Poe Toaster, Ultimate Fan

Poe Toaster (Life Magazine)Writers love their fans, and for good reason. But no writer has ever been blessed with a devoted fan to equal that of Edgar Allan Poe’s. It was a bizarre yet pleasing relationship that embodied all the elements of mystery and intrigue worthy of Poe himself, and it lasted for more than six decades.

Poe was born on January 19, 1809. Note that date. Sometime in the 1930s, the ultimate Poe fan began a bizarre annual ritual that lasted until 2009. He became known as the Poe Toaster and his legacy continued uninterrupted until the bicentennial celebration of Poe’s birth. Toaster devotees believe that the tradition was actually carried out by two individuals, most likely a father and son. In truth, no one is sure.

Half-full bottle of Cognac left at Edgar Alan ...

Poe’s original grave site lies in Baltimore, Maryland, at the Westminster Hall and Burying Ground. Each January 19, always in the predawn hours, an individual would stealthily visit Poe’s grave. The ritual was always the same. The Toaster would raise a glass of cognac to honor the writer, carefully place three red roses on the marker, and leave the opened bottle of cognac at the foot of the small monument. He would then disappear into the night, not to be seen again until the following year.

The Toaster was regularly seen by onlookers but his ritual was never interrupted. He was only photographed once. The alleged photo first appeared in Life Magazine, in July 1990. Like everything else about this enigma, the photograph remains controversial. The best description of the Toaster had always been provided by the many onlookers who personally witnessed the ritual, and the published photograph seemed to validate what was already known. The Toaster would invariably be dressed in black with a brimmed hat and scarf to help disguise his features. He would carry a silver-tipped cane. The disguise worked perfectly for decades.

Westminster Burial Ground on Poe's Birthday

Burial Ground on Poe’s Birthday

Although never identified, the Toaster would leave cryptic notes from time to time. A few of these notes offered a hint at the meaning of the ritual, others were so inscrutable as to be useless. In 1993, the Toaster left a message that read, “The torch will be passed,” leading Toaster devotees to conclude that the original Poe visitor had died and passed the ritual on to his “son.” By 1998, Toaster observers concluded that this new visitor was a younger man than the original Toaster. It seemed that the ritual had become inter-generational.

The second Toaster apparently had more than a sense of mystery and humor. In 2001, he left a message that contained the phrase: “The New York Giants. Darkness and decay and the big blue hold dominion over all. The Baltimore Ravens. A thousand injuries they will suffer. Edgar Allan Poe evermore.” That year, in Super Bowl XXXV, the Baltimore Ravens, named after Poe’s most famous poem, were scheduled to meet the New York Giants. It was the first time the Toaster’s messages strayed beyond his fascination with Poe. It wouldn’t be the last.

In 2004, the Toaster wrote: “The sacred memory of Poe and his final resting place is no place for French cognac. With great reluctance but for respect for family tradition the cognac is placed. The memory of Poe shall live evermore!” Toaster interpreters took this as a condemnation of France for her fierce and public resistance against the Iraq war.

Toaster followers only tried to interfere with the ritual on one occasion, in 2006. It was unsuccessful. The other visits were never disrupted even though onlookers would regularly show up at the appointed hour. From time to time, an individual would either claim to be the Toaster or know his identity. They were all hoaxers.

In 2009, the Toaster made his final appearance. He left no message and did not return in subsequent years. Toaster followers see the symmetry in this gesture. The Toaster marked the 200th anniversary of Poe’s birth and simply disappeared, forever. Should someone else appear in future years in the guise of the Toaster, he will certainly be declared a hoaxer. It seems that the long-standing ritual has run its course and, true to the life of Poe himself, will always remain a mystery.

Could there have ever been a more devoted fan?

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Gregor Spanks Writers Groups

Gregor

Gregor went to a writers group, once or twice. It was a long time ago. He caught a brain fever that took forever to cure. Since then, Gregor has abandoned much hope for writers groups. Although he believes there must be a good group out there somewhere, he advises others to be wary.

Gregor has a bad attitude about most writers groups. He feels it’s only fair to warn you before he starts the dump that follows.

Gregor likes the idea of group-think, group goals, people helping each other. However, when it comes to writers groups, he believes there are too many shady characters running about. Some of these miscreants need a second look.

