What would Walter do or now, more appropriately, what would Walter have done?
During the media gluttony of the Michael Jackson story, the thought kept swirling around: If Walter Cronkite was still anchoring the evening news, how would he have covered this overblown, over done, over the top coverage of the King of Pop?
Rest assured he would not have led the CBS Evening News with the story and he would not have devoted the first 13 minutes of the broadcast as Brian Williams did over at NBC.
"Uncle Walter" would have covered the event but would have buried it lower in the ru ndown where it belonged.
He would have protested to the news division when it decided this story deserved a one-hour special in prime time. He would have reminded the "suits" that they no longer wanted to air more serious fare on CBS Reports or other documentary outlets that long ago had been killed by the same "suits" for lack of ratings.
Cronkite, of course, would have lost the battle but he would have gone public with his condemnation of same.
Good thing for CBS Mr. Cronkite was not around because he would have reminded everyone that the role of the journalist is to present the news "that people need to know and not what they want to know."
Implicit in that standard is the notion that covering the news is not about profits; it's about sharing with citizens what they should know about the world. My oh my, those days died long before Mr. Cronkite left this earth.
And how ironic it was to watch all the cable talking heads bemoan the loss of this great broadcast journalist when most were living examples of how far the TV news biz has degenerated and strayed from the ideals Mr. Cronkite espoused.
And how ironic that you won't see the gluttony of coverage over his death even though, compared to Mr. Jackson, Mr. Cronkite impacted many more lives and in a more substantive manner.
And unfortunately that's the way it is and was.