That the death of Walter Cronkite, the voice of the world in America’s living room for decades, should occur at a time when traditional media is getting battered by the up-to-the -minute news access on the Internet, is perhaps fitting. A living legend has passed into memory. Tragic, but a sign of the times.
Others who knew Cronkite far better than a little girl in front of the television ever would, have penned loving and awed tributes to his iconic career, his work ethic and personal grace. One of the most honest remembrances I’ve seen came from ABC’s Stu Schutzman.
Many writers have also drawn the connection between Cronkite’s passing and the dawn of the Internet age. The New York Times wrote:
Some deaths end only a life. Some end a generation. Walter Cronkite’s death ends something larger and more profound. He stood for a world, a century, that no longer exists. His death is like losing the last veteran of a worldchanging war, one of those men who saw too much but was never embittered by it.
Indeed for many of us in the media field, Cronkite’s decades-long position of commanding authority and public trust through the relentless pursuit of news that mattered to the world, remains the benchmark we set for ourselves. We glory in the search for a story that matter to our communities, revel in the process of informing the public and pride ourselves on providing a valuable public service.
These days when I see newspapers struggling to survivie and Internet-based sources like Twitter emerge as a major “news source” for people on global events like the recent Iranian post-election protests, I cringe.
On the one hand, tools like Twitter allow for news to reach the world through non-traditional channels that governments have a hard time shutting down. At the same time, they are breeding grounds for misinformation – most unintentional – but damaging nonetheless.
One of the individuals I follow on Twitter, like thousands across the world, rallied to support the Iranian people. Much to this person’s chagrin he misreported events based on hearsay and re-Tweeted inaccuracies. To this person’s credit, he issued apologies for the missteps and corrected information.
But the truth remains, newsmen like Cronkite had the professional pride and knowledge that comes with years of experience – and as Cronkite and his peers increasingly leave behind the world they loved to follow, the need for their professional services remain.