Our view: Don’t let journalism die with Cronkite

Walter Cronkite couldn’t always tell viewers exactly “the way it is.”

He admitted as much.

“‘You’re telling people that’s the way it is; well, we can make mistakes in that broadcast. That’s not necessarily the way it is,'” Cronkite remembered his boss telling him, during an interview with the Archive of American Television. “Well, I realized he was right about it.”

Incidentally, he couldn’t bring himself to stop signing off of “CBS Evening News” with the line; it had already caught on. And though no journalist can ever portray precisely the way things are, Cronkite did the best he could with just a few minutes for each story.

Cronkite died Friday at 92.

Most of the students at Kent State wouldn’t have known his work. He was an anchor from 1962 to 1981. No one on this editorial board has ever seen one of his broadcasts except from videos on YouTube.

But just watch one. Or think about that time period: ’62-’81. Martin Luther King Jr. was killed. So was John F. Kennedy. Malcom X, too. Men landed on the moon. May 4. Woodstock. Vietnam. Watergate. Three Mile Island. Mexico City Olympics. The Six-Day War.

That was the peak of good journalism, and along with just a few others, Cronkite defined it. He was the Edward R. Murrow of our parents’ generation.

But who is the Walter Cronkite of ours?

We can rule out Bill O’Reilly and Keith Olbermann, even though Olbermann has adopted the Murrow signoff, “Good night, and good luck.” We don’t have a newsman of the golden-age journalistic tradition who speaks in a measured voice about what happened in the world while you were at work.

There are few places to go – whether paper, television or Web – where an audience knows it’s going to read the closest account to fact that words and human imperfection can convey. National Public Radio and the Kent Stater are about the only two that remain.

That’s not the way it has to be. Given that people want to know what’s happening in the world they live in, and also that no one wants to be lied to, Fox News and MSNBC should not be rating leaders, and newspaper subscriptions should not be down.

But they are.

The trust that once brought millions of Americans in front of their televisions every night to watch Cronkite is gone. People are too skeptical and partisan to unflinchingly believe everything they read or hear.

But as few as they are, good sources of news exist. Laugh if you want, but the Stater strives to be one. And NPR really is about as fair and balanced as it gets.

Yet, there are others. Seek them. News can go back to being news and not entertainment if the audience demands it. Power is in your pocketbook, as they say.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Summer Kent Stater editorial board whose members are listed to the left.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Summer Kent Stater editorial board.