Friday, July 17, 2009


A legend died tonight.

The journalistic greats of my lifetime, they are all gone now. Howard K. Smith, John Chancellor, Peter Jennings, David Brinkley, Chet Huntley, Harry Reasoner and now the last--and the best of the old school journalists--Walter Cronkite, the face of CBS News during the 1960s through the early 80s, is gone.

Walter Cronkite died tonight at age 92 after a lengthy illness.

Cronkite, the most influential journalist/news anchor of his time, personified accuracy, objectivity, empathy and integrity. Few journalists have had the longevity that exemplified his storied career.

And what a career his was! He covered events during World War II, the Nuremberg War Trials and went on to become the anchor for CBS Evening News. Often forgotten were his long stints with the programs "You Are There, CBS Morning News, The 20th Century, The 21st Century"--and countless, countless documentaries.

Under his tenant as evening news anchor, Cronkite oversaw the most tumultuous years in American history--and we saw it all through his objective eyes. For viewers of the boomer generation, Cronkite was the voice we remembered when news broke that President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated. No one can forget Cronkite's moving announcement when he choked, knowing he felt the pain as we did.

In 1968, after providing coverage for the Vietnam War from the safety of the New York news desk, Cronkite felt it necessary to see the war firsthand for himself. After returning to the states, he reluctantly announced that America could expect no more than a honorable exit by negotiating a peace settlement with North Vietnam.

If any would question Cronkite's credibility, they need not have looked any further when President Lyndon Johnson himself declared "if I have lost Walter Cronkite, I have lost middle America."

Cronkite had often noted his favorite topic he covered was NASA's manned lunar landings. It seems only fitting he died on what is the 40th anniversary of that historic Apollo 11 spaceflight.

On a personal note, I have often told my friends my heroes are journalists and writers. Cronkite in particular, was nearly a god in the world of reporters in my eyes. His example provided me a guide of what good news reporting should be.

For me, watching the Walter Cronkites, David Brinkleys, John Chancellors, Peter Jennings or the Tom Brokaws as they practiced their craft was my inspiration as a Navy photographer and reporter.

Last summer while I was stationed at Camp Eggers in Kabul, Afghanistan, I had the opportunity to ask (then) Senator Barack Obama a few questions; I remember thinking to myself what would "Uncle Walt" have asked if he were there?

In later years when interviewed on NPR's Diane Rehm Show, Cronkite explained what made a good journalist:

"The ethics of a … responsible journalist is to put his or her biases, his or her prejudices aside in an attempt to be really fair to all sides at all times," he said. "And my pride is that I think I did that fairly well during my years."

By all accounts, Cronkite succeded in that mission as his name was synonymous with credibility. He was named in a 1972 poll as "the most trusted man in America." The fact that even 14 years after he had retired from CBS News' anchor desk, he was still regarded as one of the most influential news reporters of our time.

His authoritative presence immediately lent credence to any story he reported upon. Even after retiring from CBS News in 1981, he spent his "retirement years" working for CBS, PBS, the Discovery Network and NPR.

He was a force that time could not diminish, yet his integrity was not limited to only his career but in his personal life as well. His marriage to his wife Betsy lasted mere days shy of 65 years, when she passed away in 2005.

In today's world of instantaneous news coverage and 20-second sound bites, Cronkite's brand of journalism will sorely be missed. In the coming days, I hope the news agencies afford him the same reverence bestowed upon the likes of entertainer Michael Jackson. The difference here, in my opinion, is that Cronkite was a true legend deserving of the praise that is likely to be heaped upon him by his colleagues and those whose lives he influenced.

And in closing I'd like to quote Mr. Cronkite himself:

"And that's the way it is on this Friday, July 17, 2009. Good night."


  1. Excellent entry. And you could not find any greater inspiration to be a reporter than those that you have mentioned, all who were suprassed by Walter Cronkite.

  2. To have people ask "What word would you associate most with this person?" and the word most used is "integrity..." Now that is something to be proud of, and a lasting legacy.

  3. Wonderful post.
    I still think of Cronkite as the last of the trustworthy anchors; he didn't put a spin on it, he simply gave you the facts.
    And this:
    "Cronkite had often noted his favorite topic that he covered was the 1969 manned lunar landing. It seems only fitting he died on what is the 40th anniversary of that historic Apollo 11 spaceflight."
    was what I was thinking too.

  4. a beautifully written entry, doug. he indeed was a legend in the field. they don't make them like that anymore, it seems.


  5. Nicely done. I lok forward to reading more of your thoughts.

  6. I remember him from back in the day. He was a very trust worthy guy.