What Would Walter Cronkite Say?
For more than a couple years I’ve been very critical of the way the media reports the news. Regardless of which side of the aisle you’re on, it’s impossible to ignore the bias on both sides. Bias is fine for columnists and commentators but not for real journalists.
I have had a long life and for nearly 4-decades of that time I interacted directly or indirectly with journalists - so I guess I have a right to share my observations. The news industry has steadily declined in its attempts to put a lid on advocacy while reporting. They’ve also failed at being accountable and no longer post or state retractions when they’ve been dead wrong with their reporting, I’ve been so frustrated by all of it that a few months ago, I actually said out loud, I’ll bet Walter Cronkite is turning over in his grave. In fact, I’ve said that more than once. Most recently, my patience had reached the boiling point when I gave up, turned the TV off in disgust and went to bed. Not long after I had another “visitor”.
As you’re all aware, people come to me from the “other side” all the time and when they do, I dutifully pull out my pen and a pad of paper and write precisely what I hear. Not long after the incidents above, Walter Cronkite came with an opinion to share. Actually, over a period of a couple months, he came twice.
I’d better do a quick sidebar here to explain how I first know someone is coming, in the first place. Second, how I know who they are and finally, why there seems to be a rush of very famous people reaching out. I am anything but a namedropper and frankly, all these really famous folks showing seemed a bit embarrassing and I hardly believed it myself, another one? You have to remember, with the work I do, I never solicit a soul to come – I just honor whoever shows up.
The next point I probably need to explain is how I know someone is trying to contact me, as I mention in my latest book, is that electrical mischief happens – crazy mischief involving my television, phone, computer, automobile and even an occasional street lamp. Such signals are impossible to ignore, so immediately ask if someone is trying to contact me and 98% of the time, they are. If I’m not aware of who the person is instantly, I go through a series of questions and drill down to get more specific. Generally, at that point, a face flashes in front of me or I hear a name. In the last 4-months, there have been 3 to 4 dozen celebrities, icons or legends who came to share.
When I asked why the big names only, they explain that those are the voices that will draw the most attention. It seems, of the billions of souls who have passed over millenniums, most are totally unknown to the masses – but a few are big deals. Many of these souls have similar soul growth lessons they’ve experienced, similar wisdom learned after passing or common opinions they’d like to share with us. Some just want to offer me encouragement or advice. It’s their collective opinion that nobody is going to care much what Fred Smith from Philadelphia thinks about the state of world peace, but if Mahatma Ghandi, for example, said the same thing – they’d all listen, they may remember the message and might even repeat it to others. This made total sense to me, so I gave up worrying what others may think.
As the most trusted man in TV news for decades, Walter Cronkite came to me twice to talk about today’s journalism and then to add a cute anecdote about me in his first message.
“Good morning, Sandy. I’d guess you’d be curious about my take on the state of affairs in journalism today. It’s so sad. No integrity, no individual pride in their craft. Professionalism has been lost. It truly breaks my heart because real newscasters, news reporters and even anchors of more soft new features or local news were (once) dignified, respected and in some cases revered.
“Now, they’re like carnival barkers – one out-sensationalizing the other.”
Cronkite continued with a cute story about me when I was a little girl in 4th grade.
Not sure how he knew this story but souls, when they come through me, are sometimes able to pick-up energy that is familiar or related to them in some way.
He reminded me of the “ME BOOK”, I put together in 4th grade with the rest of my class which included a drawing of our family, pets, house and what we wanted to be when we grew-up. For the latter, I drew a woman in a business suit with a pad and paper, she was quite serious looking and was a woman reporter from a TV show (CBS-1954) named Lorelei Kilbourne. Funny how I’ve remembered her name over all these years since the show wasn’t much of a success s- but for a young midwestern girl growing up in rural Illinois, she represented a glamorous life that I knew was destined for me. Walter Cronikite’s comment made me smile.
“Remember, Sandy, as a little girl you wanted to be a reporter like Lorelei Kilbourne – ha – now look at you! Reporting the big stuff!! This assignment, kiddo, is not for sissies.” Walter was not referring to my past career in advertising/public relations but rather my new role taking dictation and reporting to all of you the information those on the “other side” want us to know. Then he said – and I could feel his grin:
“Shoot the messenger – remember? So, write and duck! Keep objective, Sandy, and report your heart out.” He signed off with a sweet close: “My colleague and new friend – now, forever. Walter C.”
Walter came again with a second message a couple months later. I feel obligated
to share some of that, as well. He seemed determined to have his comment heard.
“Sandy, I’ve come again today because I want people to know how I feel, what journalism was meant to be and how it has all gone awry. I represented, I guess, an era where newscasters were professional, unemotional and reported what happened. They did not offer commentary on why it might have happened. They didn’t embellish or dramatize and certainly didn’t inflame as they do today.
“First, there should be an honest distinction between a commentator and a journalist. Yet in today’s society it seems alright for professional journalists to color their coverage with opinion. That is not proper or acceptable in any form.
“When real journalism existed, we all had loyalties and biases but were proud that they never showed. Most of the leading newspapers strived for that, too, so that’s where Opinion Pages came in to play.
“I‘m ashamed of our industry. Our free society depends on unbiased and a free press and media. There are venues for opinion but the news desk should never be one of them. Most sincerely, Walter Cronkite.”
Walter Cronkite and those of his kind reported the news with an objectivity that made you believe them. It was pure, devoid of ego, opinion and emotion and was delivered with an honesty about it that people could feel. I suppose the only way to regain any of that with journalists today is to remind them that their opinion is counter-productive to their craft. Actually, it might be helpful for them to take a course in keeping a quiet mind, living in the moment and simply passing along the information.
It always works for me!