The English Specialist. Gregor finds this one everywhere. It’s the person who knows everything there is to know about the English language. This one understands construction, syntax, and the 4,243 most important rules of using the written word. In other words, writing is a science and that’s that. Gregor believes this is the wrong cocktail for any writer. He notes that the very best writers usually broke the most honored rules. Sometimes they just made up their own rules. In other words, they were creative. Gregor also realizes that the English Specialist is not a writer, will never be a writer, and cannot qualify as a writer. So, there!

The I3. As in “I-cubed”. This one only wants to talk about his or her own stuff, their beautiful words, their flowing masterpiece, their immense impact on the literary universe. It’s all about the I3. They come to the group for strokes and nothing more. Everyone in the group knows this. Well, everyone but the I3. Boring and selfish, Gregor says. The group is not opposed to a few ego strokes but they don’t want to leave it all on a single doorstep. Would you? There must be room for everyone in the group.

I Have Arrived. Carries too much stuff in their arms. Books about this, papers about that, pamphlets about something else. The theory seems to be that the more stuff you carry around, the bigger the arrival statement. Pushes papers, thumbs through books, references minutiae. What’s this all about? There’s nothing in that stack of doo-doo that can be of much meaning to anyone else. What’s the point? Gregor thinks groups should come together to communicate and support each other, not read labels on tuna cans. A notebook should be enough. Bring your brain, leave your ego, listen more than you speak.

My Greatest Work. They’re not interested in what you write, only in what they’ve written. They want to submit themselves to the group but only if the group is willing to first submit to them. Gregor knows there are always better writers out there. He wants to learn how to get better at his trade, not understand how wonderful is the person across the table. Much like the I3 but uses some alleged publication to make the point. Urg.

The Eternal Critic. Everything is doodle. It doesn’t matter what, where, who or why. It’s doodle and the Eternal Critic knows it. If it wasn’t for the ability to criticize, this person would be entirely mute. That would be refreshing.

Swamp Gas?

My Writing is Swamp Gas. Maybe so, maybe not. No reason to assume it’s doo-doo. Also, no reason to assume that anyone else in the group can do any better. Gregor wants this person to keep writing, keep trying and don’t give up. He worries that this potentially great writer will be crushed by too many ego miscreants. Gregor also wants to remind this writer that no one else in the group is the hot tuna of the month. They are all learners, even if they won’t admit it. It’s OK to fail. Happens all the time, to all writers.

I Know Someone. OK, so you once met a real, traditionally-published author with a following. So what? Gregor has met them, too. Gregor knows that most genuine, working writers are not egomaniacs. So, why are you?

The Giver. Gregor’s favorite. The rare person who is there to give and learn, to share and support, to help others and gather some help along the way. It’s rare, but these folks are out there. They even go to writers groups, sometimes. Gregor suggests you look for them at the first meeting. No Giver? Find another group.

Gregor admits to having a bad attitude about writers groups. It all comes down to one thing – stifling creativity. Unless the group is completely focused on supporting creativity for each member, what’s the point? Gregor does not approve of turning writing into an exercise about rule-learning. He does not want to submit to the ego-drives of selfish members. He wants the group to be truly supportive, genuine in its work to help the creative process in an unselfish way. He doesn’t want to drink anyone’s cocktail, including his own.

Is Gregor living in a dream world? Oh, well. That’s the price of a failed self-lobotomy. Gregor is sure there are a few excellent groups in the Universe. He just hasn’t found any of them.

Gregor lives here.

Madeleine Hinkes, A Quiet Passion

Forensic AnthropologyMy favorite heroes/heroines are quiet, unassuming and passionate. A writer can’t help but come into contact with an amazing array of people, especially if the writing project deals with topics that impact us all. Many years ago, I was working on a project that dealt with forensic anthropology. It’s one of those fields that often goes overlooked by mainstream media. Yet, it is a vital, passionate kind of science. It’s a science that speaks for the dead.

During the course of the project, I came into contact with some extraordinary people. They were not simply scientists going about their work. These were dedicated, involved and determined individuals, who deeply cared about the meaning of their work.

One of the forensic anthropologists who moved me was Madeleine Hinkes. The depth of her commitment and her obvious passion impacted me at the time and has stayed with me over the years. Here’s a bit of background about this extraordinary woman, and a letter that she wrote to me in the 1990s.

Madeleine Hinkes holds a Diplomate in Forensic Anthropology from the American Board of Forensic Anthropology and has published dozens of important papers in her field. She has worked with the Office of the Medical Examiner in San Diego, Albany, Honolulu, Tucson, and Albuquerque, analyzing human remains and participating in a wide variety of forensic investigations. Hinkes has taught at both the graduate and undergraduate levels and has been involved in many criminal and mass disaster investigations throughout her career. In short, she brings first-rate credentials and decades of experience to her science. However, she also brings something rare and compelling to her work—a deep passion for what she does and an obvious commitment to its social significance. In this sense, Hinkes’ career is an expression of the human side of forensic anthropology—a style and approach that is shared by many of her colleagues.

