Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The most trusted man in america


The late Walter Cronkite was an anchorman for CBS News for 19 years (1962-1981), and was often cited as “the most trusted man in America”. His signature closing line was, “and that’s the way it is”. Surprisingly, that famous closing line came about accidentally, and very nearly not at all, which he explains in the video below:

an interview with Walter

Unlike the broadcast industry that I grew up in (with just three major television networks and no FM radio stations), today’s news sources are highly fragmented. In addition to hundreds of cable TV channels, we also get our news from an endless variety of internet sources, as well as talk radio. The traditional large newspapers are still in operation, but have been forced to change dramatically in recent years in order to survive.

In December of 2008, the venerable Tribune Company filed for bankruptcy, and the Minneapolis Star-Tribune filed a month later. A month after the Star-Tribune filing, two major newspapers in Philadelphia threw in the towel.

In view of all the fragmentation and turbulence in the news industry, who IS “the most trusted man in America” today?

The answer to that question is the man pictured below:

That title was conferred on him in a number of polls, and he was also mentioned in The New York Times, which I would consider to be a very reputable news source.

The odd thing about Jon Stewart is that his show (the “Daily Show”) is broadcast on the Comedy Central channel, and isn’t even real news, which seems to underscore the degree of cynicism that a lot of folks in this country feel about the direction our country is heading.

If the decision to pick the most trusted man in America were left up to me, my choice would be one that would surprise a lot of people. His picture is shown below:

Thomas Friedman and I have a few things in common, because we were both born in Minnesota, and we both studied at the University of Minnesota. In addition, we've both spent far more time in China than most Americans have, even though our roles there were much different.

Thomas ultimately transferred from the University of Minnesota, and graduated from Brandeis University, summa cum laude. He earned his masters degree at the University of Oxford. After graduation, he went to work for UPI, but joined the staff of the New York Times in 1981, where he has been ever since. His work at the Times earned him three Pulitzer Prizes, and he was elected to the Pulitzer Prize board in 2005. Due to his expertise in the Middle East, he is one of the people that President Obama consults with when formulating policy positions in that part of the world.

In addition to his regular columns for the New York Times, he has also written SIX books. Although I have not read his first two, I HAVE read the four books after that, including the most recent, which I finished reading this afternoon. “That Used To Be Us” (co-authored with Michael Mandelbaum) is both frightening and inspirational.

The large print version (which I borrowed from the local library) is a daunting 685 pages in length. In spite of that, though, I would consider the book to be a “must read” for as many people as possible, ESPECIALLY the politicians who are running our country.

Even if you’re a slow reader, if you set aside 20 minutes a day to read it, you’d be finished in about a month’s time, and you’d have a much better grasp of where we are as a country, and where we need to be going.

Thomas Friedman may not be “the most admired man in America”, but that’s a distinction that may come his way eventually. For now, a number of sources have called him “the voice of reason”, and that’s a pretty good start. (The most admired man in America, by the way, is Barack Obama, followed closely by former President George W. Bush).

If the thought of reading a LONG book seems more than a little daunting to you, I’d recommend at least reading some of his thoughts on his blog or in his columns in The New York Times.

Tom Friedman may not have all the answers, but I can assure you that if gives you his opinion on pretty much anything, “that’s the way it is”.

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