioned in my last post that during the 50s and 60s we had very limited news sources.  We had TV and radio news, magazines and newspapers. That was about it.   Because we were not a part of the ‘instantaneous -quick as a  flash culture’ of today, our weekly magazines were excellent and popular.  The three biggies were Look, Life, and Time.  Look and Life are both out of business, but in their day, they provided photographic in-depth articles of national and world events.  Today, no one would buy any magazine that is touting news that is one week old.  (Okay.  I forgot about National Enquirer, Star and all the other gossip rags.)

We also had terrific television news personalities.  The big three networks, NBC, CBS and ABC all had their headliner news broadcasters.  John Cameron Swayze, Douglas Edwards, Edward R. Morrow, Walter Cronkite and the team of Chet Huntley and David Brinkley were the biggies.

Edward R. Morrow gained notoriety by providing ‘on the spot’ reports for radio listeners about World War II.  In particular, he would report from a rooftop in London during the Blitz.  German and English planes were dogfighting, bombs were dropping, sirens were blaring and Edward would verbally paint a very descriptive picture of what was going on.  The bombs exploding and the sirens blaring could always be heard in the background.  He never occupied a full time TV anchor desk once TV became popular after WWII.  He would provide details of world events while on special assignments that would be shown during the newscast.

John Cameron Swayze and Douglas Edwards were both experienced reporters.  Most of the eventual newscasters started in either newspaper reporting, radio reporting, or both.  The one thing about both of these guys was that they were both credible and reliable.  Swayze may be remembered for being the spokesperson for Timex watches for years.  His phrase: “Timex, it takes a licking and keeps on ticking.”  They were both on national networks and both got replaced once the ownership of a TV got to be more mainstream and news reporting became more competitive.

As an aside, we got our first black and white, 19″,  cabinet TV in late 1952.  I was four years old and became addicted to the newfangled electronic babysitter.  My mother was delighted!  We got our first color TV in 1963.  It was also a 19″ , cabinet TV.  It cost $750!  That was a very princely sum at the time.  If I remember correctly, it was about 8 weeks of my dad’s salary.  All for a 19″ TV!  Our first color programs?  Bonanza and the Wonderful World of Disney were absolute mainstays in our house.  Less than 10 % of the TV shows at that time were in color.  When is the last time you called a TV repair man?  If you are under 50 years old, you most likely have never called a TV repair man.  We had one in our home town and he was at our house often to keep those televisions working.  That darn color TV always needed some type of tube or adjustment.  It was a major household expense.

As television became more popular and newscasts became more competitive, the networks upped their game.  Edwards and Swayze were replaced because even though they were excellent reporters, their TV personality came off as rather dry.  Douglas Edwards was replaced on CBS by the man who became a household name, Walter Cronkite.

Cronkite made his notoriety during WWII, just like Edward R. Murrow.  He flew in bombing missions over Germany, he was with the 101st Airborne during Operation Market Garden, and he reported on the Nuremberg trials.  My most vivid memory of Walter Cronkite was when he reported the death of  President John F. Kennedy.  Even with all his vast reporting experience, Cronkite could barely keep it together while he was notifying the people of the United States that they had just lost their president.  He reported the death, removed his glasses, and wiped the tears from his eyes.  It was all on camera.  In this man, you could see his sorrow and as Kennedy was a very popular president, we all felt it with him.  During the Apollo 11 and Apollo 13 moon missions, he was the most watched newscaster in the nation.

But the most amazing item to know about Walter Cronkite, was that he had the unofficial title of, “the most trusted man in America.”  He was often referred to by this title.

Swayze was replaced on NBC by the team of Chet Huntley and David Brinkley.  This was done to eat into the popularity of Walter Cronkite on CBS.  Chet Huntley reported from New York City and David Brinkley reported from Washington, D.C.  Initially, they enjoyed great success and did draw more viewers than Cronkite.  This went on for a few more years, but eventually Walter again dominated the news reporting business, especially after Huntley retired in 1970.

The reason for all of this?  As our generation grew up, we absolutely trusted all of these men delivering our news.  Not only that, but we were confident that anything that appeared in our newspapers and magazines was indeed, factual.  The general consensus was that if Walter Cronkite said it, it had to damn well be true.  If trust in our media sources was not 100%, I would bet it would have been pretty darn close.

