Friday, July 17, 2009

A Reporter's Life, and The Real Bottom Line

My friend Matt got me A Reporter's Life for college graduation. I know this because he inscribed the book with a nice little sentiment about me starting my own life as a reporter.

I read it while I lived in Virginia at my first newspaper job. I hardly knew who Walter Cronkite was at the time, but I knew he was the revered anchorman who Johnson was reported to have said, "If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost middle America," in reference to Cronkite's criticism of the Vietnam War.

I don't remember much about the book now other than I loved it. I might have been too young to remember him on the CBS Evening News, but it gave me an appreciation of this legendary older man and what he had seen in his life.

I remember his tone was thoughtful and seasoned, and the book was peppered with adages about journalism that seem from a bygone era now. And I underlined everyone one of them.

That's what I do with books, see. I underline, write in the margins, make notes and criticisms on the back pages. It's why I have such a hard time letting them go; I make them mine.

So tonight when I learned that he'd died at 92 I picked up A Reporters Life for the first time in years and flipped through to see what I had noted back then. I saw the inscription and smiled (I had forgotten the book was a gift) and then on page 374 I saw that I had outlined this paragraph:

To play the downsizing game, the boards and their executives deny to their news managers enough funding to pay for the minimum coverage necessary to serve their consumers well. They reduce the amount of expensive newsprint available until editors do no have enough space for the news they need to cover. Good reporters, writers and editors are spread so thin that they cannot spend the necessary time developing the stories that the public needs and deserves. A more responsible press depends not upon individual journalists but upon more responsible owners. That is the real bottom line.

More responsible owners indeed.

So goodnight Mr. Cronkite.

No comments: