The debate over good journalism has been raging for decades in the United States, but has picked up enormous steam in the last few years. While cable news struggles to keep up with the digital world, terms like fake news make many long for the days when Edward R. Murrow (pictured above), Walter Cronkite, or Tom Brokaw were the most dominating figures in journalism. Unfortunately, many are nostalgic for a type of journalist that never truly existed.

What many think of now as the trusted journalist is a modern day reimagining of what went on during the early days of broadcast journalism. Perhaps best mythologized in the HBO series The Newsroom, the idea of a singular figure who tells it like it is to the American public is something that only existed for certain demographics among that public.


None of the great broadcast journalists that dominated Nielsen boxes or radio waves were dramatically different from Chris Wallace, Anderson Cooper, or pre-scandal Brian Williams. What’s change is that the biases and systems of power that modern day journalists are often accused of fitting into (the so-called “mainstream media” or the reactionary echo chambers) were just more broadly defined during the years when broadcast journalism was primarily heard on the radio, and the early stages of televised broadcast journalism.


No widely popular journalist was actively fighting the power structures of their day, those power structures simply didn’t have a name and weren’t identified by the general public. Contemporarily, where topics like political correctness, and cultural appropriation, are more mainstream issues, those who wish to maintain various systems of power simply dismiss anyone small who speaks against them, and no one who becomes widely popular stays popular by speaking against these systems.

Jeff Daniels as anchor Will McAvoy in the HBO series The Newsroom

There’s a concept media critics discuss called Bourgeois Theatre that basically states that no play that gets popular enough to be on Broadway or the West End is actually critiquing the culture of the day. The same is true for journalists; there are the small timers who can say what they want and fight existing systems of oppression, and the more popular journalists who need to play to the middle, and the middle is still upholding those systems. The thing most people get wrong is that this has always been true of journalism.

Dylan James Harper is the Chief Political Editor for CSuiteMusic
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