Walter Cronkite, the most trusted man in America, is dead, and we shall not see the likes of him again, which tells us more about the public than about the press. But that’s the way it was – and won’t be. He was born and is buried in Missouri, although it was in Texas where he was first introduced to journalism. When Cronkite was 10, his father, a dentist, moved the family to Houston where young Walter later got a job with The Houston Post as a copy boy and cub reporter. At the same time, he had a paper route delivering The Post to his neighbors. He wrote in his autobiography, “As far as I know, there were no other journalists delivering the morning paper with their own compositions inside.” (Another paperboy perfected his delivery throwing The Post for many years – Nolan Ryan.) Cronkite – the name is Dutch – attended The University of Texas where he wrote for the Daily Texan, was a correspondent for The Post and still managed to act. He joined the UT Curtain Club and in his first show he played a doctor. The corpse was played by Eli Wallach. Cronkite left college to pursue a full-time job as a journalist, but later wrote that he always regretted not getting his degree from UT. Still, the Longhorns claim him. You have, no doubt, seen those TV spots that schools run during team games. UT shows a burnt orange sunset behind the Tower, and the spot ends with, “We’re Texas!” Another finishes with the solemn pronouncement, “What starts here changes the world.” There is no picture of the announcer, no name listed, the voice is clearly that of Uncle Walter. A few years back I heard his autobiography, “A Reporter’s Life,” on tape, with him reading his own words. I figured it was one of the few books that would sound better when spoken. CBS also liked that clearly discernable voice, and did a 180. Right after Cronkite’s death, the network announced that his recorded introduction would no longer be used to open the “CBS Evening News” with Katie Couric. Then the network suits changed their corporate minds and decided to continue using the intro. Notice that another Texan, Dan Rather, who anchored the news between the two, got stiffed. During his career, Cronkite bounced around newspapers, working for the Houston Press for a while, and radio, doing play-by-play for OU football games. He said later he was dreadful. He moved on to the networks and went overseas. In early 1943, during the bombings of occupied Europe, American correspondents begged to fly with the bombers. The military finally relented and agreed to let eight American journalists – who called themselves the Flying Typewriters – go with the bombers. On one flight was Robert Post of The New York Times. His plane was shot down and he was never heard or seen again. The two other correspondents were Walter Cronkite and Andy Rooney. Switching to TV, he was the first host for televised Olympic games – the 1960 winter Olympics in Squaw Valley, Calif. Eventually, he was so widely known that in Sweden anchormen were called Cronkiters. Yet today he wouldn’t be hired by any TV station. He didn’t have the style, the teeth, the blow-dried, sun-tanned look. And he had a mustache. Name one TV anchor who has a mustache. OK, Wolf Blitzer (a made-up name if ever there was) has a beard, and some anchors have goatees, but no mustaches. There’s another and more powerful reason the most trusted man in America today would not get our trust, because these days we have been told to distrust the press, it’s biased, has an agenda, Spin City. Today, America’s favorite program is “Beat the Press.” If this evening, Walter Cronkite first appeared on TV to deliver the news, Fox would spot his slant immediately. We have been taught to be cynical about the media and those who deliver the news. Key code words used by these microphone Marines are “mainstream media” and “state-run press.” ABC foreign correspondent Bob Woodruff got half his head smashed in when the Iraqi tank he was riding in, and reporting on, got blasted, giving new meaning to another derogative term: “drive-by media.” We tell one another constantly that today’s news anchors stick in their own views, unlike Cronkite. We neatly forget his powerful on-the-air opinions. After a visit to Vietnam in 1968: “It seems now more certain than ever that the bloody experience of Vietnam is to end in a stalemate.” As President Lyndon Johnson listened to the broadcast, according to aide Bill Moyers, he said, “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost middle America.” This from the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago to reporter Dan Rather when cops charged demonstrators: “I think we’ve got a bunch of thugs here, Dan.” Cronkite did two long essays on Watergate, including: “Watergate has escalated into charges of high-level campaign of political sabotage and espionage apparently unparalleled in American history.” If, say, Brian Williams spoke such words on the air today, he’d be roasted. With Uncle Walter, it was more than OK, it was applauded. These days I, like you, don’t trust any of those talking heads we see on TV delivering the news. Notice how they wink, raise an eyebrow, smirk, when telling us that a tornado hit Iowa or the vote in the House was 230-211. We are too smart to buy their biases. Oh, sure, there are probably some wannabe Walters out there, with honor, honesty and dependability. But we doubt those journalists’ truthfulness because we have been told they are a bunch of fact-twisters, and we believe what we are told by press bashers, i.e. not to believe what we are told. Does that make sense? I recommend we label these anchor anachronisms as untrustworthy until we spot the one who will tell it like it is. We’ll know by her mustache. Ashby is trusted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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