Cronkite — who died in 2009 — spent 19 years as the anchor for CBS Evening News. In the ’60s and ’70s, he was known as “the most trusted man in America.”
Imagine that. A journalist — today often branded in some circles as the enemy of the people — considered the most trusted in our nation.
I met Cronkite when I was 18, during a cross-country journalism study tour offered through Seattle University. I was one of a dozen idealistic students on the tour, many of us inspired by the events of Watergate — when journalists exposed the criminal activities of then-President Richard Nixon.
Since all of us had grown up with Cronkite delivering the news in our respective living rooms, we were awestruck when we met him, sitting around the CBS News conference room in New York City. I don’t remember much of what he said, but I do know that meeting him inspired me to be the best journalist I could be.
Walter Cronkite delivered the news during a much different time, of course. There was no cable TV news catering to ideological viewpoints, no social media, no cell phone videos, no internet. While I would argue that there is much good that has come out of the technology shifts that have transformed how people receive information, I also sincerely believe there is much to be said for delivering fact-based journalism that people trust.
And I believe there is no better place to do that than with local news, where residents can make a difference by attending a meeting, writing a letter to the editor or volunteering for an event.
I am proud of our work to provide Edmonds, Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace with news about our communities. We attend government meetings. We cover business openings. We promote the local arts scene. We report on the accomplishments of our student musicians and athletes and poets.
Sadly, that type of news coverage is not the case in many places in America. A study released by Duke University earlier this month found many examples of news deserts, communities “where news and information about critical local issues is nonexistent or severely limited.”
As I write this, newspapers nationwide are publishing editorials to remind their readers that a free press is not their enemy. At times, we might be perceived as “the enemy” by someone who doesn’t want us to write a particular story or report on a certain issue, but that comes with the territory. As a journalism colleague once said, you aren’t doing your job if someone isn’t unhappy with you.
I also would be the first to admit that journalists, like those in any other profession, make mistakes. It’s always been my goal to ensure that any errors that appear here are corrected as quickly as possible, and I invite our readers to let us know when they see something that isn’t right.
Despite all the criticism of today’s journalists, I firmly believe that our democracy can’t function without a free press. With that freedom comes responsibility — to be fair, and to ensure that all viewpoints are represented. If you ever feel we aren’t doing, that please email me.
Of course, I can’t finish this column without my regular reminder that we cannot continue to do any of this work without your support. If you haven’t yet signed up to support us, I hope you’ll do that today. Any amount is sincerely appreciated.
As Walter Cronkite always said at the end of his newscasts, “And that’s the way it is.”
Teresa Wippel, publisher