A Reporter’s Life

9780345411037Walter Cronkite’s memoir A Reporter’s Life is not scattered with journalism debris. Famed for signing off from reporting regularly with the line “And that’s the way it it is…”, Walter was known not for his very distant experiences with famous figures, such as Richard Nixon and Robert Kennedy, from whom he couldn’t extract any information on his Presidential hopes, but more for his trustworthy reportage. In fact, the only compliment that Lyndon Johnson had thrown his way was that Cronkite should be regarded as the reporter to turn to when looking for a neutral-tone in reportage on the Vietnam War in the presence of most of CBS turning a blind eye to what’s happening in Vietnam.

The compliment made by Lyndon Johnson still felt a little bit neutralized because it came with that famous encounter of Lyndon meeting Cronkite for an interview, with a set of questions personally prepared by Lyndon, who then demanded that Cronkite ask him answers to his prepared questions on-air – even though Cronkite had to politely turn it down because of how differently news programs were structured, what came out of that interview was very little or nothing at all. But naturally, not every sound byte in television is a rejection of a total put-on and Walter describes this particular scenario as ‘political theater’.

Walter Cronkite had served as an anchor for the CBS Evening News news program (which he had co-founded) for nineteen long years, and his career span during the sixties and the seventies included covering some of the most important news stories around the world. As a reporter, Walter had announced the assassination of JFK, reported on the Watergate scandal, been to Vietnam to report on the Vietnam war, alongside reporting on the Nuremberg Trials and the North African segment of the Second World War.

In the late sixties, Walter had considerable control over influencing how United States functions and it’s not hard to see why: before the birth of the digital age in the nineties, pioneered by Silicon Valley in San Francisco, were also the years which had made television very accepted, much like how Silicon Valley still dominates from the 21st Century onwards, despite the dot-com crash (dated 1999-2001).

Reporters and bloggers, in journalism, can actually stand so close to a story they can smell it – it is tough for those reasons to personally not find Walter a very inspiring figure because of his rare accomplishments. But Walter didn’t start out easy: after dropping out of The University of Texas at Austin, he worked as a news reporter for various mediums, at first. There was even a time when on-air he had to cover a story with a broadcast name because the convention with radio stations at the time was that if a reporter left, he or she might just take the station’s audience with them.

Indeed, Walter’s initial days as a news reporter wasn’t even remotely glamorous: he had no scriptwriter and only wire service reports as his scripts, and Walter covered the Korean War using a Korean war map he had sketched out himself depicting troop movements, with the help of a blackboard and chalk. But fame soon found him because of his job at CBS Evening News and the president of CBS News, at the time, Sig Mickelson, had advised him to get an agent to maintain his newfound million-dollar-anchor status.

However, Walter’s relationship with CBS wasn’t always so cushy: strangely, I find myself agreeing with Walter’s criticism of CBS‘ love for infotainment and slashing of news coverage. These days there’s either too much of a need to have excessive fast-paced glamour in the form of human drama (or “celebrity news”) or too much of a need to make more and more money rather than do regular (and dependable) news reportage.

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