But let’s not romanticize this era of mostly disinterested journalism. Given the fear of being caught possessing an opinion, pussyfooting abounded. And with so many journalism organizations clustered near “the middle,” the range of available viewpoints necessarily narrowed. On the seesaws reporters were so intent upon balancing, plenty of perspectives were denied seats: nonwhite and nonmale voices, anti-anti-Communist or anti-war opinions.
McCarthy had been leveling his wild charges for four years before Murrow took him on. The Vietnam War had been sinking toward a bloody stalemate and the Johnson administration had been dissembling about its causes, toll and futility for a few years before Cronkite spoke out against the war. When it was not investigating, American journalism—post-radio, pre-internet—leaned for the most part toward the vanilla.
One last point about the more temperate journalism of the late 20th century: It did not lead to a more temperate country.