Elevate Difference

From Cronkite to Colbert: The Evolution of Broadcast News

I consider myself a bit of a news junkie so a title involving both Walter Cronkite and Stephen Colbert immediately caught my attention. While Cronkite was first able to break heavy concepts down for the masses and Colbert was later on able to do the same using humor, From Cronkite to Colbert is not able to do either. This was an extremely hard book to read, and in truth, I was not able to get past the middle.

Author Geoffrey Baym writes in an extremely dense, over-reaching style, making From Cronkite to Colbert read like an overzealous undergraduate thesis or a none too subtle proposal for the new COM201 textbook. Either way, instead of being entertained while learning, this book had me remembering everything I hated about studying for my communications minor. I read this book not because it was fun, but because I had to, and as a result, I really learned no new neat tidbits about the evolution of broadcast news.

Another pet peeve of mine was Baym’s breaking of the "don’t tell us, show us" cardinal rule of writing. In many of his paragraphs, he tells the reader—in hundred dollar words no less—exactly how this fact correlates to that one or where this next fact will take them. I was never surprised or intrigued, but merely taken by the hand as a reader and escorted to every point. By the time I made it to the book’s middle, after agonizing weeks of attempting to force myself to get through it, I gave up. Tracing the history of television news still seems like it would be an interesting topic to read up on; however, I’d come back to asking Baym to cover it only after he loosened up a little or possibly took up social drinking.

Written by: Jen Klee, November 6th 2009

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