John Henningham reviews 'That's The Way It Is' by Charles L. Ponce de Leon

John Henningham reviews 'That's The Way It Is' by Charles L. Ponce de Leon

That's The Way It Is: A History of Television News in America

by Charles L. Ponce de Leon

University of Chicago Press (Footprint), $66 hb, 352 pp, 9780226472454

The notion of a golden age of television news followed by a relentless decline in standards and values is challenged by Charles L. Ponce de Leon, who argues that television news has always catered to public preferences. Ponce de Leon gives a solid overview and interpretation of the half century or so in which television news was the dominant information medium for Americans. He covers major events that have changed television journalism: the McCarthy hearings, Vietnam, Watergate, assassinations and terrorism, news consultants and tabloid television, the challenge to the big three players from CNN, then Fox, and, finally, the internet revolution which has ended television's reign as the major provider of news.

Curiosities abound. Many in the established medium of radio had misgivings about embryonic television news, especially when 'visualisation' became an early priority of newsrooms. Often with little means of actually visualising, they would resort to such devices as models or using toy soldiers to describe the Korean War. 'Anchorman' was a label made up by Walter Cronkite's boss during the 1952 Chicago political conventions, when he had to provide a base and continuity to diverse production inputs. The term later spread to newsreaders in general. (Cronkite's famous nightly sign off gives the book its title.)

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Published in November 2015, no. 376
John Henningham

John Henningham

John Henningham is director of Jschool Journalism College in Brisbane. He is the author of Looking at Television News (1988) and the edited collections Issues in Australian Journalism (1990) and Institutions in Australian Society (1995), and is former editor of the journals Australian Journalism Review, Australian Studies in Journalism, and Australian Journalism Monographs. He was foundation professor of journalism at the University of Queensland and has worked as a journalist with News Corporation, Fairfax, and the ABC. His website is

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