In a recent Gallup Poll, it was determined that confidence and trust in our media was at an all time low since the poll was initiated in 1990.  Overall, only 40% of the population expressed a ‘great deal or fair amount’ of trust in the media.  Those numbers were lower, 36%, for people in the 18-49 age bracket.  People 50 and older had a 45% trust rate in the media. Oddly enough, liberals had a higher trust rate than conservatives by about a 10% margin. (Apparently, those liberals will believe anything!)

What happened?  Isn’t this the Age of Information with all our electronic gizmos and computer/internet/social media capabilities?  And now that we have gotten all this capability and information, we don’t believe its true?  What’s with that?

Well, the Gallup Poll had one theory.  Their theory was that people do not trust the United States government or governmental institutions.  If that is indeed the case, that should be an indication that the general public is getting wiser!  That, coupled with the fact that as government gets bigger, it becomes less efficient and less trustworthy.  Benghazi.  Tea Party/IRS scandal.  Iranian Nuclear deal.  Fiscal cliff.  National debt.  Funding of Planned Parenthood.  Foreign Policy.  I am guessing by the results of the poll, the public is not issuing any “A” ratings to the manner in which our government has handled any of the aforementioned concerns.

I have another theory.  Here is the Grandpa T, common sense theory.  With all the media sources today, with all of the personal devices that can be cameras or make movies, with all the social media capability, the mainstream news sources have to compete for the advertising dollars with a whole different bunch of ‘personal news sources’  as well as with each other.  Additionally, because we have become the ‘instantaneous – quick as a flash’ society, it has got to be published or broadcasted immediately.  Never mind authenticating the  news source.  Never mind assuring accuracy.  Get the darn thing published or televised or broadcast immediately before someone else does!

I believe there is another reason.  Look at all the news shows on cable and on the primary networks today compared to what we had during my youth.  Instead of three networks, there are hundreds with many of them having news shows.  All of these news shows are competing with each other for advertising dollars.  Additionally, they are always trying to differentiate themselves from the field of competitors.  They have a voracious appetite for anything that approaches being newsworthy, and they have to feed that beast with news to survive.  If something does not appear newsworthy, embellish it.  If it is a slow news day, make something up!  If I want to appear to be the Indiana Jones of newscasters………..

Enter the antithesis of Walter Cronkite……..Brian Williams.  Not only has Brian been accused of 32 lies and embellishments over a decade, but apparently NBC knew of it and allowed their fair-haired boy to continue broadcasting these lies.  Brian lied about everything; from being in a helicopter that was hit by a rocket propelled grenade in Afghanistan to seeing someone commit suicide during Hurricane Katrina.  Chet Huntley and David Brinkley have to be absolutely rolling over in their graves!   Huntley and Brinkley dominated the news business for years for NBC.  Now, with the egotistical Brian Williams, their news credibility rates slightly lower than the Kardashian Christmas special, and that’s pretty darn low.  I am sure that Brian wanted to make his mark by emulating many of the deeds that  his predecessors had done during WWII and Viet Nam.  The problem is that when we combine an ego with a corporation wanting advertiser dollars in a ‘instantaneous – quick as a flash’ society, the public ultimately gets garbage.  Unreliable, fictitious but fast garbage.

Brian Williams is not the only fabricator.  Dan Rather was so vehement about President George W. Bush’s military record, that he fabricated information to strengthen his accusations against the President.  It became obvious that Rather was becoming obsessed with the topic.  It also became obvious that he was using his stage to wage a fabricated vendetta, even though some of what he said was true.  That did not work well for him.  Ultimately, he was exposed…and forced to retire.

Maybe during the 50s and 60s we were a little naïve about our news and news sources, because we pretty much believed all of it.  I prefer to think we had better newscasters, writers and reporters that believed they had a moral obligation to get it right.  There is a lesson to be learned.  Electronic devices, for as marvelous as they are, have only power cords and batteries.  Humans are the only device that contains a ‘truth filter.’  Much like our old TVs in the 60s, some of these may need their tubes replaced or have an adjustment.