Here is Dr. Hinkes’ letter. In it, she expressed what her career has meant to her from both a scientific and personal point of view. Despite the chaos and death that naturally surrounds her in her daily work, Hinkes discovered a deep, personal meaning to her science that is moving and inescapable:

You asked if I would tell you something of my career as a forensic anthropologist. Twenty-five years ago, I wanted to be an archaeologist—to dig up dinosaurs, in fact. However, in the Summer of 1973, I found myself in a field school and discovered my first human skeleton. It was 8,000 years old and perfectly preserved. That discovery made all the difference for me and I immediately switched my college major to physical anthropology. Ten years later I earned my Ph.D.

In graduate school, I worked with Walter Birkby, a nationally recognized expert in forensic anthropology. I had the opportunity to serve my apprenticeship with him and also work with the medical examiner in the Tucson, Arizona area. Those years of outstanding training gave me the knowledge and confidence to understand that I could handle any forensic situation that came my way. Since then, I have worked on medical examiner cases for more than twenty years. I’ve investigated homicides, airplane disasters, search and recovery operations, and much more.

Each forensic case is different in terms of the human remains to be investigated and what can be learned from them. These investigations are always fascinating, but sometimes also painful. I try to convey this to my students. I read somewhere that a student once described the human skeleton as bones with the people scraped off, so I try to use that definition in the classes I teach. I tell my students that the job of the forensic anthropologist is to put the people back on the bones. This is the concept of osteobiography—writing an individual’s life history through the skeletal remains. Most people take their skeletons for granted and are surprised at the amount of information contained in them, such as sex, age, race, stature, build, and even more specific characteristics like diseases, nutrition, trauma, occupation, socioeconomic status, and cause of death.

There is a tremendous range of human variation in the skeleton because each of us has a different life history in terms of health, disease, nutrition, exercise, lifestyle, trauma, and occupation. I often meet individuals whose skulls or skeletons I would love to study more closely because of their distinctive characteristics, and it is frustrating to me that the only way I can see my own skeleton is through an X-ray!

I have met many interesting people in my career, like pathologists, dentists, and investigators. I’ve also made some very close friends in strange places—like over an autopsy table. To my mind, the team approach to forensics is indispensable, and the best characteristic a forensic anthropologist can have is flexibility. Every situation is different and a forensic anthropologist can often find herself in some very primitive, difficult situations.

The sights and smells associated with forensic anthropology are distinct and often unpleasant. Much of my education didn’t prepare me for that, but I’ve learned to deal with it over the years. I have also learned much about people and the unspeakable things they can do to each other. It’s been quite an education in the real world, and I am much more conscious about my personal safety now.

I enjoy forensic anthropology because it allows me to give something back to society, to help families searching for loved ones, and to solve puzzles with a skill that few others possess (or may not even want to possess). When I first started in this science, there were few women in the field and I enjoyed that aspect of being different. Today, forensics is a very public arena and the expertise of the forensic anthropologist is constantly being tested. I am always learning something new and gaining a deeper appreciation for how different individuals are.

Testifying as an expert witness at trial can be daunting, but it is the ultimate end to a case—testifying to the trauma that led to death. Knowing that the accused murderer is in front of me in court is a sobering experience. As a scientist, I am supposed to be impartial and leave the arguing to the attorneys. However, the cruelty I often see in these cases—the inhuman treatment and indifference for another—should be punished.

I’ve investigated several mass disasters, like the 1985 crash of an Arrow Air DC8 in Gander, Newfoundland. In that crash, 256 lives were lost and I was instrumental in identifying 70 of the victims. In those kinds of situations, I routinely work at least a twelve-hour shift. The families are desperate to know what happened to their loved ones and the media is constantly pressuring the investigation team for information. In these situations, we cannot make any errors. A misidentification is the worst thing you can do to a family.

