With the advent of television came the arrival of the anchorman. Sitting behind his desk, earnestly staring into the camera and reporting the news each evening in his calm and steady voice, he was a man you could trust. Night after night, Americans invited him into their homes as a friend to steer them through the nation’s tragedies and cast light on its triumphs. These days, more Americans are going to the internet to get their news. There is a veritable dearth of real newsmen out there, and the manly anchorman is becoming an endangered species. Male anchors are now in the minority nationwide. And the anchormen who are left are often not up to journalistic par. From Fox News to CNN, the news industry is beginning to replace real journalists with those whose only qualification is a winning smile. Fake tans and plastic surgery are becoming the norm, and real journalism seems to now be relegated to print (which is dying a slow death itself. Egads!) While there are obviously some newsmen we respect that did not quite make the list, we feel that those who did make it are a good representation of journalists who were and are dedicated to their work, rather than the appearance of their work. Please note that the newsmen listed below are American or prominently featured in American TV News. Feel free to add your favorite manly anchorman from abroad. Without further ado, here is our list of manly men who happen to do a little thing called “anchoring the news.”
Most famous for his run as co-anchor (along with the equally esteemed Bill Beutel) on the Big Apple’s Eyewitness News, Roger Grismby was a pioneer of network broadcast news. An orphan raised by a minister and a veteran of the Korean War, Grimsby was a news anchor who didn’t take guff from anyone. He was an intimidating and brutally honest man; co-anchors thought he hated them, and if they were incompetent flyweights, he probably did. He famously had on-air feuds with news team members like Howard Cossell and Geraldo Rivera. But once you earned Grimsby’s respect, he was fiercely loyal. Grimsby wasn’t a prima donna; he just really cared about the news. He didn’t do the kind of sensational fluff stories that now dominate local news; he tackled NYC’s pressing issues, flew to Ethiopia to cover its poverty, and traveled to the Middle East to report on Israeli-Egyptian relations. His introduction (“I’m Roger Grimsby, hear now the news”) and sign-off (“Hoping your news is good news, I’m Roger Grimsby”) were as memorable as his stories. And while he took the news seriously, he never took himself seriously. Grimsby had an unforgettable personality and a sharp wit; he was famous for rescuing news show’s from the awkward moments that paralyzed everyone else. His most famous quip can be seen here at 5:23:
Fishman was one of the last of a dying breed: an anchorman with editorial control over the news he covered. Fishman holds the distinction of being the last Los Angeles-based anchorman to have this privilege. He is also noteworthy for being the longest running news anchor in American television history. Fishman anchored the news in LA for an astonishing 47 years; only death could remove him from his desk. Fishman, who came to prominence with his reporting of the Watts Riot, was the first to air footage of the Rodney King beating. If being a bad ass anchorman wasn’t enough, Fishman was an accomplished pilot who set 13 records for speed and altitude. Pretty dang manly. He even found time to appear in movies like Forrest Gump and Spiderman 3.
Although mostly known as the wise-cracking, sarcastic anchor of the “fake news” show, The Daily Show, Stewart is one of the most ballsy men on television. He may do it for laughs, but his skewering of the hypocrisy on both sides of the aisle is frequently nothing short of genius. Stewart also interviews interesting guests on topics rarely covered elsewhere and pulls no punches with his questions. It’s hard to pick a favorite Stewart moment-is it when he went on CNN’s Crossfire and took Tucker Carlson to town for the show’s divisive rhetoric and partisan hackery? When he bore his soul and got choked up talking about his country in his first show post 9/11? Or perhaps it is his recent skewering of Wall Street and CNBC:
One thing’s for sure, there will be many more such great moments to come, and it’s good to know there’s a gadfly out there irritating the mad cow that is today’s media.
Jennings earns manly props for being a self-made man. Although he dropped out of high school in tenth grade and never attended college, he became, at age 26, the youngest US network anchorman ever and went on to become one of the most prominent and well-respected men in the business. He established the first American television news bureau in the Arab world and became an expert in the affairs of the Middle East. Jennings was committed to uncovering and reporting the important news of his time, to avoiding the fluff stories, and to helping Americans understand important and complicated international issues. On Sept. 11, he held his anchor chair for 17 straight hours as he guided Americans through the crisis. The tragedy of that day so stirred his soul that it led this Canadian to become an American citizen.
