In 1972, an Oliver Quayle survey declared Walter Cronkite “the most trusted man in America.” Recently, American University Professor Joseph Campbell, author of the book Getting It Wrong!, states that Cronkite was not the most trusted man in America at that time, and even wasn’t the most trusted newsman of the day. Dr. Campbell claims that the survey compared Cronkite to politicians of the day, not news anchors, but he fails to mention a 1974 Roper poll for Virginia Slims cigarettes that Cronkite won hands down. It actually asked who you respected and listed such notables as Marlon Brando, Frank Sinatra, and Joe Namath. Dr. Campbell also fails to mention that the so-called myth of Cronkite being the “most trusted man in America” was first written in an article by right-wing author Michael M. Bates entitled “The ‘most trusted man in America’ reconsidered” first published July 19, 2009. Dr. Campbell, who holds a doctorate in communications, speaks as if this myth-busting information is his own, while snacking on ten other self-proclaimed journalistic fallacies in his book. Needless to say, I don’t trust either Dr. Campbell or Mr. Bates.
The question is “Who do you trust?” What is trust and why is it so important to be confirmed or discredited? I grew up listening to Walt Cronkite, and I trusted him. I trusted he delivered the news without much extraneous comment or consideration. I didn’t trust him with my wallet or the keys to my car. If I knew him personally, maybe I’d let him hold my wallet, but I’d still never give him my car keys. But, I believed a lot of what he said as it pertained to the news. So, is it possible to trust someone in a limited way? That is, can I trust a person with my money, but not with my wife? Do we need someone to be perfect in every way to be trustworthy?
In construction, I worked with people that I trusted to do certain jobs with professional precision, but I wouldn’t loan them a hammer or a chalk line. Others, I couldn’t let out of my sight in the workplace, but loved to sit and chat over a couple of beers. I find that most people can’t do this. Most people’s mistrust in one facet of a person translates in the lack of confidence of that person as a whole. Perhaps the question should be, “Who can you trust?” If you’re intolerant of small flaws and indiscretions, the answer is “No one!”
We now live in a world of light speed communication, where celebrities of all kind suffer unbearable scrutiny and the common person posts personal information with delight. There are no secrets anymore, and even less privacy. It’s no wonder the word “trust” is meaningless. We are lost in a sea of gigabytes and terabytes that allow anyone and everyone to tap into every aspect of our lives, stealing our identities, our money and corrupting our vital information. We live in a nation where the words “In God We Trust” grace our money, and if you’re Muslim, Buddist, Humanist, or atheist, how can you trust a government that promotes freedom to worship as you please, while advertising God on its currency? How disquieting for all believers and non-believers that the government is advertising religion and “trust.” Cronkite believed that trust was an individual thing. Apparently, he was wrong. Trust me, it’s something to think about.
I wonder who Walter Cronkite trusted?