There are countless numbers of journalists in the United States and around the world that have done impactful, transformative journalism. However, there are some stand-out journalism professionals that have changed the course of history and helped to pave the way for others. And although we cannot list all of them here, we wanted to honor just five a few of them:
Walter Cronkite is one of the most famous journalists in history. He was the most trusted voice in television news for more than two decades, providing the American public with an authoritative and reliable source of national news during some of the most tumultuous times in United States history.
Cronkite was born in St. Joseph, Missouri, on November 4, 1916. His father was a dentist, and his mother was a talented pianist. He attended the University of Texas at Austin, leaving in his junior year, fall of 1935. Before the outbreak of World War Two, Cronkite worked for several local and national newspapers.
Professional years at CBS news
In 1950, Cronkite was hired by the CBS Corporation to become the news anchor for their growing television audience. His first CBS TV show was a Sunday night newscast called Up to the Minute. He then moved on to become anchor of the “CBS Evening News.” That's when he became a household name and a potent cultural icon.
Over the course of two decades, he provided authoritative and dispassionate coverage of some of the most important events in US and world history, including the Vietnam War, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the assassinations of JFK and MLK.
For his services to news journalism, Cronkite won hundreds of awards, including honorary degrees and an Emmy Award. He was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award before his eventual retirement.
A popular figure even in his later years, Cronkite passed away in July 2009 at the age of 92. His death was marked with memorial services and tributes from around the world, marking the death of one of the most influential journalists of all time. In 2011, the International Press Institute included Walter Cronkite in its World Press Freedom Hero list, a testament to his lifelong devotion to news journalism and democratic principles.
In previous blog posts we have looked at what are the qualities of a good journalist.
Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein
Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein were two most famous journalists who, together, worked to uncover of the Watergate scandal in the early 1970s. At the time, Woodward was a reporter in the Washington Post and Bernstein was a reporter in The Washington Post's junior metropolitan staff.
Bob Woodward was born in 1943 in Geneva, Illinois and grew up in nearby Wheaton. He began his career in 1967 at the Montgomery Sentinel. He then joined The Washington Post's metropolitan staff in 1971, where he quickly rose to prominence.
Carl Bernstein, meanwhile, was born in Washington, DC in 1944. He wrote for the school newspaper in college, but was kicked out of school because of bad grades.
He began his professional journalism career full-time at the Elizabeth Daily Journal in 1965.
He then joined The Washington Post in May of 1966, where he quickly grew to be respected by his peers.
In 1972, Woodward and Bernstein's career-defining investigation began when they were assigned to investigate a break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate complex. Through a series of articles, the duo revealed secrets about the Nixon administration's involvement in the burglary and subsequent coverup.
The reporting of Woodward and Bernstein was integral in exposing the Watergate scandal and Richard Nixon's involvement. Their groundbreaking work inspired other journalists and helped to revive the public's faith in investigative journalism.
The Watergate scandal marked a defining moment in the careers of both Woodward and Bernstein.
Woodward went on to become an editor-at-large of The Washington Post, while Bernstein became a contributing editor of Rolling Stone. Both continued to report on politics and the Nixon administration, wit their book "All the President's Men" becoming a bestseller. The book was later turned into a movie.
In 1973, Woodward and Bernstein were jointly honored with the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for their coverage of the Watergate scandal. They also received numerous other awards.
Woodward and Bernstein will always be remembered as two of the most influential journalistic figures of the 20th century. They showed how powerful a single article can be in uncovering corruption and changing the course of history.
Their work has since inspired many other investigative journalists and the Watergate scandal will always be remembered as a milestone in the history of investigative journalism.
Barbara Walters was an icon of American journalism and a beloved host of the long-running series The View. She was best known for pioneering the field of television news, interviewing important public figures and celebrities, and setting the standard for journalistic integrity.
