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Watching the Watchdog: What Happens if Obama Loses?

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Tim Knight writes the regular media column, Watching the Watchdog, for HuffPost Canada.

"Every important decision [the U.S. president] makes on the economy ... or environmental or social issues ... foreign affairs ... war and peace ... has a profound effect on Canada."

That's one of Canada's finest journalists, Patrick Watson, musing on a previous American election.

He wonders, perceptive as always, if the president back then " ... knew he'd become the head of two countries when he finally made it into the White House?"

Now, I know you're waiting, even tingling with anticipation, for my definitive column answering Watson's question. And my forecast on the result of this, our Canadian election.

Who will be the next Canadian president? Barack Obama or Mitt Romney?

What will the result mean for Canada?

And would Michelle or Ann have been better choices?

Trouble is, I don't really have much of value to add to the bezillions of stories already cluttering the landscape.

A few things are obvious.

Obama is a decent, caring, honourable, highly intelligent, rapidly aging human being who inherited a godawful mess and never had a home until he found Michelle. Eighty-four percent of Canadians love him.

Romney is a dyed-hair, savage capitalist with no known principles, who inherited millions, and has always lived locked in the eerie cocoon of his strange religion (all religions are strange to me) and Stepford-like family. Canadians have no time for him.

Of course, even though one of them will be our next de facto president, we can't actually vote.

So if we're not involved, I haven't a clue who will be our next president.

Nor what it will mean for Canada.

But I certainly believe Michelle would make a better Canadian president than Mitt.

With your permission, I'll leave it at that.

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If he hadn't died three years ago, Walter Cronkite would have been 96 this week.

He anchored the CBS Evening News and reported on most of the major events of his time -- World War ll, the Nuremberg trials, the Vietnam war, Watergate, the Iran hostage crisis and the murders of John Kennedy and Martin Luther King.

He held the unofficial title "most trusted man in America."

People in our craft admired -- even revered -- Walter Cronkite as a paragon of journalistic integrity. He was also a brave and decent human being.

Back in the early 70s when I worked as a producer/reporter for ABC in New York and the world was young and well worth fighting for, I was co-Chairperson of a four-union Joint Equality Committee.

The committee had worked for years to try to change the pale face of American TV. To get people of colour into mainstream broadcasting.

We had this dream. That if we worked long enough and hard enough we'd be able to walk into broadcast newsrooms in a few years and see a rainbow of women and men -- black faces and brown faces and white faces and yellow faces.

It would be a rainbow bringing different viewpoints, different knowledge, different backgrounds, different experiences and different understanding to our journalism. It would give the view from non-males and non-whites exactly the same importance as the conventional white male view. No more. But certainly no less.

We dreamed that out of such diversity, such differences, would come a broader, purer, more honest and more truthful journalism. That we could help open a genuine Free Marketplace of Ideas.

So on behalf of the four unions I wrote a petition to the three big TV networks. Petitions need names. Big names. Nobody in the nation was bigger than Walter Cronkite.

Here's the story.

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The CBS corridors are endless. Pictures of CBS stars looking important and portentous hang on the walls. An aging black page leads me up one corridor and down another. We walk past studios and offices. Past an enormous newsroom, TV monitors everywhere. To Cronkite's office behind a glass wall.

Cronkite is charming. He wants to know where I'm from, what I'm doing in the States and how I get along at ABC. I tell him I'm English, I want to be where it's happening and I like ABC a lot.

I hand him the petition. I tell him our committee needs his support.

Cronkite gets me a cup of coffee from a machine in the corner of his office. And reads the statement. It says, in part:

" ... we deplore the fact that the faces seen on television news programs, the voices heard on radio news programs and the minds producing those programs do not adequately reflect the multi-racial makeup of our society."

"As members of the Joint Equality Committee together with working newsmen and women at the network news divisions, we urge the networks to redress the balance; to keep the promise we have made so often that news reporting truly reflect the views and events of all the people, and that employment opportunities in network news are open to every section of our nation."

Cronkite looks at me quizzically. "And what do you want me to do, Tim?"

"We would appreciate your signing it and supporting it, sir."

Walter Cronkite takes his pen and signs the statement.

After Cronkite, it's easy. Twenty-six top TV network journalists sign. Including Dan Rather (CBS News), Edwin Newman and Barbara Walters (NBC News) and Jules Bergman, Tom Jarriel and Frank Reynolds (ABC News).

Co-signer is the Full Opportunity Committee of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences -- the people who give out the Emmys.

We're on our way.

We're going to change the pale male face of American journalism.

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That was a very long time ago.

Since then, large numbers of women have broken through the barriers in both the United States and Canada. And our journalism's much the better for it.

But journalism in both countries is still largely managed and reported by whites.

Which brings me all the way back to the race being run down South.

When it came to colour and discrimination on account of colour, Obama's election four years ago was a much-needed opportunity to heal the soul of his troubled nation.

With a black man in the White House, old scars left by slavery could finally mend. The racists and haters and the bitter millionaires who finance racism and hatred would understand that they've lost their evil crusade and give up.

That hasn't quite happened yet. Seems it needs a bit more time.

So I'll make my prediction. Based on hope rather than polls.

Obama will win.

And the world will be a better place.

The Cronkite story is adapted from my book Storytelling and the Anima Factor, now in its second edition.

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