It would be crazy for me as a writer and journalist not to pay tribute and respect to Walter Cronkite. Cronkite entered the broadcast journalism business when television was still a new commodity. The most famous events he covered were the assassination of President Kennedy, th Watergate scandal, the Vietnam War, the Apollo 11 trip to the moon, and the 1960 Presidential election.
Cronkite rarely voiced his opinions on the air. When he did however, he articulated them better than anybody else, and he supported them with irrefuatble facts and images. No event in American history was this more evident than his assessment of the Tet Offensive during the Vietnam War in 1968. He spoke of a standoff, not a victory or defeat, but a stalemate in which our political leaders suffered from an excess of optimism and stubbornness, despite huge losses of American troops, prestige and morale. "To say that we are closer to victory or defeat, is to believe in the face of evidence, the optimists who have been wrong in the past. To suggest we are on the edge of defeat is to yield to unreasonable pessimism," Cronkite said. "To say we are mired in a stalemate seems the only realistic, yet unsatisfactory, conclusion. On the off chance that military and political analysts are right, in the next few months we must test the enemy's intentions, in case this is indeed his last big gasp before negotiations. But it is increasingly clear to this reporter that the only rational way out then will be to negotiate, not as victors, but as an honorable people who lived up to their pledge to defend democracy, and did the best they could." Ladies and gentlemen, this is why as a child I was required to watch and listen to this man, even though I was only 9 years old when he left the anchor desk. As it turned out, President Johnson announced one week later that he would not run for President in 1968. "If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost middle America," Johnson said. I only wish reporters had questioned and criticized the last administration in the same manner.
Today's news, at least local television news, has become a dog and pony show. Fancy voiceovers, dizzying graphics and special effects, stupid headlines, and young eye candy newscasters don't really cut the mustard when it comes to good reporting. Don't get me wrong, I like to look at most of the young female newscasters, I just can't seem to get any substanital facts or stances on the issues that affect us the most. This is where Cronkite separated himself from everyone else. Even his replacement Dan Rather screwed up by not checking his facts and sources before reporting a story. Nowhere was this more evident than when he presented documents that were possibly forged of George W. Bush's National Guard service, as authentic. We all know George Bush has dodged many resposibilities in his life, and there is nobody that enjoys a derogatory George W. Bush story more than me. But if you're going to report a story, make sure your sources and your facts are authentic. Nobody knew this better than Cronkite which is why his signoff of "That's the way it is" is so appropriate.
I even heard Hugh Downs say that Cronkite told him you have to be liberal to be a good reporter. I know what you're all thinking. But what he meant was people should draw conclusions based on facts and evidence without fear of questioning the establishment. RIP Walter Cronkite. You're the best. And that's the way it is.