When Walter Cronkite took over the anchor desk in 1962, many of us were just growing up. For our parents and grandparents, he became the voice of time along with the face on our black and white television who brought the world to our living rooms. His “news chops” as we call them in the business were unlike most others. Cronkite traveled the world, literally getting in the trenches to cover wars, sitting with world leaders and really investigating the story. While he probably had a producer with him, he likely told you a story that HE hacked out on a manual typewriter. No one fed Walter Cronkite lines. He was the first anchor/managing editor, overseeing his own broadcast.
Walter Cronkite did not like how news was evolving into “infotainment.” How the anchor looked on the set rather than what they said and the news content didn’t sit well with the man whose middle name could have been “Hard News.” It’s likely my generation was the last to view news this way. Entertainment stories or a light story was a “kicker.” Something to end the newscast on an “up” note. In the montage of sign-offs I saw, Cronkite was chuckling as he offered his signature, “And that’s the way it is.” He was probably chuckling at a kicker story that ended that night’s broadcast. That’s the way it should be, I’m sure Cronkite thought. A newscast whether TV or radio, is meant to give viewers and listeners the news of the day: government, issues, developments around your region or the world.
What we learned from Walter Cronkite is that journalism is a craft. You don’t dabble in it; news is your life. You have a natural instinct for a story and then you seek answers and tell that story.
Just by the mere fact that Walter Cronkitewas the first reporter named an anchor, he was the standard for many who followed him. He had the voice of authority and a face you believed in.
With the passing of Walter Cronkite, we look ahead for broadcast news. There are hopes that reminders from footage we’ll see of Cronkite we’ll show us the way news WAS. Perhaps someday we’ll be able to say again: That’s the way it is.
Rest well with Betsy, most trusted man in America.