Friday, June 19, 2009

Walter Cronkite Is “Gravely Ill”

Former CBS News anchorman and broadcast news great Walter Cronkite is said to be gravely ill and nearing death.

Cronkite, once The Most Trusted Man In America according to a Gallup Poll at the time, is 92 and TVNewser reports that CBS began updating his bio last week. The network is said to be preparing a special on his life to be broadcast when he dies.

Cronkite, who anchored the CBS Evening News for 19 years until Dan Rather’s political manoeuvring inside the network’s news division forced him into retirement in 1981, brought America good news and bad, knitting the nation together during times of stress as well as happy times. He’s also the single most-important reason I decided to become a television news reporter when I was still in my early teens.

Uncle Walter, as he was affectionately called by friends and total strangers, always seemed to be there for us. When he told us about the Kennedy Assassination, he struggled to keep his composure because he knew if he lost his cool, the country would as well.

And, a few years later, it was Walter who again told America about another tragedy, the assassination of Martin Luther King.

Walter shared joyous times with us, as well, like when he became almost giddy at the moon landing.

Cronkite’s reporting from Viet Nam absolutely turned the tide of public opinion about the folly going on interminably in Southeast Asia. When he told America the truth about how badly the war in Viet Nam was going, and said Washington was lying about it, Pres. Lyndon Johnson turned to then-aide Bill Moyers to say, “If I’ve lost Cronkite on this, I’ve lost the nation.”

If Edward R. Murrow invented TV news reporting, then Walter Cronkite made it a force in America’s daily life. It was because he gave everyone who toiled in the fertile, green vineyards of broadcast reporting a compass, a direction, a role model to aspire to become. During the course of his nearly 20 year reign behind the anchor desk, television news – network and local – achieved its peak, not just of influence but, more importantly, of credibility.

He was a giant and, for countless reasons, his likes will never be seen again. Instead, we have nincompoops like Bill O’Reilly, Chris Mathews, Joe Scarborough and Sean Hannity bringing disgrace, disrepute and despair to a profession that Walter Cronkite made honourable.

And that’s the way it is.

h/t to Hoffmania

1 comment:

Pete In Florida said...

I had the opportunity to go sailing with Walter and Betsy one day in 1970 off Martha's Vineyard. Even though he knew I was a Nam vet, he never asked about the war per se. We talked about my Dad (who was President of the NYSPA at the time), my Mom (who Betsy adored), what I was going to do now that I was a civilian again, and my recently deceased brother. He rolled his eyes when I said "politics".

We talked about his landing with the 101st in Operation Market Garden in WWII, and the Kennedy/King assassinations. He wanted me to go into broadcast journalism, and even offered to help me get interviews at CBS. But I was young and full of it, and politely declined.

He did remark that I was a "hell of a sailor". I loved his boat.

It was one wonderful Sunday.

I think I still have a Poloroid photo somewhere.