Cronkite trusted source for news

Published 5:00 am Monday, July 20, 2009

It was in Ms. Ruth Jones’ third-grade class at BrookhavenElementary School when I heard the announcement that John F.Kennedy had been shot. The excitement of getting out of school wassubdued by the pall on the faces of the teachers – a confusingmoment for eight-year-olds.

The clarification and understanding of the magnitude of the daycame from Walter Cronkite – a comforting grandfather-likeindividual who led the nation through the tragic events of thatNovember day in 1963.

And up until his retirement in 1981, each night his soothingfactual account of the day’s events on CBS News helped bring senseto a world seemingly tilting and tottering on the brink ofdisaster.

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It was he who helped us make sense of the efforts of the civilrights movement and the nonsense of the war in Vietnam. It was hewho explained the intricacies of the Cold War and its nuclearthreat; informed us of the tragic Olympic shooting at Munich; andkept us up-to-date on Watergate and the eventual fall of RichardNixon.

It was Walter Cronkite who allowed a nation and the world totravel to the moon and watch Neal Armstrong take those first steps- his passion for the U.S. space program became a contagiousenthusiasm that set the stage for the rest of us to marvel at ournation’s scientific accomplishments.

Considered the “most trusted man in America,” his calmness andfactual demeanor ushered in the golden age of television news. Itwas he who understood the power of his medium and warned of itspotential abuse.

Unlike the celebrity newscasters today, who are quick withopinions and short on facts, it was Walter’s formula of reportingthe news – fairly and without bias – that allowed him thecredibility and gained a nation’s respect.

Unfortunately the networks, both cable and broadcast, failed toheed his warnings and what we today call TV journalism is more aneffort to stir the emotions with drama rather than to inform.

Gone is the credibility that Walter Cronkite tried so hard tobuild and maintain. And so too is gone the trust and respect of anation that needs and wants to be informed.

His death Friday evening at the age of 92 brings an end to anera that only those of us old enough to remember can appreciate.Walter Cronkite was critical of the direction of televisionjournalism has taken, for it has taken our nation on a path ofcynicism and disrespect with little trust in those around us.

And that’s the way it is …

Write to Bill Jacobs at P.O. Box 551, Brookhaven MS 39602,or send e-mail to