Cronkite criticizes dwindling news coverage

Media legend Walter Cronkite criticized the shrinking amount oftime television and radio networks devote to serious news during apress conference before the Simon Benson Awards Dinner Wednesdaynight, saying that important issues are not given enough time forthe public to understand them.

“It’s impossible in 16 minutes a day to inform people so theycan make informed decisions,” Cronkite said.

“Our world has become much more complicated and dangerous,” hesaid. “And we do not give them enough time.”

Cronkite, who covered D-Day and the air war over Germany duringWorld War II and anchored CBS news from 1962 to 1981, is widelycelebrated as an icon of broadcast journalism.

The aging Cronkite, now 87, who suffers from hearing difficultyand was nursing a tennis injury Wednesday night, was in goodspirits, joking with the reporters at the conference.

“On deadline?” he quipped as he entered the room.

Cronkite lamented network news broadcasts being shortened tohalf an hour since his time working as an anchor in the 1970s andoffered a few ideas for improving coverage in light of having suchlittle time.

Cronkite suggested that networks transform their news magazineshows, such as NBC’s “Dateline” into “instant documentaries” aboutthe day’s news.

The half-hour evening news broadcast could then be used for”serious commentary on the news,” Cronkite said.

The former anchorman was also adamant about protecting thepress’s right to free speech.

“Our democracy depends on that being preserved,” he said.

Cronkite dismissed a question about the media being biased,saying that “very little of that kind of stuff creeps into the goodnewspapers.”

“The public likes to read into papers what they expect to findthere,” he added.

To the specific concern of reporters having a liberal bias,Cronkite joked that most publishers are “way over on the otherside.”

Cronkite also criticized attempts by the U.S. Justice Departmentto investigate reporters’ confidential sources.

When asked if he thought such investigations are a violation ofFirst Amendment rights, Cronkite responded, “I certainly do.”

At the conference’s end, Portland State President DanielBernstine presented Cronkite with a patterned blanket from thePendleton wool company, called “Storyteller.”

On his way out, Cronkite chided reporters once again: “Don’t goto print without checking the facts,” he said.