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Friday, May 26, 2017

What Would Johnny and Walter Do?

I don't watch a ton of television, but I do follow trends.  It seems anything anti Trump seems to be doing well in the ratings, especially Rachel Maddow, Saturday Night Live, and Stephen Colbert.  One of the things I do watch is Johnny Carson on WNEP 2.  Politics provided a lot of Carson's monolog material, and he held court during some of America's most fascinating times-- Nixon's crimes, Ford's bumbling and inflation, Carter's weakness, Reagan's perceived indifference toward the poor, Bush 41's lack of knowledge of the problems of the middle class...


Carson was miles ahead of the current bunch.  He poked at the powerful, but he did it with charm, wit, and a smile.  Now, what passes for comedy is simply mean.


Now, let's take you back about 20 years.  I was producing the morning news at another station.  There are times I'd write something funky and funny.  One of the anchors, a guy I liked, respected and admired, would print the script, walk over to my desk and say "Would Cronkite say it that way?"  The answer was always "no."  I'd change the script to make the anchor happy.  If an anchor isn't happy with the copy, he or she would read it poorly, and no one wins when that happens.


In this modern day and age, it's a Facebook world.  We all want you to "like" us and read what we have to say.  Some people have more fun with it than others, and that's OK.  To each, his own.  there are times I'm tempted to go out of character, let what's left of my hair down.  Then, I hear an inner voice.  It says "Would Cronkite do that?"  That's when I apply the brakes.


From what I've read and seen, Uncle Walter did like to have fun.  He did a morning show with a puppet lion named Charlemagne.   he did pose for the rare goofy picture.  There were guest appearances on the Mary Tyler Moore Show and Johnny Carson.


I wonder how Cronkite and the pioneers would handle modern social media.   My bet would be the happy medium-- newsy, personal insights, a little fun, without going overboard.


For me, it's easier said than done.


One other thing before I hit the "publish" button for the day.  Monica Lewinsky had an op-ed piece in the New York Times.  She charged former FOX News Channel head Roger Ailes exploited her.  Ailes died last week.  Ms. Lewinsky got it wrong.  Bill Clinton exploited her.