Rethinking journalistic authority: Walter Cronkite and ritual in television news

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16 Scopus citations

Abstract

As the journalistic community confronts ongoing material transformations altering the production and reception of news, it also faces a continuing crisis of authority. The death of legendary US television news anchor Walter Cronkite in 2009 provided a moment for working and retired journalists to consider publicly the crisis of journalistic authority through explanations of his immense success anchoring the CBS Evening News during the 1960s and 1970s. During this era, nightly Cronkite viewing became a ritual for millions of Americans, which suggests the need to include attributes of ritual within an understanding of journalistic authority. Yet rather than acknowledge a role for ritual, journalists limited their self-assessment by invoking a narrow set of norms stressing information transmission. Ultimately, this failure by the community to acknowledge journalistic authority in all its complexity hinders journalists' ability to confront challenges encountered in the contemporary media environment. This essay broadens conceptions of journalistic authority by calling for a greater acknowledgement of the role of ritual as a means of understanding journalism in both historical and contemporary contexts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)483-498
Number of pages16
JournalJournalism Studies
Volume13
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 1 2012
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Walter Cronkite
  • journalistic authority
  • ritual
  • television news

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