My journalism mentor, Robert Feder wrote a wonderful essay about his relationship with Walter Cronkite in yesterday's Chicago Sun-Times. Robert started the Walter Cronkite fan club when he was 14. The newsman was, in essence, Rob's guru.
An excerpt from the essay:
"Every year just before his birthday on Nov. 4, I would send him a tie, which he would wear that day on “The CBS Evening News” as a signal to the club. He acknowledged each one with a gracious note.
"Among my most prized possessions is a photo he autographed to “Fan No. 1.”
"Whenever he visited Chicago, as busy as he was, Walter would make time to see me. Sometimes he’d invite me to sit nearby on the newsroom set — just off camera — and watch him as he put the finishing touches on his newscast and imparted it to tens of millions of Americans. It was as close to an out-of-body experience as I will ever know.
"Early in my freshman year at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, Walter came to meet with students. I was invited to question him on a panel that also included two very bright graduate students (one of them was Marlene Iglitzen, who would later marry Gene Siskel). I remember trying to impress Walter by asking the toughest questions I could. I could tell he appreciated the effort.
"When it was over, he called me aside for a private chat. He suggested that it might be time to shift my focus away from the fan club and redirect my energies toward my own academic and professional ambitions. He was right, of course, as he was every time he offered his advice and counsel.
"For the next 35 years, we kept in touch. He told me I had a standing invitation for dinner whenever I was in New York. Entering a crowded Manhattan restaurant with him was like watching Moses part the Red Sea."
Read the rest here.