I’ve also worked on teams to identify the war dead, spending seven years at the Army’s MIA lab in Hawaii. I have met the sons of dead men who looked exactly like the photographs of their fathers on their military identification. It’s a strange and spooky feeling. Still, I found Vietnam to be a beautiful country filled with friendly people. They seemed very curious about a blonde, curly-haired American woman in their midst. I hadn’t paid too much attention to the Vietnam War when it was happening because I was too young. However, being there and talking to American former prisoners of war stirred me to learn all I could about the War. Each time we sent an identified soldier home to his family, there would be an official ceremony at Hickam Air Force Base. I would attend those ceremonies for the remains of the soldiers I had helped to identify. I don’t think my eyes were dry for a single ceremony. That’s the hardest part of the job—putting aside the clinical detachment and meeting the families and loved one of those men and women whose lives were cut short.

Today, I work on about twenty-five forensic cases a year. Some of them are routine homicides, but others can be quite strange. One of the strangest cases I investigated was the wreckage of a Boston Whaler boat and a gravesite discovered in 1988 on the uninhabited Taongi Atoll in the Marshall Islands. The boat turned out to be the Sarah Joe—a fishing boat that was lost off Maui in a storm nearly ten years previously with five men on board. When the grave was investigated, it contained the remains of a man. The questions that raced through my mind were incredible. What happened? How did this boat get to be 2,500 miles from home? Who found the bones and buried them? When? This case was featured on the television program Unsolved Mysteries because it certainly was an unsolved mystery! When I investigated the Sarah Joe, I had the adventure of sailing on a United States Coast Guard buoy tender through the Marshall Islands to Taongi. I was the only female on board for the four-day mission. The bad news is that I discovered that I get seasick and cannot swim to save my life!

Now, having said all this, I ask you: is there really any other career even worth considering?

Beta-Reader Bite Back

Old Man and Ferret at Lavaur Market

I see the term “beta reader” everywhere these days. It makes me wonder.

Full disclosure dictates that you understand I’m an old geezer writer. So, I’m bringing some ancient views to this relatively new practice of using “beta readers.” I understand the concept and its potential value, mostly. But, there are a few things about the practice that dwaddle my undersides a bit.

Beta means probably broken. In the world of software development, beta means “not ready for prime time.” In other words, don’t expect things to work out quite right. When it comes to writing, this usually means one of two possibilities. First, the masterpiece needs technical copy-editing. It demands attention to syntax, construction, that kind of thing. Or, second, the story line itself is a fail for one or more reasons. These are obviously less technical problems and always subject to reader interpretation.

Now, if a beta reader is required to deal with the technical shortcomings of, say, a novel, the writer hasn’t done his or her job. That novel should never see the light of day before it has gone through a tough and effective editing phase. In other words, a beta reader should never be an editor unless, of course, the reader IS an editor by profession. If your new masterpiece is released to anyone without good editing, you are insulting your reader and making yourself look like an amateur. I just can’t get behind the idea of subjecting a reader to doing the hard work of editing a piece of writing. I want my reader to, uh, read. It isn’t necessary that you, as a writer, be a great editor. There are professionals who can do an awesome job on the written word. As a writer, you’re always better off knowing the basics, though. In the end, you should never subject anyone other than an editor to technical doo-doo in your writing. That’s something no reader should ever have to endure.

If the beta reader is used to judge the story line, character development, style, or any of those other intangibles, it’s still a mistake. This turns the reader into a critic. Now, critics are fine if you don’t take them too seriously. Unless that new novel is blatantly bad, reading as a critic boils down to offering an opinion. Since everyone in this golly-bang universe has opinions, a group of beta readers can provide only one thing – a bundle of opinions. In other words, a small consensus view, which is usually not a consensus at all.

Helgi Hoseasson

So what, you ask? Opinions are good, you say. Sure, most of the time. However, I don’t like the practice because it seems that beta readers are usually selected in a subjective way. That puts pressure on the reader to walk the line between honest evaluation and putting unnecessary stress on a personal relationship. Not good. At the end of the day, opinions may temporarily shape your feelings but they are not likely to shape your writing destiny, unless you are very good or very bad at what you do. Your writing may not appeal to a particular group yet it may set a new standard for future writers. The history of writing is filled with these kinds of scenarios. Unique talent is often unrecognized at the moment. But, it’s still talent, still ground-breaking, innovative and destined to be a future classic. Only time will ultimately determine the worth of the author and his or her creations. It’s also good to remember that even great writers have produced some real bombs in their day. Happens all the time. If you’re a serious writer, it’s wise to take a long-term view of your art.

Pride of ownership matters. Call me stuck in time but I don’t like the idea of anyone reading my work until it’s in the best shape possible. In other words, no beta releases, ever. No experimentation at the expense of my readers. I want the thing to shine, to be fully edited, to be as near perfect as possible before anyone else sets eyes on it. Experience tells me that nothing I’ve ever written is perfect, no matter how much work and time it has consumed. There will always be flaws. For this reason alone, it goes nowhere until I’ve done everything I can to minimize the beta-ness of the thing.

