A High Bar
I hope we all have people we can admire for their professional and honest approach to their work. For newscasters, a bar was set high with the work of Walter Cronkite. The weight of this man’s integrity and career continues to marvels viewers and fellow journalists. Even saying his name with his throaty baritone voice carried a trusted believability.
For nineteen years, during the evening meal, he summarized the day’s events for us in as much an objective way as possible. Gimmicky graphics, moving cameras, split screens, arguing consultants and scrolling gibberish was not his presentation of the news.
The trusted honesty that he instilled in us was not because he was a personality. (He seemed to not have one, actually.) He didn’t want or intend for that to happen. It was simply (and I emphasize that word) to deliver the news from around the world in a clear, concise fashion. As he spoke, you had time to absorb and make sense, or no sense, of what was occurring from the Vietnam War, to JFK’s assassination to the thrilling excitement of the first space shuttle.
It’s been said that President Johnson remarked, “If we lose Cronkite on the (Vietnam) war, we’ve lost the country.” He even reported as a corespondent during the Nuremberg Trials, following World War II.
He Had the Look of Trust & Authority
Always a favorite word of mine, Cronkite believed in what he was doing and felt that he made a difference by doing it. (What more can anyone ask of life?) That is not only integrity, it is passion; the kind that gets you out of bed after only a few hours of sleep to return again to the work you just left.
Fellow newscaster, Robert MacNeil said after Cronkite’s death that, “He didn’t have to pretend to be anything that he wasn’t. He loved being Walter Cronkite, doing something valuable. People deserved the truth.” What a marvelous epithet for all of us to reach toward.
Too Much Stuff Moving & Yelling
Too Many Channels
With all the television news programs these days, I guess the devolution of news was bound to happen. The more “objective” reporting of yesterdays are now replaced with snipes, smug dismissal of public servants and self-serving newscasters who are more celebrities than journalists.
The only subjective view in Cronkite’s newscast was from a equally “non personality.” For years it was Eric Sevareid who in sixty seconds delivered a piercing, crisp and articulate analysis on a particular subject that left your ears speechless when he was finished. He talked to us flatly while looking at the camera, talking into a huge microphone with nothing behind or beside him.
One camera, one man, one day’s news. I felt that Cronkite was objective and I hope I was right. At least there is a hint of doubt in my mind about him but I’m very sure of the current cable breed.