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The Most Trusted Man In America

Walter Cronkite, who was voted our nationís most trusted man in 1973, passed away the latter part of July at the age of 92. For those who remember Walter as their favorite and most trusted news anchor, will also remember that he served as top anchor for CBS News for 20 years.

Most folks will remember that Cronkite always signed off at the end of his news cast by saying, ďand thatís the way it is.Ē He also told a reporter for a news magazine in 2005 that he would never have retired at age 65 if he had known he was going to live so long.

Cronkite was firm in his conviction that you should not put any personal opinion into a news story, or into a TV news report. Accuracy and fairness were always ingrained into his reports and he operated on the theory of we report and you decide. It is hard to find that in many television journalists today.

Cronkite was born November 4, 1916 in St. Joseph, MO. the only child of a mustached dentist. The family relocated to Kansas City, MO. when Walter was two, and at age six he took it upon himself to report the death of President Warren Harding to his neighbors. Soon after he began his media career by selling magazines and delivering newspapers.

When he was ten his family moved to Houston, Texas where he graduated from high school and attended the University of Texas. He joined UPI in 1939 as a correspondent and covered many World War II battles, including the U.S. attacks on North Africa and the invasion of Normandy. He said he wanted to spit on the Nazi war criminals on trial in Nuremberg in the late 1940ís for killing millions of innocent people.

He left UPI in 1948 and worked two years for a group of radio stations. He joined CBS in 1950 anchoring TV news cast from the nationís capitol. He was named anchor of CBS Evening News in 1962, as the nation was entering one of its most troublesome decades. His most memorable newscast was on November 22, 1963 when he announced with tears in his eyes, the death of President Kennedy.

Over his years as CBS anchor, Cronkite was praised, and criticized, for being a neutral observer who did not let personal opinions float into his news reports. He was very careful all those years not to reveal his personal opinions about politics or anything else. Viewers did not know whether he was a Democrat or Republican.

Walter traveled nationally delivering around a dozen lectures each year until a couple of years ago. He also created twelve or so documentaries annually for National Public Radio and did an occasional TV documentary for PBS. He traveled to Vienna in December of 2005 to host a New Yearís Day celebration for PBS. The last work he did was done in his New York City office.

Few of us can argue that accuracy, compassion and fairness should be the trait of all journalists. We report you decide should be ingrained in all newspaper and TV journalists because it is the only way if we want to be the most trusted people in our communities.

Nineteen years ago Billy Bryant came to work for our Manchester group of newspapers as the editor of the Meriwether Vindicator, Mr. Billy had recently sold his Manchester Veneer Company which he started in 1989. There was no doubt in my mind about his writing ability because he had penned most of his Veneer softball team stories and gotten them in to us weekly.

Billy was a graduate of the University of Georgia and everyone who knew him or read his weekly columns knew how he loved UGA football and other sports. He told me once that after graduating from UGA he considered going into journalism but chose forestry due to being able to earn a better salary.

Mr. Billyís funeral was held Tuesday, July 28th at First Baptist Church where he was a lifetime deacon. During the service some of my thoughts were about his position on news coverage being the same as Walter Cronkiteís. He believed in giving his readers the facts and let them decide. He probably could have been voted the most trusted man in Meriwether or Talbot Counties.

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