Valdosta Daily Times

What We Think

February 22, 2014

Losing a journalism icon

-- — One by one, we’re losing them. As the years progress, death inevitably claims the lives of the pioneers, the greatest generation, the innovators; the ones who paved the way for others to follow.

As time progresses, the fear is that future generations will not have the moral, social and intellectual icons to emulate that those born in the decades before the 1980s remember so well. Icons whose talents extended far beyond the physical and material; whose richness stemmed from experiences and whose beauty shone from within.

For those in the news business of a certain age, they were weaned on the network nightly news, gripping images broadcast from the first war ever covered live, hard-hitting questions posed of political candidates, dogged reporters and photojournalists who risked their lives to ensure that Americans were kept informed. Giants of intellectual banter, who truly understood the issues they were covering.

Edward R. Murrow, Walter Cronkite, Mike Wallace, Tim Russert, David Brinkley, Helen Thomas, Horst Fass, Ed Bradley, John Chancellor, and now, Garrick Utley.

Utley died last week, leaving us once again to mourn the passing of a true newsman. He reflected often on the glory days of news, when the American public and networks valued news coverage, valued substance, and valued intelligence.

Utley spent much of his career as a foreign correspondent. To do so, he became fluent in Russian, German and French. He was the first to establish a news bureau in Vietnam. He covered the Cold War from Berlin and Moscow, the Warsaw Pact, the invasion of Czechoslovakia. He interviewed Bush and Gorbachev, covered the fall of the Berlin Wall and the beginning of the Persian Gulf war.

Utley lamented in recent years that journalists had become news narrators and color commentators with little understanding of the events they were covering.

He lamented the loss of support for news as a higher calling, not a business.

Like those who came before him, Utley is one of the last newsmen who was also a true journalist, whose quiet wit and intelligence was valued more than his appearance, and who had the ability to cover news of importance without regard to ratings.

One by one, we’re losing them. Let’s hope that we don’t also forget them.

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