Sunday, July 19, 2009

Walter Cronkite...

I was saddened to hear of the death of Walter Cronkite this past week. As television news degenerates into little more than ratings-driven entertainment, I long for the days of old when true journalists like Walter Cronkite presented the news in an even-handed and intelligent manner. There was no screaming, no bimbos masquerading as journalists, no grandstanding. Instead, he reported the news in an intelligent and rational manner, and came to be known as "the most trusted man in America".

Time did an interview with Cronkite November of 2003 in which the question was asked,
"Do you watch cable-TV talk shows?" He replied:

"I don't watch the shouters. Those that attempt to really explain the situation of the day, I find very useful, very helpful. But not ones that are purely for entertainment, which is where I put the shouters."

Unlike the often repetitive, over-wrought emotional reporting we've come to expect (if you're going to report 24 hours a day, you've got to do something to keep people's attention), Cronkite was usually very controlled.

But it was Cronkite's usual restraint from inserting himself into the story that made so powerful those rare occasions when he did, as Johnson learned after the Tet Offensive. When Cronkite went on air and declared, "It seems now more certain than ever that the bloody experience of Vietnam will end in a stalemate," this wasn't Bill O'Reilly or Keith Olbermann delivering yet another rant against their political enemies. This was Uncle Walter, and people listened.

This article from Salon includes memories of Walter Cronkite from such notables as Andy Rooney, Ronald Reagan, Billy Graham, Isaac Asimov, Andy Warhol and several others.

Andy Rooney had this to say:

Anyone who thinks of Walter Cronkite today as the authoritative father figure of television news would be surprised to know what a tough, competitive scrambler he was in the old Front Page tradition of newspaper reporting. He became the best anchorman there ever was in television because he knew news when he saw it and cared about it. He was relentlessly inquisitive. The subject of his interview always sensed that Cronkite was interested in what he had to say and knew a great deal about the issue himself.

Walter Cronkite, dead at age 92, will long be remembered for his outstanding contributions to television news. "And that's the way it is."

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