Signs of the Apocalypse: Fact-Checking Sarah Palin’s Tweets
Sure, she misquoted Plato, but nobody cares about that outside philosophy departments. But now Talibunny’s tweeting Uncle Walter:
“Most newspapermen by definition have to be liberal; if they’re not, by my definition, they can hardly be good newspapermen” W. Cronkite
That one’s a staple among wingnut “media watchdogs” — and to nobody’s surprise, it’s twisted out of context.
The occasion was the June 1973 issue of Playboy, back when people really did read it for the articles. Then as now, elected officials were bitching about the “liberal” slant of the news. (And also then as now, elected officials were subverting the Constitution, but that’s another story.) So let’s join the interview, already in progress…
PLAYBOY: Implicit in the Administration’s attempts to force the networks to “balance” the news is a conviction that most newscasters are biased against conservatism. Is there some truth in the view that television newsmen tend to be left of center?
CRONKITE: Well, certainly liberal, and possibly left of center as well. I would have to accept that.
PLAYBOY: What’s the distinction between those two terms?
CRONKITE: I think the distinction is both clear and important. I think that being a liberal, in the true sense, is being nondoctrinaire, nondogmatic, noncommitted to a cause — but examining each case on its merits. Being left of center is another thing; it’s a political position. I think most newspapermen by definition have to be liberal; if they’re not liberal, by my definition of it, then they can hardly be good newspapermen. If they’re preordained dogmatists for a cause, then they can’t be very good journalists; that is, if they carry it into their journalism.
As far as the leftist thing is concerned, that I think is something that comes from the nature of a journalist’s work. Most newsmen have spent some time covering the seamier side of human endeavor; they cover police stations and courts and the infighting in politics. And I think they come to feel very little allegiance to the established order. I think they’re inclined to side with humanity rather than with authority and institutions. And this sort of pushes them to the left. But I don’t think there are many who are far left. I think a little left of center probably is correct.
So yes, America’s Most Trusted Journalist used the L-Word. But he distinguished it from the other L-Word, the one always preceded by “Far” when it emerges from Bill O’Reilly’s piehole. For that matter, Cronkite’s “liberal” has nothing to do with politics, and everything to do with being a good reporter. Preordained dogmatists? Fox News was still generation away.
But Cronkite also granted that reporters are inclined to be Lefties, not just Liberals. Doesn’t that make Palin’s point? Well, read it again: I think they’re inclined to side with humanity rather than with authority and institutions. And sure enough, it’s folks in authority who have the most to gain from undermining journalism.
So maybe we should thank Sarah Palin for inadvertently reminding us what good journalism is about. Or, short of that, reminding us of the 1973 Playmate of the Year.
Walter Cronkite: Playboy Interview [Playboy, June 1973]
Sarah Palin [Twitter]