Friday, July 17, 2009

The passing of a titan

I just caught a headline, "Walter Cronkite, Dead at 92" and had to pause for a moment to remember the man most, if not all, journalists looked up to as a guiding light in their career. Cronkite, the most trusted man in America, was a lion of the profession and worked in print, radio and, most recognizably, at CBS News.

Walter Leland Cronkite, Jr. 

When the man said, "And that's the way it is," we knew it was true. Cronkite was from the old school. He treated reporting as a sacred trust between himself and the public. I think America and the world would be a better place if more newsmen acted this way. Governments and corporations and the man on the street might be a little less apt to take advantage of their fellow citizens if they knew there were more like Cronkite watching.

I once had the chance to hear him speak at the memorial service of another legendary newsman, Charles Kuralt, who died July 4, 1997. But, unfortunately, there was bad weather on Martha's Vineyard and Cronkite wasn't able to make it to his friend's service. And, while I can't regret it because I had no control over the event, I consider this a missed opportunity.

Here are the words he used to close his last broadcast as anchor of the CBS Evening News and, I think, they are just as fitting now as we say a final farewell.

"This is my last broadcast as the anchorman of The CBS Evening News; for me, it's a moment for which I long have planned, but which, nevertheless, comes with some sadness. For almost two decades, after all, we've been meeting like this in the evenings, and I'll miss that. But those who have made anything of this departure, I'm afraid have made too much. This is but a transition, a passing of the baton. A great broadcaster and gentleman, Doug Edwards, preceded me in this job, and another, Dan Rather, will follow. And anyway, the person who sits here is but the most conspicuous member of a superb team of journalists; writers, reporters, editors, producers, and none of that will change. 

"Furthermore, I'm not even going away! I'll be back from time to time with special news reports and documentaries, and, beginning in June, every week, with our science program, Universe. Old anchormen, you see, don't fade away; they just keep coming back for more. And that's the way it is: Friday, March 6, 1981. I'll be away on assignment, and Dan Rather will be sitting in here for the next few years. Good night."

You will be missed Walter.

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