The ”Most Trusted Man” — When Comes Such Another?

There will never be another Uncle Walter

As the tributes, flowed in , it became clear that Walter Cronkite was revered by most Americans as a man who told it as it was, who had earned their trust and respect.

As Shakespeare might have put it: ''Here was a Caesar, when comes such another?'

Walter Cronkite was indeed a Julius Caesar in the galaxy of journalism greats. When comes such another? If the present standards of American journalism are any indication, the answer would be: not for a long, long time---if ever. For, in the contemporary world, there are more opinionators than fact gatherers. That is one of the saddest aspects of Cronkite's death.

The ''most trusted man in America'' was trusted because people believed  he told the truth, without injecting his own opinions. Only once did he stray from that path, deliberately.  In 1968 , after his trip to the bloody battlefields of Vietnam, he concluded that the Vietnam War could not be won and urged that there be a negotiated settlement.

He apologized for giving his own opinion---but said, that, under the circumstances, he had to say it. ''It is increasingly clear to this reporter that the only rational way out then will be to negotiate, not as victors, but as an honorable people who lived up to their pledge to defend democracy, and did the best they could.''

President Johnson reacted quickly.  ''That's it,'' he said. ''If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost middle America.'' Johnson decided not to run for another term.

Cronkite hesitated to criticize today's practitioners of journalism---he had a healthy respect for those who gathered news and didn't want to intrude on that process.  He did mourn the passing of in-depth pieces about the issues that confront us, the end of the white papers and long form documentaries on the networks that helped keep us informed in the past.
He could hardly be happy about the proliferation, especially on cable news, of a group of commentators who have all the answers to what ails America. Cronkite, as I knew him, was always proud of his wire service roots. He had the greatest respect for reporters because at heart he never stopped being one. 
The man known as ''Uncle Walter'' deserved the title of ''most trusted man in America.'' In his  era and the post-Watergate years, journalism itself became one of the most trusted professions in America. Sadly, that credibility has declined. The day when Americans, young and old, looked up to gritty, relentless reporters digging for the truth has passed, at least temporarily.
But Walter Cronkite will remain a role model for honest, decent journalism----and his life should be an inspiration to future generations of journalists.

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