Sunday, July 19, 2009

Because that's the way we wanted it

It is a sad time again when we face our mortality and reflect upon the death of another beloved national figure. Walter Cronkite set the standard for the news through the sixties and seventies. The times were different and a trusted face and voice is how many of us were shepherded through our formative years.

It was through his rock-steady voice and even demeanor that we learned of the assassinations of the Kennedys and Martin Luther King Jr. in the sixties and the turbulent demonstrations of the Vietnam war. Those seem as instances to most who did not grow up in that time but they were an intertwined decade-long event. The social unrest through the sixties rained across the country from the south to the Watts riots in Los Angeles to the student killings on the Kent State campus in the midwest. The earliest events meant little to me as I had no conception of reality as a five year old. But my parents were firm in their habits and Walter Cronkite was the news of choice as I grew up. He is the person that to some extent helped shape my view on the world on a nightly basis.

As a youth I was always fascinated by the space program. The first books I read were about space and adventure. I even had models of the Gemini rockets and capsules. It was my dream. Walter Cronkite was the voice of America to the world when on a July evening in 1969 Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon. I remember watching the event and for one brief moment we were only Americans. We weren't black or white, northern or southerner, we were simply Americans.

I read an article on him this morning. It stated the notion of an 'Uncle Walter' would not work in this day and age. The author called it 'quaint'. People want their news on an interactive basis with hosts having their own blogs and Twitter pages and the content being a two-way street. That might be but that is now and what was then was how today's news grew to be.

Perhaps Walter Cronkite and his style may not work in today's world but then many other things wouldn't either. He was a product of his time and his generation and he was what we as a country needed at the time. It was conceded he was known as 'the most trusted man in America', a title that never was passed on. During an open interview show for President Carter is was decided that he should be the moderator taking the calls because it was felt that no matter what you thought of the president, no one would be rude to Walter Cronkite. Surely Dan Rather nor any of those that followed never gained the hearts and minds of their viewers as the next to occupy that chair.

Goodbye Mr. Cronkite, you will be missed.

1 comment:

  1. While after his main broadcast days were behind him Uncle Walter still remained on the scene in a limited fashion, contributing to CBS News. His political leanings became more widely known as he gave a number of commentaries and interviews, and it somewhat lessened my remembrances of him.

    His successors have managed to help drag, no, drive down the once-preeminent television and
    radio news network from it's place at the top to the very bottom of the ratings.

    Cronkite finished his final telecast as CBS anchor by saying, "I'll be away on assignment. Dan Rather will be filling in for a few years. And that's the way it is (whatever date that was), this is Walter Cronkite, CBS News. Goodnight."

    Goodnight, Mr. Cronkite.