Broadcaster Bob Costas discusses technology, journalism truths at Cronkite luncheon

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During the 29th annual Cronkite luncheon, NBC sports broadcaster Bob Costas talked about his respect for the attention Walter Cronkite dedicated to his craft. (Jessica Zook/DD)

Amid evolving technology, journalists should adhere to the timeless values that set their profession apart, Bob Costas said after receiving the Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism on Tuesday.

“(Networks) want to present the thing people primarily tune in for, the excitement, the panorama of the Olympics, the drama of a big football or baseball game,” Costas said. “But I also believe the audience is still able to enjoy sports while recognizing that there are actual issues there.”

During the 29th annual Cronkite luncheon, the NBC sports broadcaster entertained the audience with anecdotes from his career, telling stories from his first broadcast and his most embarrassing moments.

“I thought he was absolutely terrific,” said Christopher Callahan, dean of the Cronkite School and vice provost of the Downtown campus. “He’ll draw in the audience with some funny stories and then weaves in some significant, powerful and important messages.”

Costas also spoke on the changing world of technology and its impact on journalism. Costas said that while technology is evolving, that shouldn’t change the basic principles of journalism.

“There are timeless virtues that Walter Cronkite embodied — professionalism, dedication to craft, understanding how a story is put together and responsibility — not just to his bosses, not just to the ratings, but responsibility to a standard of his profession that others before him … whomever he took the torch from, those standards ought to be timeless,” Costas said.

In the new era of technology, Costas stressed the idea that bad journalism is still bad journalism no matter the form it takes, and he said the quality, presentation and reliability of the information are crucial.

“If it’s a lie or it was lousy, it was a lie and lousy if it was carved on the wall of a cave with a jagged rock,” Costas said. “But if it’s true, and it has some real value, then it doesn’t matter whether it was sent out from a smartphone or on some device that someone’s inventing while we sit here.”

Marianne Barrett, associate dean of the Cronkite School, said Costas delivered a strong message of what journalism needs to be.

“No matter what happens with technology, it still comes down to the core values of journalism,” Barrett said.

Costas said he hopes students are able to learn from the qualities of Walter Cronkite and bring them into their own journalism no matter the medium the news is delivered in.

“(Students) should take with them the devotion to those virtues and those qualities that Walter Cronkite embodied,” Costas said. “How it’s presented, the technology, the bells and whistles, that may change, but the dedication to truth, to fairness, to quality, that’s what Walter Cronkite was about.”

Contact the reporter at jlzook@asu.edu

Editor’s note: A quote from freshman journalism student Miguel Otarola was previously published in this story but later taken out because Otarola has written for the Downtown Devil this semester. Otarola did not contribute to the reporting in this article.