Believe it or not, I grew up in a time when the “most trusted man in America” was Walter Cronkite. Every evening, my Dad would come home from work, have a Martini or an Old Fashioned and watch Walter tell him what happened that day. If we wanted time with Dad, we either waited or sat on the floor while he watched. It just was how it was in those days. Walter, and the Oregonian, were where my parents got their news. It was a pretty typical household. We watched Walter tell us about the Viet Nam War, JFK being shot, the Moon Landing and many other astonishing events that rocked our world. We just knew he was telling us the truth.
Some time in my teens, the “radio” came into play as well. The “radio” was where my Mom got her information during the day – before Dad came home to watch Walter. The radio was this new breed called Public Radio and they did in-depth stories Walter wasn’t able to do on television news. The stories led to really cool dinner conversations (with the whole family) because there was more information that often included both sides of a story.
Shocking as it may seem to some, we didn’t have computers, cell phones, email or even fax machines. There were three networks, a few radio stations and the daily newspaper. In most families the news was supplemented by fabulous conversation and we were always encouraged to join in. We used to love to get together with another family to “debate” the issues.
Today, with the advent of the Web, email, texting and various social media tools we’ve all become experts. Some aren’t sure there’s a place for mainstream media anymore. There’s talk social media tools are replacing the network news programs, newspapers and radio news. I’m not so sure though. While these are great sources for information, connections, relationships and community…just who is the most trusted man/woman in America.
In the past 12 months, there have been several world events that unfolded on social media, before they were reported on traditional media. In most cases, the story that in the end was accurate was a combination of social media blips and investigative reporting. Today, we’re all so quick to read and “retweet” or forward, so we are first with the news, we aren’t taking the few minutes to make sure what we’re saying is accurate. As communicators, it’s critical we take that extra few minutes to say…I wonder if this could really be true, verify and ask a few questions before passing on information. We must ensure what we’re “reporting” is fair, accurate and truthful or we won’t be trusted.
In thinking about this post, it made me wonder who the most trusted man/woman in America is today? While the days of having someone like Walter are most likely gone, I wonder where we’ll go next. Who’s your most trusted man/woman? Why? Where do you see us going?