The Top Eight News Anchors of All Time

by Rick Bretz

The past couple of weeks have reminded everyone that during a crisis, Americans turn to news channels and programs to keep them current on the events that move through our lives. Journalists and broadcasters are considered to be the authors of history’s first rough draft. It is this rough draft that historians seek out ten or twenty years from the event to write their potential best sellers. These professionals often get beat up for not getting it right or for omitting facts when the heat is on with five minutes to go before air time. Viewers often look upon them with disdain for inserting their opinions and not covering the whole story.  Today in the 24 hour news cycle, television news is under the deadline pressure to get it right and get it correct–now .  The public doesn’t want it 10 minutes from now but right now in our world of the Smart Phone and travelling laptops and I-Pads.  The following list is my best news anchors of all time.  It was a time when different rules applied and the deadline pressure was at least a few hours–just enough time to get the story nearly right.

1. David BrinkleyNBC and ABC    (NBC-1956-1971 and 1976-1979) (ABC-1981-1998)

My favorite and it’s not even close.  I liked his one-of-a-kind delivery and his dry humor and views on current events.  When he moved to ABC to do his Sunday weekend show, it was required viewing for me.  I looked forward to his closing commentaries every Sunday.  I just knew he was about to say something in those few minutes at the end of the show that would make me think, make me laugh or both.

2. Douglas Edwards-CBS-(1948-1962)

He was a trailblazer.  He set a standard along with John Cameron Swayze for everyone else to meet or exceed.

3. Frank Reynolds-ABC (1968-1970)

You can just tell when someone is a true professional and care about his work.  Frank Reynolds came across on the television as someone who lived and breathed news.

English: Original caption:"NASA Remembers...

4. Walter Cronkite-CBS (1962-1981)

It seems that Walter Cronkite was there for many of the major news events, The Kennedy Assassination, The Vietnam War, the Political Conventions, The NASA moon landings.  The World War II correspondent had seen it all and always struck the right note for a story.

5. John Chancellor-NBC (1970-1982)

He was smooth as silk in his delivery and could write some of the best news commentaries about current topics. He also scores points for narrating Ken Burns’ PBS documentary on Baseball.

6. Harry Reasoner-CBS (60 Minutes) and ABC  (CBS-1968-1970 and 1978-1991)   (ABC-1970-1978)

He was a terrific writer and interviewer for “60 Minutes”.  He anchored the news for ABC during some of the most turbulent years in America’s social history.

7. Max Robinson-ABC (1978-1983)

I admire people who lead the way.  This anchor  and the next person did just that. He was a trailblazer in every sense of the word as the first African-American network news anchor.  He had terrific voice and a great delivery. He made the three anchor format of Max Robinson, Frank Reynolds  and Peter Jennings work smoothly from his desk on “World News Tonight”.

Publicity photo from the Today television prog...
Publicity photo from the Today television program. From left: Gene Shalit, Barbara Walters, and Frank McGee. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

8. Barbara Walters ABC and NBC (ABC-1976-1978)  (NBC-Today Show-1961-1976) (ABC-Co-host of 20/20-1984-2004)

Another anchor who was a first, the first woman anchor of a network news, ABC Evening News, while co-anchoring with Harry Reasoner.  You had to be tough, working news in those days among the all-male anchor club.  She didn’t back down and she was a true professional,  She  is revered in her field today because of her catalogue of quality work.  She led the way for Connie Chung, Katie Couric and several other women on the 24 hour news channels we see today.

Honorable Mentions– Bernard Shaw-CNN, John Chancellor-NBC, Frank McGee-NBC, Peter Jennings-ABC, Connie Chung-CBS, Chet Huntley-NBC

Do you have your favorites? Leave a comment and tell me why?

Margaret Thatcher-The Iron Lady

by Rick Bretz

I have read a number of stories lately concerning many people who dislike Margaret Thatcher and her policies while serving as Prime Minister of  the United Kingdom from 1979-1990.  These words are naïve and just plain stupid.   Just like her Iron Lady name implied, she was the kind of Prime Minister who said with her actions, “Enough is enough!”  She said it with the Falklands War.  She said it with the British Labour Unions.  She said it every time she stood up each week to face her British Parliament adversaries, the Labour Party.

Her weekly confrontations with members of the Parliament were interesting to watch. They were televised on CSPAN on the weekends.   She took no prisoners and didn’t give an inch.  Her confidence in her ideas gave her the strength to take on anybody, including the male power structure.

President Reagan walking with Prime Minister M...
President Reagan walking with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher at Camp David (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

She was Britain’s first woman Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative Party. She served three terms as Prime Minister and made some tough choices to get the economy back on track. Starting in 1981, the economy experienced 8 consecutive years of growth. The ultra-liberal factions of the Parliament never were satisfied with her choices while the elitists sought to demonize her.  However, tough choices had to be made and she was the one to do it. During the 1982 Falklands War, the government tried to arrive at a diplomatic solution but when those talks failed to provide any common ground, Prime Minister Thatcher was ready to use military power.

Thatcherism was a label that defined her style of politics but Margaret Thatcher gave her country something more important-a reason to be proud of their country.  Many people in America liked her, some of course didn’t. Like conservatives, some liberals just can’t come around and recognize a good leader’s accomplishments. Although she was a revolutionary by breaking political barriers, she didn’t like to be dictated to by them, such as the IRA.   The IRA tried to take her out with a bomb in 1984.  She showed up the next day to deliver a speech to say, “You are not going to get your way.”  She curbed union power by taking on the coal unions and took on the biggest union of all, the Soviet Union.  A Soviet Union publication gave her the name, “The Iron Lady.”  She helped bring about the end of he Soviet Union by letting President Ronald Reagan know that this Gorbachev fellow is someone we can deal with.

