Is Tom Brokaw the most trusted source of news in America?
A new survey this week suggests he is - though just by an anchorman's carefully coiffed hair.
When a thousand Americans were asked "Which one of today's television news personalities do you trust most?" NBC's Brokaw was named by 19.1 percent. ABC's Peter Jennings was close behind at 16.2 percent, and CBS's Dan Rather third at 14.6 percent.
Other news personalities ranking high included Diane Sawyer (7.7 percent), Katie Couric (6.5 percent), Ted Koppel (6 percent), and Larry King (4.8 percent).
What was the reason these news people were "most trusted"? A third of respondents in the survey, conducted by the Council of Public Relations Firms, mentioned the individual's values and attributes as most important - more important than reporting experience or knowledge. He or she "told it like it is," was honest, sincere, nice, attractive, and polite.
The three network anchors, of course, do all that and are experienced journalists, too. Rather recently celebrated 20 years as an anchor, and Brokaw and Jennings have 18 years apiece.
When Walter Cronkite retired as CBS anchor in 1981, he was known as "the most trusted man in America." That role apparently is now split almost evenly among the three longtime anchors, who together amassed 50 percent of the "most trusted" votes.
Much speculation has begun about what will happen to TV news when the trio retires. One straw in the wind: CNN has hired former "NYPD Blue" actress Andrea Thompson as a news anchor. They no doubt think she can be honest, sincere, nice, attractive, and polite, too.
(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor