Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Chuck Signs Off

Over the past five years, we've taken our share of shots at the media. From our (slightly) biased perspective, most of them were well-deserved.

But the mainstream press--and its members--are worthy of praise on rare occasions. One of those moments occurred last week, when Chuck Roberts, one of the original anchors on CNN's Headline News, signed off after 28 years at the network.

Mr. Roberts was never a star at the network; when Headline News debuted in 1982, he anchored the very first newscast. Nearly 30 years later, Roberts was still the afternoon host for the network, handling routine newscasts and breaking news with equal aplomb.

But there was one thing Chuck Roberts never did at CNN that made him unique. In an era when anchors feel compelled to raise an eyebrow, or add a little voice inflection to slant a story, Mr. Roberts never did. He always played it straight, letting the audience form their own opinions. It was once a cardinal rule of broadcast journalism; by the time Roberts retired, he was one of the few practitioners at the network level.

In that respect, Chuck Roberts was a throwback to another era. His approach was reminiscent of the late Frank Blair, the original newscaster on NBC's "Today" and a vastly underrated journalist. Mr. Blair delivered the morning news headlines for 23 years, becoming one of the best-known TV personalities of his era. Yet, his style was so balanced that both his NBC colleagues and competitors said they could never deduce Blair's political leanings.

With public trust in the media at (or near) all-time lows, you'd think there would be room for the next Frank Blair or the next Chuck Roberts. But sadly, you'd be wrong.
Incidentally, Mr. Robert's on-air farewell at CNN was about what you'd expect; low-key and professional, with the anchor focusing primarily on his colleagues, and not himself. The last of a breed.

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