“The Age of Innocence” – Lost Forever

Like most grandparents today, I would do anything for my grandkids.  Grandma P and I are very fortunate to have a group of intelligent, thoughtful and personable grandkids.  They deserve the best and for the most part, they are receiving it.

Our two oldest will be teenagers next year, reaching that milestone age of 13.  So far, we are not the ‘dorky’  grandparents as we do feel welcomed every time we see them.  That ‘dorky and unhip’ mantra will become more prevalent as they get deeper into those teenage years….you know….those years when their friends know everything, and their parents and grandparents are dumb as a box of rocks.  Grandma P and I  are hoping we never get to that, but we are preparing for it, none the less.

But try as I may, I will never, ever be able to give my grandkids one thing……

Did you hear about Ahmed Mohamed?  You will certainly recognize him if I tell you he is the 14 year old that constructed a ‘clock’ and brought it to school in Dallas, Texas.  Under the pretense of wanting to show this ‘clock’ to his teacher, he brought it into the school.  Another teacher saw this science project, thought it suspicious, and notified authorities.  Ahmed was arrested and led away from the school in handcuffs.

Did you see a picture of the device that was a clock?  It looked very sinister and did not look like anything that  would appear on my nightstand next to my bed.  Because it was in a briefcase, it looked all the more menacing.  So, little 14 year old Ahmed was led off to the police station in handcuffs, and the media blitz began with all the fury of a category 5 hurricane.

“Racial discrimination!”  “Religious discrimination!  (Did I mention Ahmed was a Muslim?)”   “He is only a young boy!”  On and on and on.  The liberal media, the liberal press, liberal celebrities and the liberal POTUS could not attach and interject themselves into this event quickly enough.

I read three news sources on the internet every morning.  I follow that up by reading my local newspaper every morning.  After I am done with this daily ritual, I always feel as if I am up on the events of the day.  On that particular morning, there was no mention of Ahmed.  The first I heard of it in the afternoon,  was because the President of the United States was inviting some 14 year old from Dallas, Texas, to the White House for a visit for being castigated and arrested for building a clock!  What?  MIT had invited him to visit their campus.  Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and billionaire of Facebook had invited him to visit his corporate headquarters.  He has had over $15,000 donated to his scholarship fund.  Overreaction?

Let’s look at this a little closer.  What would have happened if that device was a bomb and the school did nothing?  If something would have happened, the public would have cried for the heads of the teachers and administrators for allowing such an occurrence.  If the death of Cecil the Lion  created such an outcry as to want to execute the hunter, what would the school bombing create in terms of outrage?  I am sure those teachers and administrators remember well the events of Columbine and the Sandy Hook Elementary School.  Where I live, the schools still have deputy sheriffs assigned to them.

Religious discrimination?  It appears to me that everyone is so afraid of broaching the subject of religious discrimination that they fall over themselves to prove they are not discriminating.  But let’s be honest here,  in my post, Boo Hoo, I’m a Victim, I outlined 27 terroristic world events that were all done by Muslims.  Not Lutherans.  Not Baptists.  Not any other religion.  Muslims.  How can you not be a little more leery about Muslims with their track record of terrorism and killing.  This was not a Lutheran kid bringing a bag of lutefisk to school, this was a briefcase full of wires.

Someone brought up the idea that this was handled terribly because he was just a ‘kid.’  I will admit that maybe, just maybe, the police did not have to handcuff him.  I was not a witness and neither was anyone except the five police that were involved.  They probably wanted to be overly cautious rather than under-prepared until all the facts were known.  Hurray for them!    The comment about being only a ‘kid’?  Well, let me tell you that there are many of our veterans from Viet Nam, Afghanistan, and Iraq that will whole-heartedly  disagree with that statement.  Unfortunately for those veterans, they often fought and often killed fighters that were much younger than 14.  (According to Sharia law, a girl can marry as young as 9 years old!)  If you read the book or saw the movie, American Sniper, one of Chris Kyle’s first incidences involved a young boy, 8 or 9, that was going to fire a rocket propelled grenade at an approaching Marine force.  So, as far a Ahmed being a kid, if he were a terrorist he would already be a veteran by age 14.

