( Nov 4, 1916 - July 17, 2009 )
I met Walter Cronkite only once, and I told him what every tv news reporter has said: I wanted to be like you.
My remarks were not original, but they were sincere.
In fact, I just read a quote from CBS Anchor Bob Schieffer who said: Walter is who I wanted to be.
Cronkite casts a large, lasting shadow because he stood for journalistic integrity and ethics.
The broadcasting legend was born in 1916 in St. Joseph, Missouri; years later, he got a taste of journalism at the Houston Post; later he served as a campus correspondent at the University of Texas and did some sports for an Austin radio station. After a job with the Houston Press, he joined KCMO in Kansas City before taking a job with United Press. During World War II, Cronkite coverged the battle of the North Atlantic, flew on a bombing mission over Germany and even glided into Holland with the 101st Airborne Division.
Cronkite became a house hold name when he served as the anchor of the "CBS Evening News" from 1962 to 1981. In fact, the title "anchorman" was first applied to Cronkite.
In 1972, a "trust index" survey rated him as "the most trusted man in America"; he finished Number One ... 15 points higher than leading politicians; in a 1974 survey, Americans chose him as "the most trusted television newscaster".
Those of us in news broadcasting would be jealous of such accolades ... except that he truly deserved them.
That's why he was such an icon for the rest of us.
He set the highest standards.
Only once did he lose his composure; that was November 22, 1963 when he announced that President Kennedy had died.
A few days ago, CBS Anchor Harry Smith was at Channel 4; we spent half an hour talking about our business and how it's changed over the years.
We agreed that journalistic standards aren't as high; ethics is often forgotten; tabloid and entertainment "news" gets too much play.
At one point, Harry told me, We're just old dinosaurs in this business.
TV News has changed dramatically from the time that Cronkite sat in the anchor chair, but those of us still in the business know every day that we must strive to meet the Cronkite standards.
Anything less ... falls short.
And ... as Walter Cronkite would say: that's the way it is.