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Pressures by media companies to generate ever-greater profits are threatening the very freedom the nation was built upon, former CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite warned Thursday.
In a keynote address at Columbia University, Cronkite said today's journalists face greater challenges than those from his generation. No longer can journalists count on their employers to provide the necessary resources "to expose truths that powerful politicians and special interests often did not want exposed," he said.
Instead, he said, "They face rounds and rounds of job cuts and cost cuts that require them to do ever more with ever less."
"In this information age and the very complicated world in which we live today, the need for high-quality reporting is greater than ever," he told journalism students and professionals at Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism.
"It's not just the journalist's job at risk here. It's American democracy.
It is freedom."
The nation saw the number of major TV networks grow from three to five, said Benjamin Compaine, author of "Who Owns the Media?: Competition and Concentration in the Mass Media."
Add to that several 24-hour news channels on cable, he said.
But opponents of loosened rules worry that changes would hurt minorities' access to the airwaves, curtail children's and local programming and limit musical diversity.