Walters was born on September 25, 1929, in Boston, Massachusetts. Her father, Lou Walters, ran a nightclub in Manhattan and her mother, Dena, was a homemaker. She has an older sister, Jacqueline. Walters spent her childhood in New York City, attending the Ethical Culture Fieldston School, an elite preparatory school. After graduating high school, she attended Sarah Lawrence College and graduated in 1951 with a degree in English.
In 1951, Walters began her career in television broadcasting, joining NBC in New York. She produced a children's show then went to CBS to become a writer for The Morning Show.
By 1961, Walters had moved over to NBC, she eventually became a regular on an early morning show called The Today Show.
In 1979, Walters joined ABC News as correspondent for the show "20/20". She quickly ascended to the role of co-host, first with Hugh Downs.
Together, they launched an unprecedented era of serious and probing interviews.
Walters made her mark with in-depth interviews with notable figures such as Betty Ford, Indira Gandhi, and the Shah of Iran.
In 1997, Walters created the groundbreaking talk show The View with its signature round table of women discussing the day’s events. The show has become a great success, garnering more than a dozen Daytime Emmy awards and inspiring the creation of other talk shows.
Walters also had a career in publishing, writing four books about her interviews, including Audition: A Memoir. Throughout her career, Walters has won numerous awards, including the Lifetime Achievement Emmy Award, seven Daytime Emmy Awards, and the Peabody Award.
Walters was a tireless advocate for education, supporting charities and non-profits, and becoming the namesake for the Barbara Walters Campus Center at Sarah Lawrence College.
She earned a reputation as a fierce and determined interviewer and a true trailblazer in the field of journalism. She is widely known as one of the most influential figures in media and has inspired generations of aspiring journalists.
The contribution of journalists like these and their important work is why every year the world celebrates National Journalism Day or Press Freedom Day.
Edward R. Murrow
Edward R. Murrow, born Egbert Roscoe Murrow, was a groundbreaking American broadcast journalist remembered for his history-making reporting on the political and social struggles of the 1930s and ‘40s. His style, charisma, and willingness to take risks earned him recognition as a pioneer of broadcast journalism and a household name in the United States.
Edward Murrow, born April 25, 1908, in Polecat Creek, North Carolina, showed an interest in communications early in life. After graduating from Washington State College (now Washington State University) in 1930 with a degree in Speech and Communications.
Murrow's ambition and talent helped him rapidly climb the ranks of news, and he was soon heading the top news program on the CBS radio network. His fame—and influence—began to grow as he reported on the European political and social situation during the 1930s and '40s.
Murrow was known for his creative delivery of reports, as well as his ability to startlingly capture the reality of a scene. From Britain during the blitz of World War II, his reports sent shockwaves throughout the United States and provided a harrowing look at what was going on overseas.
From 1941 to 1943, the detailed reports of the London bombings and German occupation kept the U.S. population connected to the war effort, leading President Roosevelt to award him the Medal of Merit.
Murrow created the weekly CBS news program See It Now, which changed the face of television journalism. He used the program to confront issues of racism, McCarthyism, and the power of the press. His courage helped expose the dangers of McCarthy's attack on civil liberties, leading to McCarthy's downfall and eventual censure by the United States Senate.
In 1961, Murrow became the Director of the Voice of America, helping the U.S. government broadcast its message around the world.
On April 27, 1965, Murrow died of lung cancer. He left behind a timeless legacy that inspired generations of broadcast journalists. His influence on the field of journalism and the power of the media remain undimmed today.
About the Author
Nick Toso is a former CNN television producer and journalist. He worked in the Washington DC Bureau for nearly a decade, during his time, he helped produce interviews with dozens of presidents and world leaders, including President Obama, Clinton, and more.
During his time in the newsroom, Nick saw the impact that having vetted and diverse subject matter experts had on the quality and depth of news coverage– and how it led to more equitable representation in the media, and meaningful public discourse. Nick wanted to provide his team with better tools to accomplish this goal, but few existed so Nick created Rolli (Rolliapp.com).
Rolli's searchable Newsroom as a Service™ platform empowers all journalists with the resources and research of a state-of-the-art newsroom.