“Walter Cronkite was my friend and mentor,” wites Philadelphia Gay News editor Mark Segal in an editorial.
The two first encountered each other in 1973, when Segal ran in front of a camera during Cronkite’s news broadcast, holding a sign that said “Gays Protest CBS Prejudice.”
“After that incident,” writes Segal, “CBS News agreed to look into the ‘possibility’ that they were censoring or had a bias in reporting news regarding the struggle for gay rights. Walter and I would disagree about that to this day, both with smiles on our faces. But the fact remains, a week after the incident, Walter showed a map on the Evening News of the US and pointed out cities that had passed gay rights legislation. Network news was never the same after that.
“Walter went on to speak in support of gay rights whenever asked at his numerous speaking engagements. After stepping down from the anchor chair, he was free to do more and he did. He spoke up about HIV/AIDS and even against ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ On gay issues he was ahead of his time. In an unpublished interview we did thirteen years ago he even speaks about marriage equality.
“In 2005 I produced Philadelphia’s July 4th mega concert with Sir Elton John, which that year was dedicated to AIDS Education. The opening segment of the concert & broadcast was Walter Cronkite, speaking about the importance of the fight against HIV/AIDS.
“Walter embodied a tried and true journalist, one who covered all sides of the story and was committed to the idea of bringing news to the public. I am proud he lent me some of that expertise, and proud of all his accomplishments as a journalist, friend, and person.”
And that’s the way it is, Monday July 20, 2009.