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A Reporters Life

July 18, 2009

Somewhere buried in a small storage room in Ft. Lauderdale (where I have all the stuff that would not fit in my car when I moved up north – and which I’m still paying rent after all these years) is a copy of A Reporters Life; an autobiography by Walter Cronkite

I found the book while on vacation years ago. I picked it up, looking for something to read while on the beach or eating dinner and thought it looked interesting. I spent the next two days pouring over it.

Cronkite led an amazing life even before becoming America’s most trusted newsman and the face of American television journalism. The stories of his first jobs in radio include my favorite; his job reading the play by play reports from the teletype of baseball games – having to pretend to be announcing the game live – and how he had to desperately stall when the teletype went down for an hour, then frantically make up plays to catch up to the actual scores when it came back online. After an hour of nobody scoring any runs, he had to suddenly rack up base runs like crazy.

Cronkite and his wife were sent to live in Moscow at the height of the Cold War while he was a reporter. He wrote about living in the gray, impoverished city with no hot water, intermittent electricity and the paranoia of the Russian government system.

In his autobiography Cronkite talked about his philosophy of journalism. He felt strongly that the reporter was there to report: not to be part of the story, not to offer opinion, not to show bias. He did such an amazing job of this, nobody ever really knew his own opinions of the events and world leaders he covered. I think a lot of people would be surprised to hear his thoughts on Nixon, Reagan and Bush, as well as the conservative movement. And the state of journalism these days.

In high school my journalism class spent a lot of time on interview techniques and getting the story behind the people. Our teacher was a huge fan of Barbara Walters – before her “If you could be a twee, what kind of twee would it be?” stage and her stint as a talk show host. Reading Cronkites book , I realize that he has so much more to teach us about understanding events and comprehending the world around us.

I’ve recommended his book to several people. I usually get a funny look when I tell them that Walter Cronkites autobiography is a fascinating read. But it is.

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