There will never be another broadcast journalist like Walter Cronkite. I was still a kid when Cronkite stepped down from his post as anchor of the evening news, but his reputation remained a powerful presence throughout my journalism studies. When you watch footage of any major news event from 1962 to 1981, you’re sure to see a report from Walter Cronkite. As all the major media outlets began to play clips from Cronkite’s distinguished career this evening, it really sent chills down my spine. As most who knew him recounted in interviews about his passing, Cronkite will best be remembered for his ability to “come through the glass” and into the living rooms of Americans everywhere. His broadcasts were professional, powerful and personal, and one the best example of objective journalism I can think of. My favorite clip from the broadcasts this evening was of Cronkite, sitting in the corner of the newsroom, banging away at the keys of an old typewriter. That image will stay with me for a while.
The times have changed, and our source of worldly news is no longer limited to a sole anchor’s report on the evening news. In the Cronkite era, he was the trusted voice on everything happening in the world. I think Cronkite’s death is symbolic in many ways, as it represents a dying breed of journalism that no longer exists. Cronkite was not a polished model reading a teleprompter, but rather a true broadcast journalist. He was a reporter first, anchor second. I can only hope there is someone in the news media today that will aspire to the level of professionalism and integrity exemplified by Cronkite. I fear those times are long gone, and we’re left to sort through the information of the day on our own.
In a New York Times account of his career, it was said that Cronkite viewed himself as an old-fashioned newsman. He was managing editor of the “CBS Evening News” after all. The American people saw him this way too.
I can’t possibly do Walter Cronkite justice with my youthful perspective of his legacy. For that, I urge you to review some of the awesome coverage surrounding the passing of this great news legend.
- Cronkite’s Influence Felt Through Generations – CNN.com
- CBS Legend Walter Cronkite Dies – CBS News
- Former CBS News Anchor Walter Cronkite Dies – AP/MSNBC.com
- Walter Cronkite, Legendary Newsman Dies – ABC News
- Walter Cronkite’s Words: Read His Blogs – The Huffington Post
- Walter Cronkite – Wikipedia
For me, I will miss having journalists like Cronkite around. Today’s news is far too scripted, and far too sensational for my traditionalist standards. That said, I think we can all find inspriation in learning from one of the best there ever was. I hope Cronkite’s legacy will inspire a new generation of journalists to strive for excellence.
(Image Credit: Reproduction of Walter Cronkite’s Desk from 1960 Election, by AJ and Marguerite / Flickr)