I have always been a bit of a news junkie. While I won’t say I was glued to the TV for the nightly national news broadcast as a teen, I was always aware of what was going on in the world.
As I got older, of course, I was much more likely to watch and absorb the news – local and national. I remember the stern news anchors who delivered the news with a straight face and even slight disinterest.
I remember seeing CNN for the first time in the 1980s – it started in 1980 – and thinking there was no way a 24-hour news channel could be a money maker. It was incredibly repetitive. How would they fill all those hours?
CNN seemed to struggle with that, honestly. But then came the Gulf War in 1991. CNN had people on the ground in Baghdad, Iraq, when the bombs started dropping. I will say, it was riveting television and journalism.
I remember especially liking the work being done by Bernard Shaw, who was in a hotel in Baghdad with colleagues while the skies lit up. Their reporting really made CNN, and Shaw solidified his place in the pantheon of TV news people.
Sadly, Shaw died recently at the age of 82. He was one of the generation of TV news people who was actually more interested in reporting news and less interested in being a personality.
Shaw died on Sept. 7. That was the same day another reporter I greatly admired died as well. That reporter was Anne Garrels, a longtime foreign correspondent for NPR.
When I am driving, NPR is my go-to news source. They cover every topic well, from breaking news to the economy to technology. But NPR really excels at covering international news. In a day when TV networks and 24-hour “news” channels have cut way back on covering foreign news, NPR has remained focused on the rest of the world, and I am thankful for that.
If you listened to NPR, you knew Garrels. She was in the thick of everything, all the time. If there was a war, Garrels was there. She was clearly not dumb, but she did seem to be pretty fearless. Her reporting was simply fantastic.
One story after her death said that Garrels was the kind of reporter who would drive alone across a war zone if that is what it took to get the story. That is a real journalist.
Sadly, that is sorely lacking in today’s TV news scape. As I have written many times before, 24-hour cable news is not really about news anymore. It is about personalities pushing agendas that fit the beliefs of their bosses. Fox News is notorious for this. CNN, once a fine news organization, has fallen into the same trap.
Cable news these days, sadly, is all about shoveling “news” that clearly has a point of view. These current talking heads are an embarrassment and not journalists at all.
It is not much better at the local level. I have known many local TV news folks over the years, and they are more focused on getting face time on screen than the actual story.
Also, my beloved local newspapers are dying as well. Print is a dinosaur and so am I, apparently. Our country is worse off without strong journalism. But people don’t really want the truth these days. They just want to hear something that supports their beliefs.
But Shaw and Garrels were true journalists who did great work and were important to this country. I am thankful to have enjoyed their work and wish there were more like them on the national stage.
Brad Jennings is the editor of the Ogle County Life.