Let’s take a little trip back in history. Who was your favorite newscaster when you were growing up? I remember mine was uncle Walter. Walter Cronkite. Not only did we have the same first name, but I like the way that he reassured the public through some very troubled times.
Remember that famous broadcast right after President Kennedy was assassinated? Even with his voice cracking with emotion his voice was still reassuring. Over on ABC, it was Peter Jennings. I had a friend in grade school with the same name. But Jennings was a chronic heavy smoker and died of lung cancer at an early age.
My favorite news broadcaster in St. Louis was Chris Condon. I remember living next to the mob when I was growing up. Uncle Pete “found” a dead body in the trunk of a Buick while he was working on the street. Yes, it was a Buick.
It was in July and the body had turned black with rot. A bunch of us kids gathered to watch with morbid fascination. Two detectives put a white sheet underneath the body while another sprayed Lysol into the trunk. On the count of three they flipped him out of the trunk. His head sounded like a ripe watermelon splitting open when it hit the sidewalk.
Channel 5 also had a weatherman named Bob Richards. He was very funny as he gave the weather report. He came up with things like “hot times summer in the city. Back of my neck getting dirty and gritty.” But Bob tragically committed suicide by helicopter. He aimed his helicopter straight up into the sky and then came plummeting down.
ABC had Don Marsh. Don had been around forever and just retired recently. Even so, I considered him boring. Over at Channel 4, a CBS affiliate, there was Julius Hunter. Julius has written a book about St. Louis history. In it he tells how north St. Louis became poor and Black, while south St. Louis prospered and became rich and white.
Around the turn of the century there was a large lake that separated north St. Louis from south St. Louis. People would throw their garbage in there. This was before modern sanitation. Eventually the lake became so polluted that it started to stink, especially in the summer when the winds were from the south.
The rich people moved south leaving the now destitute north side to the poor.
Today more and more people are getting their news from cable or the web. They don’t have favorite newscasters anymore.
According to the St. Louis Post Dispatch, “Is America becoming a cable nation? With CNN getting 32 percent and Fox News 29 percent as the most trustworthy source of news, it would appear so. But if you factor in that around 50 percent of those that chose Fox were Republicans and 46 percent of those who chose CNN were Democrats (surprise) it might be an indication that America’s propensity for fractious ideological divisions has spilled into how they choose to receive their daily ration of news. The big three networks (13 percent), The New York Times (8 percent) and the Wall Street Journal (7 percent) reflect an increasing diminution of old model, mainstream news delivery. Is it a seismic shift in the news business or an anomaly based on CNN’s and Fox’s all news all the time formats that tend to appeal to news junkies? Film at eleven…”