UNITED NATIONS. WALTER CRONKITE. A REPORTER EVERYONE TRUSTED.

 

15 SEPTEMBER 2009

WALTER CRONKITE. A REPORTER EVERYONE TRUSTED.

No one gave him that title. He earned it. When his baritone voice came across the waves, people listened attentively. He was the man who told it as it is.

Commemorating Walter Cronkite in New York's Lincoln Center Wednesday, 9 September, President Obama spoke of the credibility factor. It was the first time a U.S. President participated in a farewell for a reporter. A prolonged applause even before he spoke indicated that fellow journalists appreciated the symbolic tribute. He recounted how Cronkite was fired out of his first job because he insisted on double-checking a report on a fire. The station owner instructed him to go on the air right away to scoop the competition; his wife had seen the huge blaze which was creating many victims. But the starting reporter called the fire department first to find out that there was a small contained fire and no victims. He went on to bigger and higher assignments, but never abandoned his insistence on the facts. A modest man who loved his profession, he insisted on maintaining his dignity and its image. Even when he became a household name as CBS' main anchorman, he took risks in field missions where he felt the American public needed to know. His reports during the Vietnam War were not only the most credible but those with a human interest dimension. When your country's men and women are fighting in distant lands, they and their families needed to know what they were fighting for and how, really, were they doing.

Every U.S. President wanted Cronkite on his side. Despite every temptation and much pressure, he maintained his professional observer's position. He was respectful and courteous to all, yet kept his distance when it came to reporting the news.

At a critical period for the media, a time when even publishers of once-hallowed dailies stumble and surrender their inherited role, commemorating Walter Cronkite reminded everyone that journalism was a credible, capable, and honourable profession. He gained the trust of his general public, convincing them that reporters really feel with them, that journalism served the common good. As we bade him farewell, we thanked him for being such a gracious inspiration and for making us proud to be journalists.