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Watching TV news from past decades is a great way to gain perspective on the present

  • YouTube and other internet sources feature TV programming in their entirety from past decades, such as this CBS Evening News report from July 31, 1968, with anchors Walter Cronkite and Charles Kuralt. "I discovered something amazing," says Farhad Manjoo. "After 1960, much of history as many Americans experienced it — through popular culture on TV, on the radio and at the movies — is preserved and easily accessible online. With a few clicks around YouTube, history leaps into the present, often in ways that deepen and complicate the narrative." Manjoo adds: "The Trump era has drawn numerous comparisons to the 1960s and early ’70s. Both periods have had protests, riots, police brutality, political turmoil and corruption and endless war. And both have been consumed by unsettled questions over race, gender and equality. What has stood out to me is not the similarities in plot but the differences in presentation. Watching TV news from the past is jarring and refreshing. A lot of it is outmoded — this is the news as seen through the eyes of old white men — but there are aspects to coverage from the past that I felt myself pining for in the present. When broadcast news was tightly controlled by three TV networks, there was an antiquated formality to the spectacle. I marveled at the tone of the presidential news conferences from the time....Broadcast news, which the TV networks offered as public service, also had little room for cheap punditry and outrage in search of profits. As a result, the coverage was more serious than anything on the dial today — no shouting talking heads, no montages of precisely edited sound bites, nothing engineered to drive you to share with your million friends. But because broadcast news was the only game in town, it was also more trustworthy, and more influential — perhaps explaining why both Johnson’s and Nixon’s presidencies ultimately collapsed under the weight of their own distortions."

    TOPICS: Walter Cronkite, CBS Evening News, Charles Kuralt, Retro TV