But where would he find a welcoming hand today? Where would he fit into edge-of- your-seat reality news programming? How could he possibly sustain the gotcha formula? Clearly, there is no one of his stature and public command in front of the cameras. The networks are tiptoeing with inoffensive coverage of critical issues, and cable has developed a strong taste for breaking-news madness rather than in-depth news coverage. Meanwhile, back at the printing press, newspapers continue to humiliate themselves on their way out the door. How else can you explain the aborted scheme of the Washington Post to have lobbyists sit down at the publisher's house with key reporters and editors for a fee of, say, $25,000 (to the paper) to advance their own self- serving story lines? The Post's mandarins had a lot of explaining to do to save face as well as credibility, but it was too late.
Who would accept Cronkite's measured words and gently clipped tones as the way to improve one's Neilsen ratings? Yet who among today's broadcasters will someday earn the title as "the most trusted man (or woman) in America."? Wanna bet?
As I was growing up in the newspaper field, Walter Cronkite, Edward R. Murrow and Eric Sevareid held fast as my broadcasting models. They always made sense. I trusted them. Can we say the same of anybody in the bloody business today that is so committed to fatuously entertaining us rather than informing ?
In a world every bit as disheveled as today, Walter Cronkite's was the remarkable soft-spoken reassuring uncle who compelled us to watch, listen and believe. His tag line for his newscast was, "And that's the way it is." Who could disagree? Today, we can only wistfully add, "And that's the way it was."