Sunday, July 19, 2009

Newspapering -- that's the way it is.

The news late Friday that Walter Cronkite had died brought a wave of nostalgia over us. We grew up with Mr. Cronkite, Mr. Brinkley, Mr. Huntley. And they’re all gone now.

Their legacies live far beyond the printed and broadcast words they etched into history over the decades. And, thanks to the Internet, tens of thousands of links are available to that history with just a couple of keystrokes.

In searching for some newspapering wisdom from Walter Cronkite, my hunt included this blog. This capsule of Cronkite’s nostalgic memories -– quickly followed with the reality check of the cringe brought on by the bark of a gruff old editor -– captures some of his soul of newspapering.

Cronkite began his storied career in newspaper journalism in Texas, first in Austin and then his hometown of Houston, where he was a cub reporter at the Houston Press. This was in the 1930s.
“And oh, God, how I loved it. How I loved it,” Cronkite told his audience of awed and nostalgic newspaper editors. “In those days, of course, before the quiet and the rugs on the floors and the computers, the city room was a pretty darn noisy place. It was a wonderfully noisy place: the clatter of all the typewriters in the city room and the pounding beat of the press service machines over in the corner. The filth, if you please, added to the atmosphere quite a lot, you know, all those rolled-up balls of copy paper on the floor where the disgusted writer had missed the wastebasket with his copy that would never see light of day. The swinging doors out into the makeup room. The loud roar of the Linotype machines. The smell of hot lead. The smell of printer’s ink. Even the smell of fresh newspaper roll. It was exciting.”

Fast-forward to today, with twitters, kindles, facebook, IM, blogs and whatnots. No matter the means, journalists still have all the wonderful noise of breaking THE story in their hearts –- and we want to do it in the style of Walter Cronkite, the most trusted man in America. In my column today, three of my editors reflect on what makes -– or breaks -– good solid journalism.

And that’s the way it is.

-- Joan

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