The Spirit of Walter Cronkite

When I was growing up, the big three networks — ABC, CBS and NBC — had news anchors who were among the most respected and trusted individuals in the country. Walter Cronkite, Harry Reasoner, John Chancellor, David Brinkley — all were names you associated with responsible, unbiased and fair reporting.

Vintage Television
Honey, quick, warm up the TV! It’s almost time for the news!

That was the standard of the day, in part because that was good journalism, and in part because there was (and still is, although many of the laws have changed) FCC oversight of network news. That’s due to the limited airwaves, which limits the number of broadcast (as opposed to cable, satellite and similar) networks. There was a fear the networks could unduly influence, for example, the outcome of an election by the way they presented the news.

The networks were required to present opposing sides of controversial issues, as well as offer political candidates equal time on the air. If the candidates declined the offer, that was their choice, but the networks still generally attempted to provide balanced coverage.

ReporterJournalists believed in their responsibility to provide the public with accurate information. Yes, there were those who gave biased reports, and frankly, it’s virtually impossible not to let your own beliefs creep into your writing in sometimes subtle ways. Still, the standard was high, and the networks, for the most part, met it.

Of all the anchors on the three major networks, Walter Cronkite was the most revered, having been named the “most trusted man in America” in numerous polls. He earned that title. Rarely would he let his own feelings show in even the most emotional, or for that matter, mundane stories, always maintaining a professional distance, yet fully recognizing and respecting the impact his stories would have on his audience.

Yes, he choked up when he told the world President Kennedy had died, and his efforts to maintain his composure were visible. The world was a different place then, and it changed when the President of the United States was assassinated. Today, it is hard to imagine such a loss transforming the country in the same way.

His almost child-like excitement when a man first walked on the moon was one of the only other times he stepped away from his professional demeanor. We’ll forgive him for that.

Today’s blatant partisanship by so many of the news outlets weakens their credibility and contributes to the divisiveness between those of differing political beliefs. It’s hardly the only factor, but it’s a significant one.

Don’t mistake much of what you read on social media today for anything other than gossip.

The increase in communication outlets via cable television and the Internet (particularly social media) has also helped to erode a sense of unity. It’s now acceptable, and profitable, to be outrageous as a journalist or self-proclaimed expert in any area of law or politics.

Freedom of speech, in particular freedom of the press, was designed to benefit the American public. Any such freedom stands the chance of being abused, and that’s the price we pay. Yet we all have a responsibility to respect each other and treat these freedoms in a mature, equitable manner, remembering their purpose.

I’m not suggesting legal action be taken against those who behave like fools in the name of First Amendment freedom. Rather, I believe, as citizens and the audiences of the various news outlets, we use discretion in our selection of news sources, and by changing the channel, cast our vote for honorable journalism.

Image Credits: (television) © Gino Santa Maria — Fotolia; (Reporter Gear) © James Steidl — Adobe Stock; (woman gossiping) © alessia.malatini — Fotolia

The Only Thing Exterminated Here is the Death Penalty 

In my last job, we weren’t allowed to kill the bugs.

At the Inn at Bella Vista, this little one is safe.

Okay, it’s a bed & breakfast, so they had an exterminator come out on a regular basis for the comfort of their guests, but if a wasp flew into the dining room, you called Bill. He’d show up with the bug jar, capture the wasp and set it free.

Which is all well and good, but in my house, you take out the Raid.

The mice were saved, too, whenever possible. One such soul, Rodney, kept coming back, even though Bill would capture him in one of those humane traps and take him far into the woods in back. I’m not sure how he knew it was Rodney every time, but they developed a bond of sorts.

Sorry, Walter, little Rodney can’t play today.

I couldn’t help myself. I offered to bring over my cat, Walter, for a play date with Rodney. That suggestion was met with a wounded look from Bill.

Despite my jokes, I respect Bill’s philosophy. It comes as a direct result of his time serving as a Marine in Vietnam and a police officer in Little Rock in the 70s. He’s seen enough killing and death.

