Friday, July 17, 2009

Walter Cronkite: 1916-2009

He brought us the sad news of a President cut down in the streets of Dallas, featured a nightly review of a war going terribly wrong in Vietnam, one that would force another President from his post and lead to the shocking developments of a convention in Chicago. He outlined the story of disgrace of a President forced from office under scandal and of one the most momentous occasions for the world, of man landing on the moon.

Walter Cronkite was our eyewitness to modern history and after 92 years he has passed on to his reward, where we imagine an ace reporter is about to join the ranks of St. Peter’s chroniclers, ready to get the scoop on what happens behind the gates.

Mention the name Cronkite and there is no need to seek out a definition of the term news anchor, if Webster’s wanted to shorten the reading list, simply posting a picture of Mr. Cronkite beside the entry for the term should be more than sufficient to get the message across. Such was his presence, that foreign languages adopted variations of his name when describing the position of reading the news in their lands.

He refined the role he took on for CBS, re-creating it in his level headed and even handed way of delivering the news on a nightly basis for over 19 years. He was the most trustworthy source of information America had of its time.

If Walter Cronkite said the war was lost, it was gone; a President knew enough that he could no longer continue on with his ambitions, once he had lost the Middle America that relied on Cronkite to give them the straight goods.

He was there for the most pivotal of events of the sixties and seventies, the assassinations that rocked the nation and the world, the wars, peace treaties and political changes that rolled across the planet, the struggling and surging economies, the scandals, the march for civil rights, the unrest in the large American cities and the quest for exploration in space. He examined the promising discoveries in health and the setbacks that came as well and most of all he provided the accounts of the people in the small towns and cities that provided the backbone of the nation.

No journalist today seems to come close to the importance of Cronkite in his time, none resonates in the industry as he did, and in fact journalism has faded to a degree from those heights it reached in the Cronkite era.

It's of note to recount that Mr. Cronkite's last broadcast was in March of 1981 and yet he still remains the focal point of professionalism and dedication to the craft these many years later.

Today there are too many options available, too many agendas, the news is spun by the so called anchors, and right after it has been spun by the news makers. The filter it seems dumbs it down at far too many times, taking what should be the issue and making it but an afterthought to the cause of journalism. Far too often it seems we are fed our pablum, told to watch the fluff and not to worry or seek out the information about the important things that we should need to know.

It in a way is fitting that he passes on a weekend when America celebrates that mission to the moon, it was one of his defining moments in broadcast journalism. The space program was his thing, he personified it for television. In an era well before fancy graphics and computer generated features, he would use those scale models and charts, interview the NASA experts and ask the questions we all wanted to know answers to. He watched and marvelled with us as the grainy images bounced back to earth and showcased what man could accomplish in the quest of adventure and science.

On those exciting July days of 1969, Neil Armstrong took that one step for man and giant leap for mankind, and like Armstrong on the moon, Cronkite left his footprints as well.

Giant leaps for journalists that few can match. Much has been made of his career in the short period since CBS announced his passing, much more will be recounted in the days to come, a fitting tribute to one of the pioneers of an industry and an iconic American who was without a doubt the most trusted man in the nation over the course of his career.

The Dean of American Journalism leaves behind his path a trail of journalists that found their vocation while watching his nightly news cast, discovering their thirst for information and seeking the trust that he earned from the public, passing a torch for those that followed, but far too few can hold on to.

While his epitaph could be a lengthy one and well deserved his simple trademark sign off each night is perhaps the most fitting tribute to his career.

Walter Cronkite, Giant of journalism, chronicler for a generation and the most trusted man in the nation, and "that’s the way it was, 1916-2009".

CBS Television-- CBS Legend Walter Cronkite Dies
New York Times-- Walter Cronkite, Voice of TV News, Dies
CNN-- Former CBS anchor 'Uncle Walter' Cronkite dead at 92
MSNBC-- Former CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite dies
FOX News-- Famed CBS News Anchorman Walter Cronkite Dies at 92
Globe and Mail-- Iconic anchor Walter Cronkite dead at 92
National Post-- Broadcaster Walter Cronkite dead at 92
CBC-- Former CBS anchor Walter Cronkite dies
BBC-- US TV news legend Cronkite dies

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