When it’s as nearly perfect as I can make it, I turn the work over to one person, and only one. It’s someone I trust to make an honest assessment, to be as objective as possible. It’s also someone whose relationship I know will never be challenged by the effort. When I turn the work over, I ask only one question: Tell me if you like it?

That’s right. I don’t want any other feedback. I just want to know if my reader likes what I’ve done, what they’ve read. From my point of view, that’s the end-zone of writing in the first place. Did my reader enjoy the experience? If so, it’s a go. If not, I ask the obvious next question: Why? At that point, I either go back to work or plow on through to publication. This ends all beta-ness.

OK, this is just a geezer point of view on a process that has changed radically over the years. I can see the reason why many writers seek out beta readers. There is some sense to it all. But, I just can’t shake the feeling that anything “beta” should never see the light of day. Only the finished, properly edited work should crawl out of my personal writing space.

Perhaps I’ve missed the concept completely. If so, I’m not so old that I can’t learn a new trick or two.

Rule-Breaking Writers Banish Beginnings

Breaking The Rules

The best writers I’ve known tend to break the rules. Many of these rules are pretty silly anyway. Among the wackiest is the idea that the writing process must always start at the beginning of the story.

It’s just not so, Captain Picard.

Some writers do start at the beginning of the story. It’s how they work and it makes their writing life orderly and predictable. Others struggle over where to begin, how to take that first step. They battle and writhe around those first few sentences, the first scene, the opening chapter. They fret and get blocked, worry and strain. Yikes! Where’s the fun in that?

Banish the beginning, I say. Just move on.

No story can ever start at the beginning. There is no beginning. Everything begins somewhere in the middle, some place after the pre-story. Stories don’t end, they just pause. So, why worry about the beginning at all?

Middle Fork trail

Instead, start with an important scene, a place that means something to you and the story. Forget the old rules of linear writing and ordered thinking. Write that important scene, introduce a vital character, offer a little problem or solve a bigger one. Then, write around the core you’ve just created.

In fact, take it further. Create a scene here and there. Make a new character appear, disappear, change shapes, howl moods, blurt out statements, take risks, overcome or be destroyed. Just make a piece of the story and enjoy the art of creation. Worry about fitting that piece into the puzzle later, perhaps much later. If you’re a true writer, the orderliness of the story line will emerge on its own.

If the beginning is where you gag and go dry, you should throw it away, for now. Move on to where your writing heart feels the pull of the story line. Go where your favorite character leads. Disorganize yourself and let the words flow. Don’t stand outside the story, jump into it with both feet.

There are so many rules to break, so many useless ways to stifle your writing heart. To write the beginning of your story first is one of them. It’s an easy rule to ignore. Whoever came up with the idea was probably not a soul-writer anyway. Ignore the advice and enjoy the freedom in your art.

Beginning of the end

Begin where your writing heart leads you. Worry about putting the pieces together when you get a few drafts under your belt, not before. You’ll feel much better about the writing process and your readers will benefit from the unfettered flow of your words.

And that’s the beginning of the story.

Secrets of the Dew Drop Inn: Let’s Get Backwards

Dew Drop Inn Forks WAYou’ve noticed the roadside sign, but have you ever stayed for the night? It’s the Dew Drop Inn and it’s much more than a cheap stopover. It’s not one place, it’s many. This is the sanctuary where writers keep their most valued treasures. You can think of it as a secret society for the pen-and-paper crowd, a storehouse of moldy mind tricks. Here’s one from the vaults.

Suspend your usual habits and your swaggering disbelief. Let’s make some heresy. Let’s break some rules. For now, let’s start at the end and give nothing to the beginning. Don’t worry about the story line, don’t even think about it. Instead, create a character.

When your character begins to take life, the story line will follow. Most everything at the DDI is different, just a little crooked, so none of this should be surprising.

OK? Let’s go.

Choose the character. Animal, vegetable or mineral? Human or not? No detailed qualities for these first few moments. Just make the barest outline of a character.

We’ll go with a human female this time.

Fill in a few blanks, just a quick sketch. Alexis. Small, a bit undernourished. Sandy hair. Pleasing, in a quiet way. Smooth movements, delicate hands. Likes flowing clothes that don’t reveal too much but are clearly feminine. Prefers pale colors, easy on the eye and mind. An ex-expatriate from Lithuania. Multi-lingual. Might be some kind of artist but it’s hard to say. Not physical, more ethereal. Definitely not a spy or weightlifter. Could be a dancer, maybe. Moves like one.

