When I was a kid, we had dinner every night with Walter Cronkite. We weren’t allowed to watch T.V. while eating, but my father would turn up the volume so he could at least hear Cronkite report the news into the kitchen. One of the key words here being report. This was well before cordless phones, cell phones, twitter, facebook, blogs or even cable and satellite TV. Some people don’t know this but once upon a time there were just three major television stations. CBS, NBC and ABC. Although Cronkite started out in print journalism, and eventually worked for the UPI wire service and on to being a major news correspondent, he is best known for his nearly 20 year stint as the news anchor of the CBS evening news.
This one man came into your living room with the distinctive voice of reason and delivered the news. He looked the part, he acted the part and he was the part. He was first and foremost a newsman and was often called “The most trusted man in America”. Think carefully, who could we ever bestow that honor on today? Cronkite was so much a part of the fabric of society in those days that he defined the role of anchorman in the days when news was really news. He embodied the core values of journalism, the who, what, where, when and why’s of a story, understood the value and knowledge of a story and then told it like it was. No fluff, no bias, no flowery language. No rants, no raves, no teaser tricks. He was simply the consumate news correspondent and news anchor, a real pro.
Our family watched him report Neil Armstrong’s first step on the moon, he told us President John F. Kennedy had been killed in Dallas , Nixon had resigned, and Matin Luther King had been assassinated . We weren’t bombarded with this news we were educated and enlightened. Even though he once pounded a typewriter he was still in favor of progress in the news business, in his later years he wrote a blog for the http://huffingtonpost.com . He wasn’t such a huge fan of the 24 hr. news cycles we now have, reportedly telling friends “I think with news you really need to have time to think, I don’t think 24 hr. news is conducive to that.”
Yes, Cronkite created the mold for what I like to call real T.V. news. Right down to his famous nightly salutation “And that’s the way it is”. But today, here is the way it is; We can turn on a news channel and find one that we totally agree with. We can turn on a news channel and find one that we totally disagree with. And that’s the way it shouldn’t be.