NBC newsman Brian Williams said Wednesday he’s not sure if Walter Cronkite would have succeeded in the age of cable news, blogs and Twitter.
“I am convinced that had he come along today, I don’t think he would have cracked through. I think there’s too much noise, too much to cut through for a modest man from Missouri,” Williams told an audience in Phoenix. “But God and history combined to give him to us right when we needed him.”
Williams spoke at a luncheon, where he was given the Cronkite Award from Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism. The ceremony included videotaped congratulatory messages from Jon Stewart and fellow New Jersey native, Bruce Springsteen.
Williams recounted how growing up, his parents didn’t serve dinner until after Cronkite ended his newscast with his signature line: “And that’s the way it is.”
“Professionally, the day he died, I lost my North Star,” Williams said.
This year marks the first award ceremony since Cronkite’s passing. The longtime CBS news anchor died in July after a long illness.
Williams did not address talk of cable TV operator Comcast Corp. preparing to buy a controlling stake in NBC Universal. He instead struck an optimistic tone, saying NBC News had more viewers than it did a year ago.
In 2004, Williams succeeded Tom Brokaw as anchor of “NBC Nightly News.” In 2007, he became the first network anchor – active or retired – to host “Saturday Night Live.”
Each year, the Cronkite School recognizes a notable media figure for excellence in journalism. Past recipients have included Brokaw, Katharine Graham and Ted Turner.