17 Jul Journalistic “T3” Leadership: Walter Cronkite
Walter Cronkite, journalist and the longtime face and voice of CBS Evening News (1962–81), d. OTD 2009.He was often cited as “the most trusted man in America” in the 1960’s and 70’s after being named so in an opinion poll.Leaders set standards of honesty and integrity for others to follow … Cronkite stood out from his peers because of his commitment to truth and objectivity in journalism, and was a Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient.
His inspirational style:
- TEAMWORK: Covered WWII in Europe, Cuban Missile Crisis, Vietnam War; assassinations of JFK, MLK, RFK, Apollo 11, and the Iran Hostage Crisis. Known for his departing catchphrase, “And that’s the way it is” followed by the date of the broadcast. Trained himself to speak at a rate of 124 words per minute in his newscasts, about 40 less than the national average, so that viewers could clearly understand him.
- TONE: The American public knew Cronkite for his objectivity, seriousness, and fact-based reporting.In February 1968, President Lyndon Johnson watched Cronkite’s comment that the Vietnam war was not winnable and an end must be negotiated, “not as victors, but as an honorable people who lived up to their pledge to defend democracy, and did the best they could.” Johnson reportedly said, “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost Middle America.” Several weeks later Johnson stunned a nation-wide TV audience when he announced he would not seek reelection.Cronkite is also famous for the few recorded instances of emotion he expressed on air; including the assassination of JFK, the stalemate in Vietnam and man walking on the moon … this authenticity and candor humanized him to Americans.
- TENACITY: For 20 years nearly 25 million Americans tuned into CBS every night, to hear Cronkite.His quotes that endure and provide lessons for journalists and society today:“In seeking truth you have to get both sides of a story”
“We all have our likes and our dislikes. But… when we’re doing news – when we’re doing the front-page news, not the back page, not the op-ed pages, but when we’re doing the daily news, covering politics – it is our duty to be sure that we do not permit our prejudices to show. That is simply basic journalism”
“History must share with reading, writing and arithmetic first rank as the most important subjects in the curriculum. Understanding the issues on which citizens of a republic are expected to vote is impossible without an understanding of the past”
Americans trusted Cronkite because he trusted them to see through the partisan party line – on both sides – and get to the truth. When he signed off from his nightly broadcast with his catchphrase, “And that’s the way it is,” we honestly believed him. We need more like him.
– Rear Admiral Paul Becker, USN (Ret) is a motivational and national security keynote speaker. He is a leadership professor at the U.S. Naval Academy and the CEO of The Becker T3 Group. In 2016, The Naval Intelligence Community established “The Rear Admiral Becker ‘Teamwork, Tone, Tenacity’ Award for Leadership” in his honor. To connect with Paul, visit his website: https://TheBeckerT3Group.com