The most trusted man in America is said to be gravely ill and nearing death.
Walter Cronkite, once The Most Trusted Man In America according to a Gallup Poll at the time, is 92 and TVNewser reports that CBS, which began updating his bio last week, is preparing a special on his life and career to be broadcast when he dies.
Cronkite, who anchored the CBS Evening News for 19 years until Dan Rather’s political maneuvring inside the network’s news division forced him to retire in 1981, brought America good news and bad, knitting the nation together during times of stress as well as happy times. He’s also the single most-important reason I decided to become a television news reporter when I was still in my early teens.
Uncle Walter, as he was affectionately called by friends and total strangers, always seemed to be there for us. When he told us about the Kennedy Assassination, he struggled to keep his composure because he knew if he lost his cool, the country would as well.
And, a few years later, it was Walter who again told America about another tragedy, the assassination of Martin Luther King.
Walter shared joyous times with us, as well, like when he became almost giddy at the moon landing.
Cronkite’s reporting from Viet Nam absolutely turned the tide of public opinion about the folly in Southeast Asia. When he told America the truth about how badly the war in Viet Nam was going, and said Washington was lying about it, President Lyndon Johnson turned to then-aide Bill Moyers to say, “If I’ve lost Cronkite on this, I’ve lost the nation.”
If Edward R. Murrow invented TV news reporting, then Walter Cronkite made it a force in America’s daily life. It was because he gave everyone who toiled in the fertile, green vineyards of broadcast reporting a compass, a direction, a role model to aspire to become. During the course of his nearly 20 year reign behind the anchor desk, television news – network and local – achieved its peak, not just of influence but, more importantly, of credibility.
He was a giant and, for countless reasons, his likes will never be seen again. Now, we have nincompoops like Bill O’Reilly, Chris Mathews and Sean Hannity bringing disgrace and despair to a profession that Walter Cronkite made honorable.
And that’s the way it is.