Like all good liberals, there are often reactions before all the facts are known.  Did you know that Ahmed’s older sister was suspended from school for a bomb scare three years earlier?  Did you know that Ahmed’s dad once ran for president of Sudan and is a defense attorney?  Do you think any of that may be an influence on this whole event?  Could it have been staged?

Ahmed, by bringing this menacing looking ‘clock’ to school, broke a boat load of laws, both state and federal that have been enacted since 9/11.  I hope he takes his clock to the White House.  I hope MIT gives him admission.  But if I were them, I would review my admission standards for someone that blatantly has broken the law.

The one thing I cannot give my grandchildren?  My grandchildren will never be able to experience the “Age of Innocence” that Grandma P and I were a part of.

When we were growing up in the 50s and early 60s, life was much simpler and safer.  Our parents never had to lock their home.  Never.  Unlike today, no one ever thought of having a home alarm system.  It would have been thought to be ridiculous and unnecessary.  Today, many homes have an alarm system, including ours.  Without air conditioning, the windows were often open all night.  On a really hot night, the doors were open because the screen doors allowed the entry of any cooling breeze.

No need to worry about losing your car keys.  They were always in the ignition.  No one locked their car doors in my home town.

We never had to worry about illegal drugs.  There weren’t any.  Our idea of being ‘illegal’ was smoking a pack of Marlboros.  There wasn’t any market or usage of marijuana.  Being in a farming community, marijuana, or Indian hemp as we called it, grew wild in the ditches and around our fields.  It was a nuisance weed, so it was destroyed.  Who knew?  (That possibly explains why so many county workers volunteered to destroy it by burning.)  On occasion, as if we wanted to audition for membership to the Hell’s Angels, someone would steal a beer or two from their parents.  Six guys would share two beers.  You can tell that we were really greasing the skids straight to hell!

There was never any sex, swearing or violence on TV or in our movies.  We did not need PG whatever or PG18 whatever for ratings for our movies.  Every movie was pretty much appropriate for any age group.  I still love watching some of these old movies.  They were not only classics, but they were classy.  This was entertaining without being raucous.  Today’s movies and television are loaded with explicit sex scenes, swearing and overdone in very detailed explicit violence.  Your kids and grandkids are watching this!  From that and from violence enhanced video games, what are they learning?

In my youth, differences were settled with your fists.  Today….an assault rifle.  It takes a real man to punch someone in the face as opposed to shooting them in a drive by shooting.  If you punch someone, you are close enough to receive retaliation.  The cowards of today resort to lethal violence, from a distance.

In the 50s and 60s, we did not live in a world that was instantaneous.  We did not have social media or computers for that matter.  We had TV and radio news, magazines and newspapers.  We believed what our newscasters told us.  Today, less than 40% of the public trusts the media.   If ignorance is truly bliss, then we were damn happy.

We knew who our friends and allies were and who are enemies were.  It was pretty much cut and dried between the NATO members and the Warsaw Pact nations.  Our country said the Pledge of Allegiance; I did it every school morning for 12 years.  Our country was one made up of extremely proud, independent and patriotic citizens.

Every generation is marked by an event  or events that change their lives forever.  For the Greatest Generation, those who lived and fought during WWII, it was the Great Depression and the attack on Pearl Harbor.  For the Millennia’s and earlier, it was 9/11.  For the baby boomers of my generation, it was the assassination of President Kennedy.  If I had to throw a dart at a calendar to mark the day that my Age of Innocence ended, it would be November 22, 1963.  The 60s were marked by turmoil on a worldly stage.  Viet Nam was a protracted war that took over 57,000 American lives.  Both Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King were assassinated in the later 60s.  Lyndon Johnson decides not to run for reelection.  It seemed that almost overnight, our country went from being stable and peaceful to being one of turmoil and dissention.

My grandkids will never experience an ‘Age of Innocence.’

What would have happened with Ahmed if he were living in the US in the 50s?  He would have had his ‘clock’ taken away, reprimanded for bringing it to school, and then made to copy a page out of the dictionary with Miss McCarty during lunch recess for punishment.  My, how things have changed  He’s going to the White House and MIT.