Thursday, June 12, 2003

Newsreader blog.

A quick read of one of David Brinkley's obits today revealed that he spent some time as a student at Vanderbilt, though I wasn't able to determine if he took his degree there. I hadn't known that. We're out there, we old Vandy grads and undergrads, burrowed into society: Roy Blount Jr., Amy Grant, Ross Perot Jr., Lamar Alexander, Al Gore... and me.

I'm just old enough to remember Huntley-Brinkley. I was a funny kid who watched the evening news sometimes, back in the late '60s, and it was usually those two. Jay, who was in high school at the time, might be able to say why we weren't a Cronkite-watching household. I can't say whether watching television news at age 8 or 9 has had any lasting effects on me, except perhaps to help inoculate me against devoting too much energy to certain perennial stories, most especially the Arab-Israeli fighting -- the newsreaders were yakking about that 35 years ago, and will be long enough so that Lilly and Ann will grow tired of it.

Some years ago, I read an article about television coverage of the war in Vietnam, and the author made a point of describing how the nightly body counts on the news upset him. Not only that, he posited that that was a common reaction; and I suppose it was. But I don't remember taking it that way -- if I'd been asked (and I never was), I would have described it as normal, in the indifferent way children can have: Yeah, so what? People get killed in wars. Not only that, television coverage of the war itself was not novel, since you don't have too many other points of reference at that age.

So I suppose there's a glimmer of truth to that idiotic cliche about the "loss of American innocence," which is dragged out when something terrible happens, most recently after the attacks on New York and Washington. By the time I was old enough to make any kind of judgments about events in the wider world (the mid-70s), I expected the government and corporations to lie sometimes, soldiers to die in battle, and a lot people to live in awful poverty, among many other problems. The marvel is that anyone ever believed differently, and I can only attribute it to the comfortable childhoods of the middle class after World War II -- some people slightly older than me forgot that the United States participates in the human condition too.


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