Margaret Thatcher will be remembered for her tough leadership but also as one of the great personalities of the 20th Century and one Britain’s best leaders in peace and during wars and cold wars.

Margaret Thatcher died on April 8, 2013.  There is one point everyone can agree on when discussing Margaret Thatcher.  She will be remembered.

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The Panama Canal and Hoover Dam

by Rick Bretz

Many engineering wonders dot the world from the Egyptian Pyramids to China’s long Wall.  The United States has been a part of two major engineering feats that are a testament to man’s apparent mastery over nature.  One was accomplished outside the country in Panama with the plan to bring together two oceans and the other in a desert with the goal of taming the Colorado River. The Panama Canal engineers had to deal deadly Malaria disease transported by mosquitos, making their jobs more difficult. The Boulder Dam project engineers figured out how to divert a river so they could excavate and pour millions of cubic feet of concrete.  Each project had their own challenges and issues but were overcome so that economies and cultures could make a step forward.

English: Photograph of the Boulder Dam from Ac...
English: Photograph of the Boulder Dam from Across the Colorado River; From the series Ansel Adams Photographs of National Parks and Monuments, compiled 1941 – 1942, documenting the period ca. 1933 – 1942. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Panama Canal     (Boulder) renamed Hoover   Dam in 1947
Construction:  1881-1889 (French Period) 1903-1914 (US Construction Period) Construction: 1931-35 (2 years ahead of schedule)
Reason for Construction:  Shortcut through Isthmus Reason for Construction: Prevent Flooding, provide   hydro-electric power, and irrigation
Cost:    US Dollars   $375,000,000 Cost: $50, 000,000 (1931 US dollar value)
Number of workers: More than 56,000 Number of workers: 5,000
Control: The United States until the 1977 Panama Canal   Treaty that ceded control to Panama. Today the Panama Canal Authority. Control: US Department of Interior, Bureau of   Reclamation,
Casualties: Estimated at 22,000 mostly from disease during   the French construction period (1881-1889).   For the American construction period,   Officially 5609.  Also, several   thousand undocumented West Indian workmen who died from explosions,   mudslides, railcar accidents and disease) Casualties: 112 construction related deaths.  42 died from Pneumonia (Controversial-some   research suggests it was carbon-monoxide poisoning working in the diversion   tunnels)
Major Obstacles: Tropical disease, mudslides,   Engineering issues such as terrain, worker safety, poor reputation resulting   in issues recruiting qualified people. Major Obstacles: Engineering, worker safety, high   temperatures
Benefit to US: National Security, Shipping Lanes Benefit to US: Hydro-power to several arid states in   the region.
Excavation Strategies: Explosives, Steam shovels, wagons,   locomotives, unloaders Excavation Strategies: Explosives, Diversion tunnels, “Jumbo”   trucks, “High Scalers”
Physical Characteristics: 50 miles in length, 8-10   hours to transit from ocean to ocean, each lock is 110 feet wide, 8 minutes   to fill lock with water Physical Characteristics: 726 high, 230 blocks of   concrete



The Hoover Dam

The Hoover Dam’s main controversy was the name itself.  As usual, politics entered into the equation when at the dedication speaker Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes spoke the name “Boulder Dam” five times in a span of 30 seconds to force home the moniker.  Former President Hoover who helped marshal the construction plans through the political process wasn’t invited to the ceremony.  Later, after Hoover had completed many important projects after his Presidency thereby rehabilitating himself and his name, both houses in Congress passed a bill unanimously that officially renamed the dam, “Hoover Dam”.

Other than the naming controversy, the engineering plans and worker skill served the day to the project completed ahead of schedule.  Workers had a competition for what shift could excavate the most dirt and rock.  This friendly competition moved the project along.

English: High scalers drilling into canyon wal...
English: High scalers drilling into canyon wall 500 feet above the Colorado River in Black Canyon, site of Hoover Dam, 1932. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hoover Dam has provided much-needed power and irrigation to the southwest region of the United States.  In recent years, traffic has been rerouted to the four-lane Hoover Dam Bypass and Mike O’Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge. With this development, officials have stopped vehicle traffic  from crossing the top of the dam.

English: SS Kroonland is seen on 2 February 19...
English: SS Kroonland is seen on 2 February 1915 at the Culebra Cut while transiting the Panama Canal. Kroonland was the largest passenger ship to that time to transit the canal. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Panama Canal

The Panama Canal was built by American engineers and workers travelling to Panama to participate in the construction. The French gave up the project in 1889 after several issues hindered their progress towards completion of the canal.  The United States bought the rights to the project and equipment to finish the canal for 30 million dollars.  A high price for early 20th century dollar values.  Challenges still faced the United States effort.  Medical officers had to eradicate the mosquito population that transferred malaria and other tropical diseases. In addition, engineers developed the lock system to get ships from the one ocean over a land crest and down the other side to the other ocean.

The United States succeeded in completing the canal and was given control by Panama to run the canal for many years because the United States supported their independence efforts from Columbia.  However, the political winds changed and Panamanian support to retake control of the canal began to grow in the 70s.  This resulted in President Jimmy Carter negotiating the Panama Canal Treaty that gradually gave control to the host country Panama. Today the Panama Canal provides millions of dollars to the Panamanian National Treasury.

Two engineering monuments to human kinds ability to manipulate nature to achieve the desired result.  They are also existing structures that remind people that human sacrifice takes many forms. Although cultures and educated engineers are lauded for their towering accomplishments, it is also wise and appropriate to pause and remember the worker who braved daily dangers so that a family could be fed or one’s survival could be maintained. Some lived to tell their story, others didn’t.


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