08/17/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Walter Cronkite, a Journalism Role Model

This is a column I wrote in October, 2004. Cronkite was the best broadcast journalist who ever lived.

Walter Cronkite, a journalism role model

Monday, 04 October 2004

"Why is the last one to know, the first one to cry and the last to let go?"

-Reba McIntyre

Some people believe that the media outlets in the country are in a conspiracy to push a political agenda on the American people.

If you read their stuff you get the idea that Dan Rather, Peter Jennings and others get together and decide what to hide from the American public.

There is a slight problem with this theory. Dan Rather and Peter Jennings don't own CBS and ABC. CBS and ABC are owned by big corporations that make decisions based on making money for the shareholders.

ABC is owned by the Disney Corporation. If Disney figured out that they could make more money by having Mickey Mouse as the news anchor, Peter Jennings would be fired and Mickey would be in his place.

One of the reasons that media outlets make money for their stockholders is that the public will pay for a source for information they can trust. Media outlets work hard to maintain that trust.

I was thrilled that this newspaper brought in Walter Cronkite as a columnist. (He has recently retired again.) I grew up watching Cronkite, "The most trusted man in America," on television. When rockets were launched into space or world events occurred, we always turned our channel to Walter Cronkite. When he said "and that's the way it is," he meant it.

Cronkite worked for a corporation that also broadcast the Beverly Hillbillies and Hogan's Heroes, comedies based on horrible stereotypes. CBS made huge profits on those shows and also made profits allowing Cronkite to do the news in the balanced fashion that he did.

Just like politicians need to avoid the perception of conflict of interest, media outlets and journalists need to avoid conflicts. I hate seeing business writers push products that they sell. I suspect the public is smart enough to realize they are getting a sales pitch, and tune it out.

For most of my adult life, I have been involved in politics. I've helped run many political campaigns and was a state coordinator when Al Gore ran for President in 1988. In almost every election cycle, politicians could count on me for a donation.

Until now. I stopped giving to political candidates and being actively involved in campaigns earlier this year. Even though I am a business columnist, not a political columnist, thousands of people read my column, see me on television or hear me on radio.

For a long time, I stayed away from writing about politics. You have never seen President Bush or Senator Kerry mentioned in this column. I bashed on Ralph Nader, but he is a publicity hound who has never been elected to anything.

Then I got mad about Kentucky firing park workers for having long hair and tattoos. I used to work on the clean up crew at the Kentucky Horse Park and know what life for those workers is like.

I hesitated to write those columns as I had given money to two different candidates who had run against Governor Fletcher. I did not mention Fletcher in the column but focused on the business and fairness issues.

I decided that if I wanted to speak out on all issues, I could not be supporting politicians who shaped those issues.

It has been hard to sit on the sidelines during a presidential year. My family and friends are up to their ears in activity. Not all of my friends from my former life have gotten the message. I have had people try to add my name to sponsor political fundraisers, assuming I am still one of the usual suspects. I've had some politicians think I am mad at them and not helping them for an unspoken reason.

Although I am sure that Walter Cronkite had friends in politics, he did not give money to political campaigns or actively support candidates. I won't either. If I have a story or an issue to speak out on, I don't want my reader to be "the last ones to know."

And that's the way it is, Sunday, October 10, 2004. Don McNay reporting from Richmond. Good night.

Don McNay is President of McNay Settlement Group where we don't want to be "the last ones to know." He is a member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. You can email him at or read other things he has written at