Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes
I can't say I grew up watching Walter Cronkite. I'm too young for that. I have a vague memory from early childhood of Cronkite's retirement, and knowing that it was a big deal. But I don't remember actually hearing him or seeing him deliver the news. What I remember is my parents' reaction. It was much later, when I became interested in writing and radio, that I understood who Cronkite really was and what his contributions meant to me on a personal level. What does it take to become the most trusted man in America? I think for me, one thing rings true above anything else Cronkite did or said. He was devoted to getting it right. Many times in my own career, I have stopped myself from rushing to put some breaking news on the air because I wanted to make sure what I put out there was absolutely right. Things change, especially in a breaking news situation, and you can't help that, but you can help whether you add to the confusion. He fought to get more control over the content and coverage of the news he delivered, becoming Managing Editor of the CBS Evening News in 1963. I believe that speaks to his personal commitment to getting things right. I heard a story about Cronkite from an editor at an affiliate on the west coast who was sending a story to the network to air. The editor got a phone call from "Walter at CBS," who asked him some key questions about the story so he could figure out how to lead into it. It was Cronkite himself, making sure he had it right before he put it on the air. You can remember Walter Cronkite for the stories he covered - and he was on the front lines of so many, from the landing on the Moon 40 years ago to World War II and Vietnam, to the assassinations of President Kennedy, his brother and Martin Luther King, Jr. Or you can choose to remember what he stood for - integrity and truth in a tumultuous time. I think we honor him better by remembering that. His own words can teach us so much about his own thoughts on reporting and journalism: "In seeking truth you have to get both sides of a story." "Our job is only to hold up the mirror - to tell and show the public what has happened." "I can't imagine a person becoming a success who doesn't give this game of life everything he's got." "It is a seldom proffered argument as to the advantages of a free press that it has a major function in keeping the government itself informed as to what the government is doing." Thank you, Mr. Cronkite. Thank you so much.