Say some more. She’s living in Italy now. Don’t know why, yet. Small town, rustic, narrow streets. In the South of the country. She likes the weather here, and the anonymity. Is this a hideaway? She walks everywhere, likes to move around. Drawn to street-side shops and carts. Hair is long and a bit curly. Never seen with others. Lives alone. Is always alone.

Scene. Today, she’s sitting outside a cafe. Not the usual scene. This is a junky street, cluttered, but not with people. Nothing opulent here. No tourists. There are tables up and down the street, each with junk for sale. Mostly odd, small items. She’s been moving up and down the strada, fingering through the goodies, saying nothing, buying nothing, apparently thinking about nothing. She’s an odd fit for this scene. Speaks to no one.

Say some more. She is lazily scanning the street, watching people come and go. Everything looks a bit dark. It’s overcast today. It’s late in the afternoon. A little breeze, but comfortable. Her mood is quiet but not sour. She’s not smiling, not frowning, just absorbed in some other place, another time. Nowhere to go, nothing to do. Still, it’s not boredom that makes her muse. What’s on her mind?

Action. She hears her name being called from behind. It’s a familiar voice, too familiar. Her back stiffens and she turns toward the voice.

Details, please.

Ready?

Cut to the story line.

TV News Swamp Gas

Walter Cronkite     1916-2009

Do you remember this guy? His name was Walter Cronkite (1916-2009). In his heyday, Cronkite was known as “the most trusted man in America.” He was given that accolade by us, the American people. Cronkite was the anchor for the CBS Evening News for 19 years, and he was our most valued news source.

He was also the last honest broadcast news journalist.

Cronkite was a nightly guest in our homes throughout the 1960s and 1970s. These were tough, controversial and often ugly decades in our history. It was a time of war, racism, riots and a divided nation on nearly every important topic of the day. Yet, Cronkite managed to become the most trusted man in America for a simple but powerful reason. He did not have an agenda.

When Cronkite delivered his unique style of journalism, it was straightforward, penetrating, accurate and unbiased. He gave it to us without political nuance or personal preference. Yet, he often delivered it with emotion and power. He was the guy next door, the guy you knew and could depend upon.

Fast forward to today.

TV news, broadcast journalism, is a hotbed of obvious agenda and swamp gas. CNN, Fox, MSNBC, whatever. It really doesn’t matter which you choose. Today, the news is delivered with a skewed point of view, deliberately managed to appeal to specific audiences. In other words, it’s not journalism at all. It’s theater disguised as journalism. It’s entertainment and little more.

Right wing, left wing, some other wing. It’s easy enough to flip through the TV news channels and electronically infuse your light meal. If you have a favorite perspective, a personal view of the world, there’s a broadcast journalist who will fit your bill nicely. You will be entertained in accordance with your preferences. But will you be accurately informed? Will you ever get the news delivered straight down the middle? Probably not.

A title card still from the April 4, 1968 edit...

Cronkite didn’t care about agendas, parties or prevailing opinions. He cared about delivering the news accurately and with impact. That’s why he was so trusted. It’s why he appealed to Americans across all political parties and points of view. He’s been gone for many years now. With his departure from the news scene, we lost our last link to objective reporting. We somehow slipped out of honest journalism and into the entertainment mode as we changed channels.

America is polarized across many fronts. We all know that. We only have to look at DC to understand how much we’ve lost in terms of honesty and reliability. Sadly, we’ve also lost our link to real journalism, the kind of delivery that was reliable, unbiased and meaningful. We lost the truth behind the news.

Perhaps we’ll be lucky enough to find a trusted broadcast journalist in the future. From today’s point of view, the scene is bleak. No one seems willing or capable of stepping into Cronkite’s shoes and bringing us back to the days when a broadcast journalist was someone who could be trusted, someone who we would be happy to invite into our homes every evening.

Sure, there are other Countries who make good attempts at true broadcast journalism. With the Internet we can get the news from anywhere, anytime. But we were once the leader and we gave it all up. We need true American broadcast journalism once again. Why can’t we go back to doing it right? There’s plenty of room for honest journalism and entertainment to live together peacefully.

It all comes down to who will step up, pay for it, and make it happen.

In the meantime, give a thought to Walter Cronkite from time to time. He was one of a kind. I miss him.