He tells stories of his time on the force, but never as a Marine in combat. Something true of many, if not most, servicemen and women. What they witnessed, and took part in, during war is not something they want to remember or repeat, in words or actions.

Instead, some, like Bill, try to make sense of what happened by protecting all innocents. Bless the beasts and the children, as they used to say. A phrase born of a country at war. Where are the protest songs today?

We become the people we are today in part by our response or reaction to what happened yesterday. Ideally, it is a response, a chosen way of thinking and being. But what happens when you are thrown into a situation for which you are never prepared, then asked to live with the resulting emotions? The guilt, the shame of an inexplicable experience may result in burying your thoughts and beliefs about what happened. You lose a part of yourself.

There is hope.

Believe in yourself, the person you know yourself to be in spite of the thoughts that hammer at your brain. Seek out the support of others. Never give up in your search for better.

This life is far from perfect. But it is what we’re given for a time, so never give in to the worst. Let the better part of life win.

Image Credit: (bee and flower)courtesy of Pixabay; (hand and butterfly) ©

There is Help, There is Hope

Today I met a couple who are celebrating their 49th anniversary. That’s a long time of loving another person. Bill, the husband, is a Vietnam vet suffering from PTSD. He and Joy were married before he left to serve in that war, and she’s watched the symptoms grow over the years since he got back. Like so many, it’s gotten worse as time has gone by.

It started with anger, a constant rage. Now it manifests itself primarily in nightmares, and a fear of going to sleep and facing them once again.

Hopefully his discussions with another veteran of the same war, another man named Bill, will encourage him to get the help he needs.

walkers-486583_640If you haven’t been there, you don’t know, I’m told, and of course that’s true. I wasn’t there, but I’ve seen the war played out in the faces of the men and women who served those many years ago. They are haunted, just as servicemen and women returning home today from the Middle East no doubt are or will be in the coming years.

My friend Beverly told me of a man she and her husband knew, who had also served in Vietnam. He seemed fine; no one, not even his wife, knew of any problems. Yet one day he shot and killed himself.

“I can’t take the nightmares anymore,” his note read.

Post-traumatic stress disorder isn’t limited to veterans. Victims of sexual assault make up the largest number of its victims in the United States, and like so many, they are reluctant to get help. Yet it can be treated, quite effectively.

Another woman visiting the bed and breakfast I work at is a retired psychologist, and she spoke of some treatments that seem a bit off-beat, yet they’ve had tremendous results in even the most jaded of individuals. I don’t know enough about them to speak effectively here, but they relate to eye movements.

candleThere is help. There is hope. Local Veteran’s Administration hospitals have experts on hand, and rape crisis centers can also refer victims to someone who can change your life for the better. A friend of mine who’s a social worker for the VA tells me she sees even the most reluctant veterans improve dramatically once they’ve gotten some basic treatment.

If you are suffering from PTSD or any other mental disorder, let the nightmare end.

Photo Credit: (candle) © 9comeback — Fotolia


Simple Song of Freedom


Thank you, Bobby Darin.

Knowing your time on this earth might be short, you decided early on to give it all you’ve got, and share what God had given you with multitudes you would never meet.

That included this wonderful Simple Song of Freedom, your voice against the war waging in Vietnam.

You were right, by the way. Those boys sent over there 50 years ago, the ones still with us, are fighting that war even today. It rages in the dark of night, hides behind every corner of their lives, and waits to overtake them.

I pray for peace, and I pray for leaders who know the price our young men and women in combat pay. A friend of mine, a Marine who served in Vietnam, told me he believed the first President Bush wouldn’t have sent troops into battle unless he had to, because he’d fought in World War II, and he knew the cost. I don’t think presidents have to have served in combat to gain a sufficient amount of that understanding, but they need to see that war isn’t a game.

Our world is always on the verge of another battle, the soldiers are, in essence, simply seeking a new battlefield. Let the fight for measured decisions be the strongest.

And sing for me a Simple Song of Freedom.

Photo Credit: (hand & butterflies) © digitalista — Bigstock

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