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17th July
written by Sean Noble

Walter Cronkite was an institution.  He was a pioneer in news broadcasting. In fact, he was one of the reasons I was a broadcasting major in college.          

I met Cronkite as a student at ASU.  My first interaction with him was after a speech he gave on campus.  I got up and, knowing his disdain for conservatives and conservative talk radio, asked him whether he thought that it was time to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine.  I knew he couldn’t possibly say yes, but I knew he wanted to.  Sure enough, he paused for a few seconds and then paid me the highest compliment I could ask for as a budding journalist: “Son, that is a whale of a question.”

He said all the perfunctory stuff I expected about how bad Rush Limbaugh was and what a negative influence he was on public discourse, etc., etc. But then he said that he didn’t think that reinstating the Fairness Doctrine was the way to go.

About a year later he was back on campus and I had a chance to be in a small meeting of about 20 students with him.  He spoke for a few minutes and then opened up for questions.  I immediately asked a question (I think I asked him what motivated him to be a journalist) and he answered.  Then there was silence – for an uncomfortably long time.  I sat there thinking, we are a group of journalism students, with one of the icons of broadcasting willing to spend some time talking to us, and none of these folks realize the huge deal this is.

As I was thinking that, he said, “Don’t the rest of you have questions?  How do you expect to be journalists if you don’t ask questions.”  That motivated one other student to ask a question and then I asked the next three.  And, sensing that no one else was going to ask anything, he gave long answers.

He was very gracious to me, even though one of my questions had been “how do we stay objective in the business is we don’t share the liberal philosophy of most in the in business like you.”  He was pretty taken aback by that, but he was friendly enough.  Even though we disagreed vigorously on politics, I felt a bit of a connection to him.

He revolutionized broadcasting – and we’ll never have anyone like him again.

“And that’s the way it is.”

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1 Comment

  1. Jill

    That’s very cool that you were able to meet him and had the guts to ask tough questions!

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