When it comes to national politics, few newsmen have covered the beat better than Bob Schieffer. Schieffer is part of an elite club of reporters who have covered all four of the major Washington assignments: Congress, the Pentagon, the White House, and the Department of State. Schieffer got his first taste of the action as a reporter for the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram. Although initially disappointed in having not been assigned to cover JFK’s visit to Texas, Schieffer stumbled into a golden opportunity when in the aftermath of the assassination he was asked to drive Lee Harvey Oswald’s mother to the police station. Upon arriving, he used his manly resourcefulness and pretended to be a detective (he always wore a snap-brimmed hat for just such a purpose) to gain access to an office with a telephone. He then spent several hours calling his paper with dispatches from fellow reporters, enabling the Star-Telegram to have several extra editions of the paper put out. This past year, Schieffer was praised for moderating a presidential debate in which then candidates Obama and McCain finally came within at least a few miles of answering the actual questions asked. Well done Bob.
Edward R. Murrow
Edward R. Murrow got his start in the news business before television had even been invented, and yet he would arguably shape the medium more than anyone else. In the early days of World War II, he kept Americans abreast of events through his revolutionary live radio broadcasts from London. It was during this time that he developed his famous “good night and good luck” sign-off, a catch phrase inspired from a common comment Londoners gave one another as they parted ways and prepared for another night of air raids. In the 1950’s, Murrow made the transition to television and gained fame and respect for unveiling Joseph McCarthy’s hypocrisy on his See It Now news program. The show covered other controversial issues, often to the chagrin of nervous CBS execs. After the show ended, Murrow criticized the media for refusing to tackle the big issues. He prophetically announced, “During the daily peak viewing periods, television in the main insulates us from the realities of the world in which we live. If this state of affairs continues, we may alter an advertising slogan to read: Look now, pay later.”
Eric Sevareid got his start in journalism in a way that foretold his commitment to chasing a story wherever it led; on a trip sponsored by the Minneapolis Star, Sevareid paddled a canoe for 2,250 miles, journeying from Minneapolis to York on the Hudson Bay. Sevareid was recruited by Edward R. Murrow during World War II to be a correspondent for CBS. As one of the famous “Murrow boys,” Sevareid covered such events as the fall of France and the Battle of Britain. He wasn’t afraid to be in the thick of the action. He parachuted into the jungle when his plane failed while covering the Burmese-China theater, and he then helped rescue other passengers from the crash. Could you imagine any anchorman doing that today? I didn’t think so. He also accompanied the first wave of American troops as they made their way from France into Germany. He continued reporting the news for CBS after the war, serving as the head of the Washington bureau and then their roving European correspondent. He showed some manly mettle by being one of the first in the media to criticize Senator Joseph McCarthy’s hunt for communists, a move that prompted an (later proven unfounded) investigation of him by the Red-fearing FBI. From 1964 until his retirement, Sevareid kept alive the Murrow tradition of news commentary by giving his two minute analysis of current affairs on the CBS Evening News.
Born into the prominent Vanderbilt family, Anderson Cooper’s life could have been that of the perpetually charmed socialite. Instead, his father’s death when Cooper was 10 and the suicide of his 23 year old brother set the young man on his path to journalism. Like any good journalist, Cooper had questions he wanted answered, the biggest being: “Why do some people thrive in situations that others can’t tolerate? Would I be able to survive and get on in the world on my own?” Cooper sought to find out. First he interned with the CIA, and then, when he couldn’t get his foot in the door at ABC, he made a fake press pass and traveled to war torn regions like Somalia, Rwanda, and Bosnia, filming stories and selling them to Channel One. After cutting his teeth on news stories for middle and high schoolers, Cooper continued to work his way up the journalism ranks, starting as a correspondent for ABC and eventually anchoring his own show, Anderson Cooper 360. While 360 sometimes veers into more fluffy stories, Cooper gets props for being one of the few current newsmen trying to cover the more important news and doing it without yelling, partisan idiocy, or stupid gimmicks.
