- Books, Literature, and Writing
A Baker's Dozen - My Favorite Media Personalities, Journalists & Commentators
Dean of TV News
Over the years I've watched a lot of news and editorial programs on radio and TV and read a lot of stuff in the newspapers. I'm going to list here, my personal top ten figures in the news media who influenced me along the way. Remember, I was born in 1954, so I missed folks like Edward R. Murrow and those guys. This is an eclectic list and is in order of when I first became aware of them, NOT in order of greatest impact.
# 1. Walter Cronkite: It was in the wake of the assasination of John F. Kennedy that I first sat beside the TV and listened to Uncle Walter tell America about our fallen president. Through the coming decades, the moon landing, Vietnam and the Cold War, it was his was the voice we turned to when we wanted to know what was going on. He may have been an old leftie, but he was every inch an American.
# 2. Dick West: Dick West was a columnist with UP/UPI wrote a five day a week column called "The Lighter Side" for 28 years for them. West joined the old United Press in 1946, covered the Hoffa racketeering trials, then took on his regular humor column, writing it for United Press International until 1988, when both he and the column retired. I remember him because his column was syndicated in the Cleburne Times-Review, the newspaper that I delivered on my bicycle 6 days a week for 3 years in 6th, 7th and 8th grade. I read his column every day. It was funny and serious. He was conservative, even by the standards of the 60's and warned against the excesses of the radicals of the time. He was articulate and made me want to write a newspaper column. He got me hooked on writing opinion pieces of my own. His columns were part of the reason I took English-Communications in College. Sadly his photo is missing from the rogue's gallery to the right, because it is nowhere preserved on the Internet that I can find. It's too bad he just missed the rise of the electronic media. I'm not sure Mr. West would have appreciated being one of the last of the old style syndicated print journalists.
#3. Charles Schultz: I used to be an avid reader of the comics section of the newspaper, but I never was a fan of any strip until "Peanuts" came along. Charlie Schultz' round-headed kid and I have a lot in common. People still call me "Charlie Brown" and I take it as a compliment. I learned a lot about how to survive in the world if you're a shy person from Charlie. From Snoopy, I learned how not to care what the rest of the world thinks and to create your own vivid world with yourself as the hero. Heady stuff for the funny pages!
# 4. Ronald Reagan: In the 70's I was too busy starting a family and paying the bills to pay much attention to the news. But there was one weekly radio commentator, I tried to catch whenever I could. After losing the 1976 Republican nomination to Gerald Ford, Reagan started doing a weekly radio editorial. After I heard the first one, I was hooked! He was clear, positive and had the greatest voice since Walter Cronkite. Reagan's addresses completed my transformation to conservatism.
# 5. Paul Harvey: Paul Harvey had always been there, I just somehow missed him. Then, sometime in the 80's I found his lunch time news show on 820 AM WBAP in Dallas. I caught it every day I could get near a radio at noon from then till he died last year. The man was priceless!
# 6. Rush Limbaugh: I stumbled on Rush in the 90's. As I prepared to launch my children into adulthood and the wider world, I suddenly completed my political transformation from what my high school buddy Mark called a liberal conservative, to a solid conservative. I began to grow impatient with the Republican party and to separate myself from the party. Regretfully, I became an Independent. I almost always voted Republican, except in the case of Blue Dog Democrat Ralph Hall, who was congressman for the 1st district in East Texas. Limbaugh sometimes got a little out there on environmental issues, but he made us laugh and humor was something conservatives badly needed to master.
# 7. Bill Watterston: Watterston wrote brilliant commentary on the human condition through his comic strip, "Calvin and Hobbs". Calvin, an ADD elementary school terror and his dry witted stuffed tiger Hobbs threw a light on my own life story, revealing some thing I recognized about myself. The strip was a revelation and then one day, Bill was done. He disappeared into the woods and hasn't been seen since. Bill is my kind of writer. My problem is that I disappeared into the woods BEFORE I wrote my masterwork! Ah, well.
# 8. Charlie Gibson: Okay, before anyone stones me, I know which direction Charlie leans, but he anchored Good Morning America with Joan London, then Diane Sawyer and they were the best thing going in the morning. I got used to Charlie in the morning and I liked him. He kept his politics low-key for the most part and didn't seem nearly as disingenuous as Peter Jennings who had a kind of self-righteousness to his editorializing that I never warmed to. Charlie moved my news watching to mornings. He and I watched the second plane hit the twin towers that horrible day and he said what I was thinking.
# 9. Glenn Beck: Glenn Beck was a revelation. I'd never experienced a news commentator quite like him. He had Limbaugh's wit, Sean Hannity's intensity and O'Reilly's ability to pick apart a bogus argument without most of their flaws. He has an ability to let his guest finish a sentence. He's modest and honest about who he is. He calls himself a rodeo clown. And he cries on the air! That is so cool. I thought I was the only conservative that got all blubbery over this stuff. Beck is on a "mission from God" to quote John Belushi's memorable Blues Brother, Jake. I wish him Godspeed!
# 10. Matt Drudge: I kept hearing Rush Limbaugh and others talk about the "Drudge Report" and quote all these wild stories that you never hear in the mainstream media. I finally looked him up. Wow! What a treasure trove of information Drudge has created here. Drudge is one of the original bloggers and a pioneer of today's Internet blogosphere. Matt brought respect to conservative bloggers and was a big part of getting them a desk at the political conventions. He remains an anonymous figure - I don't know his face. Wouldn't recognize him on the street, but the Drudge Report is the bane of the existence of every crooked politician in America. Good on ya', Matt.
That's all I've got to say.
P.S. I have to add three more. I know I said "10" when I first wrote it, but it's my column and I've got three more I just can't leave out. To wit.......
# 11. Michelle Malkin: Malkin is a new discovery for me. Her meteoric rise as a self-employed journalist is simply amazing. Michelle turned news media on its ear by creating a one woman news bureau. She was the first blogger whose face I came to recognize and I've started reading her stuff. I have to admire her independence. She can be sharp tongued which I, as a shy person, find uncomfortable, but then she's in there with some of the sharpest tongues every whittled. You've got to give her credit for hanging in there against some savage old media roosters that do not like the idea of a tiny Asian woman trespassing on their turf. I get a kick out of that. "She's got sand," as Rooster Cogburn used to say!
#12 Andrew Breitbart: Andrew hit the public stage like a meteor and too soon he burned himself up. He carried the weight of the world on his shoulders and that kind of intensity is tough on the old ticker. He had the rare ability to admit when he was wrong. He didn't cover up. If he screwed up (which he seldom did), he came right out and said so. You could tell he was digging up some things the left didn't want anyone to know about from the shear volume of the squeals of protest from the leftist blogosphere.
#13. Bill Whittle: Bill Whittle is more of a commentator than strictly a newsman. He is probably the most articulate speaker for conservative principles since Ronald Reagan. He's one of the brightest stars among the new crop of Internet journalist and a regular featured commentator on PJTV appearing alone or with the likes of Andrew Klavan, Steve Green, Scott Ott and others. Anyway you get him he's fiery, passionate and irresistible.
There it is now - a baker's dozen. Some you may love. Some you may hate. I don't care..