October 10, 2011
What is annoying about Anderson—his emotionalism, his informality, his slightly effeminate manner—is more symptomatic of his generation of mediosos. In contrast to their predecessors, today’s newsboys lack not merely gravitas and style, but maturity. It is hard to imagine the nation, afflicted by some great woe, turning to Cooper and his generation as they once did to Cronkite. It is hard to imagine any of these lads inspiring the public with the same unquestioning trust in their probity as did those who came before—even if, as with Cooper, that trust might be deserved.
Reality was quite different back then. Rooney’s views we know about; the seemingly genial Godfrey was a manipulative tyrant; Cronkite’s apparent impartiality masked a very particular agenda; and on and on. Is not Cooper’s wearing of his heart on his sleeve a refreshing change, and the ideological openness of Fox News and MSNBC an improvement over the faux-neutrality of yore?
Maybe so. And maybe the fragmenting of entertainment and news via television and the Internet into a million specially interested sites is a good thing, slowly eating away the false and stifling consensus of ages past. Certainly, those (such as myself) with decidedly minority views are able to get a far wider hearing than we ever could before—alongside a million others of equal marginality.
I still miss the old order, when a handful of stations produced a televised news and entertainment frame of reference to which all of us could connect in some degree. I miss when broadcasters appeared reliable, knowledgeable, and grown-up, rather than as perplexed and flawed as their viewers. I miss when there were standards that transcended opinion.
Illusory or not, those days are gone, and all of us, whether young, middle-aged, or old must deal with life as it is. That being the case, I wish Messrs. Rooney and Philbin well in their retirement and pray that Andy may discover spiritual and temporal wisdom in his dotage. But to Anderson and his peers, I offer advice couched as prayer: Please, boys, butch it up!