Lou's Views

Editor In Chief Lou Carlozo’s new column series spotlights standout people and practices in the media field


(Above: While 80 seconds could never sum up one of the greatest careers in TV journalism, Walter Cronkite’s final signoff as anchor for the CBS Evening News in 1981 speaks volumes about his class, character and folksy charm.)


It’s long been part of my media mission to guide and educate. When I had to order a journalism textbook for teaching Reporting and Writing at Loyola University Chicago, I found that every single volume I looked at … sucked, frankly. No chapters on surviving newsroom politics? Or advice on what to do in a stuck career? So I wrote my own 304-page volume.

And having written the book — or at least a book, if we’re going to get real — my hope in the weeks ahead is to use this column to illuminate, introduce and inspire. To be sure, current events in journalism and media will stay play a role in my weekly musings. But the ongoing news, aside from the news itself, centers on how we can guarantee a bright future by studying stars of the past and present.

This week, I’ll kick things off by identifying three luminaries from TV whose work you need to know. Surprisingly, some of these immortals will be little known to current undergrads and younger newsies, thought their contributions live on. This roll call could easily extend into the dozens, but these three to me represent a cross section of folks who broke barriers and embodied/embody the best of the craft.

Amongst the smattering of terrible talking heads, they speak to us with relevance, permanence and excellence. Welcome, dear readers, to Qwoted U.

Walter Cronkite
Years active on TV: 1950-1981

As a reporter and anchor for CBS, most notably on The CBS Evening News, Cronkite came to prominence as the voice Americans trusted for his fairness, plainspokenness and commitment to the facts. Known as “Uncle Walter” to his loyal viewers, Cronkite referred to himself as more like “a comfortable old shoe.” The list of events he covered, and that Americans watched him report on to get the straight dope, included the Vietnam War (on location); the 1969 lunar landing that first put men on the Moon (definitely not on location); and the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy (which left him visibly shaken on air).

Cronkite’s crisp writing, casual courage and confident delivery — stentorian and folksy at the same time — influenced countless generations of television journalists. Especially in today’s era of opinion-mongers, partisan shouters and Lou Dobbs-ian liars, it is sorely missed, needed more than ever.

Did you know? Cronkite considered his on-air news conversations with a lion puppet named Charlemagne one of his early career highlights. “A puppet can render opinions on people and things that a human commentator would not feel free to utter,” he would later observe. “I was and I am proud of it.”

Barbara Walters
Years active on TV: 1961-2014

I had the honor of meeting Barbara Walters for a Chicago Tribune interview, and boy was I nervous. Walters is an unquestioned master of the interview, a pro who combined rigorous preparation and an extra-sensory ability to connect with the mind of the interviewee — making them comfortable and putting them on the spot at the same time. A barrier breaker for women in TV journalism, the former co-host of NBC’s Today Show has dialogued with some of history’s most prominent world leaders, including Boris Yeltsin, Vladimir Putin, Margaret Thatcher, Hugo Chávez of Venezuela and Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

Did you know? A little-known, out-of-print book contains much of the wisdom Walters used to conduct her interviews: 1970’s “How to Talk with Practically Anybody about Practically Anything.” Walters recommended this book to me when I asked how I could sharpen my interviewing skills.

Christiane Amanpour
Years active on TV: 1983-present

While still in her mid-20s, this British-Iranian journalist was sent by CNN — where she has spent her entire career — to cover the Iran-Iraq War. From there, Amanpour became CNN’s chief international correspondent and has since racked up a slew of awards for her work. Who watches her? The world’s political movers, for starters. In 1996, Newsweek wrote her reporting from conflict hotspots in the Gulf and the Balkans had helped make CNN “must-see TV for world leaders.” She has exposed the brutality of Serbian forces in the former Yugoslavia and broke news of a dossier of testimony and photos that revealed systematic torture of prisoners by the Syrian government.

Did you know? Decades after ethnic cleansing became a good-riddance memory, Amanpour remains an honorary citizen of Sarajevo. A UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for Freedom of the Press and the Safety of Journalists, she’s also a point of pride for the University of Rhode Island’s journalism program. She earned her B.A. there, graduating summa cum laude in 1983.

Lessons in getting schooled

My son Christopher, a college freshman at DePaul University, wants to be a writer. Not a journalist, thank God: One of those in any family is more than enough. That said, I don’t think I steered him away from the field when as a pre-teen, he asked me to explain my job in precise terms.

Kids instinctively cut through the crap and drill straight to the heart of things. “Dad, I know what you do for a living. But how do you do it?” Every journalist should be so direct. Christopher caught me off guard. I replied:

“You know how you learn about a subject and write a report about it for school? That’s what I do. I’m a reporter. I learn about a subject and write a report. The big difference is that you get a grade, and I get paid.”

Never mind he wanted to know how we could swap places on the paid-versus-grade thing. The point is this: Journalists have the privilege to be life learners. This is also the case for those in the media landscape at large, from public relations professionals to the eager undergrads who cut their teeth at student papers.

I taught journalism in college and grad school; my father was a teacher as well. Educating and mentoring are part of my writer’s DNA. My goal in the weeks ahead is to share resources from which we all can learn — myself included.

My learning-teaching-sharing commitment, now decades long, is why I’m so excited to host my first “Lou’s Views” webinar on Thursday, March 4, 1 p.m. Eastern: “The Four P’s of PR.” Politeness, persistence and professionalism go a long way. But so often I’ve found that the secret sauce requires making it personal: treating a reporter not as an object, but a colleague in arms to relate to and grow with. Yeah, grow with.

Will it be fun? Informative? Puckish? Full of virtual guitar windmills and leaps off my office desk? It damn well better be.

See you there? See you there!

Lou Carlozo is Qwoted’s Editor In Chief. All opinions expressed come with a side of steak fries and a large drink. Email him at lou@quoted.com or connect with me on LinkedIn..

Featured image credit: Barbara Walters in her office, as photographed by Lynn Gilbert in 1979, New York.