When legendary BBC/PBS commentator Alistair Cooke died a few years ago, it was like losing your grandfather, whose wisdom you would now have to do without. Now we've lost Walter Cronkite, who told us every night "And that's the way it is." Great was the impact of these authoritative chroniclers of the Twentieth Century.
Cronkite, who hosted a weekly documentary series "The 20th Century" as well as two decades' worth of the evening news for CBS, epitomized the best of broadcast journalism. His presence was reassuring, even if the news he was relating was of the most jarring sort: war (Vietnam), assassination (the Kennedys, MLK), or revolution (Iran, and the ensuing hostage crisis).
In TPM, David Kurtz provides a touching remembrance of a childhood influenced by this father figure.
The passing of Walter Cronkite also reminds us of the demise of The News, as in "did you see The News last night?" It was mainly a reference to Cronkite's CBS Evening News, and it invariably included reports from a string of American correspondents positioned across the globe.
Cronkite and his international team are now gone, replaced by pretty boy (or girl) anchors who rely on technicians whose prowess with pixels cannot patch over the lack of depth or analysis. Cronkite had an amazing team of journalists, reporters like him who had covered World War II with Edward R. Murrow: men like Eric Severeid, who died in 1992, and Richard C. Hottelet, whose work had landed him in a Nazi jail. Cronkite and his colleagues were literate, homespun, authoritative, and must have been appalled in ensuing years by the downward spiral of TV "journalism" that is embodied by the likes of Fox News.
Readers in the US will be able to watch the CBS tribute, "That's The Way It Was: Remembering Walter Cronkite" (image), tomorrow Sunday 19 July at 7:00 PM EST; for the rest of us, they have put up a nice page of text and video here.
Walter Cronkite, the original "avuncular American."