Show Tracker

What you're watching

« Previous Post | Show Tracker Home | Next Post »

President Obama calls on journalists to live up to Walter Cronkite's example

September 9, 2009 | 11:43 am

President Obama today exhorted the media to live up to the example set by the late Walter Cronkite, praising the veteran CBS anchor for embodying the credo that “journalism is more than just a profession; it is a public good vital to our democracy.”

Speaking at a memorial for Cronkite, hours before he is set to make his case for healthcare reform in a high-stakes address to a joint session of Congress, the president lauded the newsman for “his belief that the American people were hungry for the truth, unvarnished and unaccompanied by theater or spectacle.”

“He didn't believe in dumbing down,” Obama told a packed hall at Lincoln Center. “He trusted us.”

Noting the toll that financial pressures have taken on journalism, he bemoaned the proliferation of “instant commentary and celebrity gossip and the softer stories that Walter disdained, rather than the hard news and investigative journalism he championed.”

“ 'What happened today?’ is replaced with ‘Who won today?’ ” Obama said. “The public debate cheapens. The public trust falters. We fail to understand our world or one another as well as we should –- and that has real consequences in our own lives and in the life of our nation.”

Obama’s remarks came as he has been facing the sharpest media scrutiny yet of his young presidency, particularly of his administration’s handling of healthcare. Despite the intense focus on tonight’s congressional address, which is widely viewed as his last chance to sell the public on the need for reform, he spent the morning at the 2 1/2-hour Cronkite memorial, listening to tributes for the journalist known as “the most trusted man in America.”

In his remarks, the president said he was confident that Cronkite would have been able to “cut through the murky noise of the blogs and the tweets and the sound bites to shine the bright light on substance.”

“If we choose to live up to Walter's example,” he said, “if we realize that the kind of journalism he embodied will not simply rekindle itself as part of a natural cycle, but will come alive only if we stand up and demand it and resolve to value it once again, then I'm convinced that the choice between profit and progress is a false one -- and that the golden days of journalism still lie ahead.”

-- Matea Gold