Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Old school homework

It's been kind of interesting this past week, seeing vintage television clips on the various networks. Between Walter Cronkite's passing and the fortieth anniversary of the moon landing, black and white has been creeping into our newscasts.

Then I realized that all this stuff is easily accessible online, and represents a treasure trove for you guys who have never seen this stuff.

Watching Cronkite for several minutes as he broadcast the news of JFK's assassination was quite impressive, as he continued to say "unconfirmed" until he was absolutely sure the President was dead. Compare that to many of today's newscasts, in which being first rather than right is often the guideline.

You might check out ABC's Frank Reynolds broadcast when Reagan was shot, as he gets a bit huffy with the staff while on the air, demanding that they get the story right.

There's a video history book online at your disposal, from Edward R. Murrow to Mike Wallace to Harry Reasoner. It would do you all a lot of good to spend a day watching this stuff. Too often we are directed to news bloopers online, but there are plenty of examples of classic reporting for you to see.

The other day Mitch Albom had a great commentary about Cronkite, about how the news business is no longer about the story, but who is bringing you the story. To the viewer, content is still king, and it's worth keeping that in mind. While many of the clips you watch will seem very dated, pay attention to the content, to the story structure, and to the way the anchors conduct themselves. In many cases, class seems to have gone out the window in many of today's newscasts.

So, for your homework assignment, watch some old school anchoring and reporting. You might pick up a trick or two.

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