By: Joe Strupp

Legendary TV Newsman Urges ‘Investment In Democracy’

WASHINGTON – Legendary TV newsman Walter Cronkite criticized
the growing demand for larger profit margins by newspaper
companies during an appearance at the American Society of
Newspaper Editors conference here, saying such expectations are
too high for what he termed their “investment in democracy.”

“It’s too bad that newspaper stock can’t be considered an
investment in democracy and not a demand for these exorbitant
returns they expect,” Cronkite said during an interview with E&P
Online following remarks to about 500 editors and guests on
Wednesday. “A good 15% return for democracy should be plenty, or
even 10% or 12%. That’s better than you’d get at any bank.”

Cronkite’s comments on newspaper revenues followed his speech to
ASNE members, in which he recounted his start in journalism as a
reporter in the capital bureau of Scripps-Howard’s Texas
newspaper chain. He said he missed the days when newspapers had
real head-to-head competition in every market.

“Without competition, a certain sloth sets in,” Cronkite said
about the dwindling number of two-newspaper markets. “In a
monopoly situation, I wonder how you monitor the accuracy of

When asked about the quality of most daily newspapers today,
Cronkite said he believed many were good, but others had lost the
focus on local readers. “They are not doing the local reporting
that they should,” he said. “The biggest problem seems to be
staff for local reporting.”

The former CBS Evening News anchor and managing editor urged
editors to focus on fairness and accuracy and the fundamentals of
journalism. “Integrity of the journalist is most important,” he
said. “If you feel yourself getting shaded a bit, step back into
the sunlight.”

Joe Strupp ( is an associate editor for E&P.

Copyright 2001, Editor & Publisher.

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