Blogs » Your Advocate: an editor's blog » Will there ever be another Walter Cronkite?


One of the many privileges I had as a Nieman Fellow was seeing Charles Osgood interview Walter Cronkite in 2005 at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library.

By his own admission, Cronkite was "deaf as a post" by that point in his life, but I was thrilled nonetheless to be in his presence. You may view the video of that day by clicking here.

During the talk, Cronkite recalled the moon landing, John F. Kennedy and his start as a newspaperman. I didn't realize until the introductions that Cronkite actually launched the nation's first half-hour evening newscast in 1963. For that first broadcast, he had an exclusive interview with President Kennedy.

More than 40 years later, I'm not sure evening news shows have a future. And I doubt the media landscape would ever allow for another Walter Cronkite to come along. When I was a boy growing up in Kansas, we didn't have hundreds of channel choices and thousands of Internet options. Cronkite was the voice of authority certainly because he was so good but also because we had few other options.

In a question during that 2005 talk, Osgood said: "There are some who criticize television today as being too focused on entertaining the audience. I recall that famous speech that Ed Murrow gave which can be seen in that movie that George Clooney has done, 'Good Night, and Good Luck' about television, [that] unless it focuses on the right story, tells the right story and tells it seriously, it is nothing but wires and lights and a box. And I think that some might say that that vision has come true."

Cronkite agreed TV news needed to avoid entertainment. In my opinion, though, that battle has been lost. Evening news programs are on the ropes as their ratings dwindle in the digital age.

Where will Americans get their news 40 years from now? I'm nostalgic this morning for another Walter Cronkite, but I don't think we'll see his like ever again.