Sure, Ron Burgundy was a chauvinist prone to citing the scientific fact that women’s brains are a third the size of men’s and threatening to punch a female co-worker in the ovary. And yeah, he lacked tact and had a weakness for reading anything put up on the teleprompter. But no one can argue Ron’s manliness. In the 1970’s he led San Diego’s Channel 4 news team with bravado and swagger. He shopped for suits when feeling blue, was fond of scotchy, scotch, scotch, had many leather-bound books and an apartment that smelled of rich mahogany, and took on a bear to save the woman who took his job. And he wasn’t afraid to show his softer side: confessing a love of poetry, playing a mean jazz flute, and being hopelessly devoted to his best friend Baxter. And in the end he got over his sexism to co-anchor the World News Center program with Veronica Corningstone. You stay classy Ron. In addition to his talent for reporting the news, Burgundy could also wield a bedpost with murderous accuracy:
Howard K. Smith
Another of the original Murrow boys, Smith was a Rhodes Scholar who immediately after graduation went to London as a writer/journalist for the United Press. In early 1940, he was the nation’s correspondent in Berlin, where he conducted interviews with prominent Nazis including Adolf Hitler, SS leader Heinrich Himmler, and propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels. After the war, Smith continued reporting for CBS and chaired the first televised presidential debate between Senator John F. Kennedy and Vice President Richard M. Nixon. In 1962, he left his job at CBS over a dispute about a documentary on the civil rights movement called “Who Speaks for Birmingham.” An advocate for desegregation, Smith ended the piece with Edmund Burke’s famous quote, “All that is necessary for evil to succeed is for good men to do nothing.” Told to remove the quote, Smith instead resigned from CBS and joined ABC where he co-anchored the ABC Evening News. Despite his formerly friendly relations with President Nixon earlier in his political career and his reputation for conservatism, Smith notably became the first national television commentator to call for Dick’s resignation after the Watergate scandal broke.
Walter Cronkite’s title as the Most Trusted Man in America was well-earned. Cronkite began his career in 1937 with the United Press, wherein he became one of the top US reporters of WWII. He covered battles in the North African and European theaters while at the same time serving as an active member of the US Coast Guard. He covered the Battle of the Bulge as well as the Nuremburg Trials. After the war, Cronkite again made a name for himself in his coverage of political news; in fact, the term ‘anchor’ was coined to describe his coverage of both the Democratic and Republican National Conventions. Cronkite went on to cover events such as the Vietnam War, the Kennedy Assassination, and the early stages of the US Space Program. He was also widely respected for his role in bringing the Watergate scandal to the forefront of the American public’s attention. The duration of, and the level of professionalism he employed during his career made him a living legend in the industry, and he is widely considered the preeminent anchor of the twentieth century.
Anchorman Hall of Shame
The anchormen of yesteryear tackled the world’s most important stories and did it with true professionalism, disguising their own biases to deliver the news in an unbiased way. Today’s newsmen host “opinion news” programs and try to outdo each other in the amplitude of yelling, fluff, snark, sarcasm, hyperbolic accusations, and gimmickry. Some of today’s newsmen have taken the presenting of news to a new low and deserve a place in the Anchorman Hall of Shame.
If Hannity was any more smug, he’d be twins. Prone to exaggerations and cringe-worthy partisanship, Hannity is like a puppet that says, “Socialism, socialism, socialism!” whenever you pull the string. Hey Sean, knock off your Smugs McSmugs-a-lot schtick. It just makes you look like a schmuck.
Just as partisan as rival O’Reilly but with a liberal bent, his feud with the Irishman is tantamount to a pissing contest where each gets pee on their respective shoes. As former Los Angeles Times television critic Howard Rosenberg wrote, “Countdown is more or less an echo chamber in which Olbermann and like-minded bobbleheads nod at each other.” And this blowhard is so pretentious that he’s co-opted legendary anchorman Edward R. Murrow’s “good night and good luck” sign off. Manly sacrilege. You should have stuck to sports. Olbermann’s enormous ego and penchant for over the top rhetoric was satirized brilliantly by Ben Affleck on SNL:
If former anchormen reported the news with dignity and stately bearing, Bill O’Reilly does so by yelling his opinion over that of his invited guests. Those that don’t agree with him are “pinheads;” those that kiss his butt get a free book. It’s hard to argue with the fact that Bill O’Reilly is immensely entertaining to watch, but his pomposity crosses the line of manly propriety. And despite his positioning of himself as a moral crusader, it’s hard to trust a guy who is prone to outbursts like this (warning: explicit language):
Mr. Matthews doesn’t even pretend to impartiality. His outright fawning for Obama and partisan remarks got him and his fellow Hall of Shamer Keith Oldermann removed from co-anchoring MSNBC coverage of the presidential election. Such inability to disguise his biases was again made manifest when he let slip an “Oh God!” on air as Bobby Jindal emerged to give his rebuttal to President Obama’s national address:
Despite putting on a manly front, when push comes to shove, Colbert has shown a soft underbelly. His all-consuming fear of bears, distaste for books, love of Dungeons and Dragons, and disdain for facts and thinking is not very manly. Colbert does have potential for rising to the ranks of manly anchormen. He did defeat freshman congressman Jason Chaffatz in Indian leg wrestling three times.
Stephen, if you’ll join Pizza Hut’s Book It! reading program, wrestle a bear, and read Art of Manliness religiously, you’ll become a man. Return and report.
Last updated: October 9, 2015