Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Walter Cronkite

Well, for those of you who haven't heard, or are too young to quite understand the significance of the event, legendary news anchor Walter Cronkite passed away sometime late Friday night. I wasn't alive for any of the Walter Cronkite era when he sat behind the anchor desk for the CBS Evening News; I missed it by a little short of 10 months. If you are of my generation then you grew up with guys like Dan Rather and Peter Jennings and Tom Brokaw, who were all distinguished newsmen but none of whom could ever hold a candle to what Walter Cronkite was in his heyday.
If you were to look up the Voice of America you would find a lot about a government funded radio service that broadcasts propaganda to places like China and Zimbabwe, but that isn't the real voice of America. Walter Kronkite was the voice of America. From 1962 until 1981, Cronkite appeared on TV screens across the nation guiding the nation through some very turbulent decades. Nobody in 1963 really realized the impact that the JFK assassination would have on the nation and on society until Uncle Walter shed tears on camera. Later in the decade, Lyndon Johnson was able to sum things up best regarding Walter Cronkite when Cronkite criticized the Vietnam War and Johnson remarked "If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost middle America." That is how important he was to the fabric of America during those years.
It's hard to sort of fathom that these days because it's so hard to be iconic in this the Information Age. Now with the flick of a button we can access news 24/7 streaming across the bottom of about a dozen television channels as well at just about any site on the Internet. Hell, even Big Dave and Company streams a little news across the bottom for you to see. Or at least we used to. But in the 1960s and 70s ones choices were much, much more limited. Of course there was radio, but why listen to the radio when there is TV, right? When it came to television there were only three choices: NBC, ABC, and CBS. The DuMont Network does not count, I am sorry. But every weeknight on CBS there was Walter Cronkite telling you "the way it is" every night. He gained the trust of America in a way the no one before or since has ever done. The fabric of America wouldn't be what it is without him, and he will be missed. Rest in peace Walter Cronkite, you will be missed. And that's the way it is: July 21, 2009.

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