Friday, July 17, 2009

Walter Cronkite, the last giant

I'd be remiss if I didn't mark this day in some concrete way. Walter Cronkite died today at 92. His passing wasn't unexpected, as he'd been ailing for some time and his family had recently confirmed that he could go at any time. Regardless, he was the last of a generation of journalistic giants who defined the medium of television for decades and who set the tone for virtually every broadcast journalist who decided to go in front of a camera.

He was and always will be the gold standard of what a broadcast journalist should be. Long called the most trusted man in America, he brought an integrity to the chair that no one has ever quite been able to approach, let alone match. It was a cruel irony that he was succeeded as CBS anchor by a self-absorbed tight-end who never learned to take himself any less than uber-seriously. In contrast to his lightweight successor, Walter probably knew Kenneth's life story as well as the frequency he sought. Indeed, it so often seemed there wasn't anything Walter didn't know.

And if, as so many of us suspect, the seeming omniscient poise of the anchor was simply accomplished through the illusion of television - great writers, great production staff, great attention to detail at every level of the chain - then so be it. He was the epitome of someone perpetually at the top of his game, and his passing leaves an enormous void in an industry that's lost its way, and in a society that once relied on that industry for guidance.

Rest in peace, Mr. Cronkite. Thank you, and goodnight.

"...and that's the way it is..."


invisible said...

I do not know if he was the end of an era ( I hope not). But he was definitely part of an era.
When T.V. was new, people made sure they were well dressed, well spoken and put forth their best impression to the world.Not just broadcast personalities, but the general population as well.
Compare that to a local newscast (and media in general) with talking heads that are hired for looks or personality.
Way back attention kids...,this may be on the test, society looked toward the evening news, to journalists with gravitas and experience,and integrity, to give them the days news.
It says too much about society and media today that John Stewart is held in higher esteem than your local newscaster.

David Edward said...

and he won't get 10% of the commentary that the white gloved one did

Unknown said...

Wow, another famous person to leave. Walter (referred to as "Uncle Walt") was a great man that knew how to deliver news. I wish these noobs nowadays had such skills. Prayers to Walter's family and friends. In his memory, for his fans I have collected some great sites and articles (more than 200) to know all about Walter Cronkite. If you are interested take a look at the below link

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Star said...

My daughter once told me that she felt Peter Jennings would be the Walter Cronkite of her generation. I can't think of anyone else who could quite fill the voice of integrity and experience.

bobbie said...

A real gentleman and a true journalist. There are very few left of either. I am saddened by the loss.

Janet said...

I feel truly horrible saying this, but I completely that Walter Cronkite had already died. Maybe because his retirement was such a big deal when it happened? At any rate, sorry Walter, wherever you are.

invisible said...

W.T.F. with Matthew Tripps post?
Apparently you are getting the "one flew over the cookoos nest" crowd.
Crazy stalkers of the world unite, Nurse Ratchett loves you.

Mojo said...

"And you were there."

Evenings at my house as a kid were not officially underway until "Walter Crankcase" had signed off. Despite the perhaps less-than-flattering pet name he had for him, Walter was one of the few my dad could actually tolerate.

There is not his equal among the up-and-coming crowd of frat rats and vapid sorostitutes. But in fairness to the new breed, I think some of them at least might have followed in Walt's footsteps -- if not filled his shoes -- had they been allowed to by the network execs, who in turn found themselves competing for market share with MTV, VH1, and ET. Network execs do not feel a responsibility to edify or to educate, they simply mark the trends of their audience's viewing habits, and adjust their programming accordingly. If Jackass is kicking ass against their evening newscast, they compete by narrowing the programming gap between the evening news and Jackass. Give the people what they want... however stupid that might be.

We don't get journalists of Walter's calibre today because we don't demand that level of journalistic integrity. We get what the network bosses see us looking for. Shock jocks, celebrity gossip and the best news money can buy.

Television -- and its derivatives -- is the purest example of a market driven economy. If we watch it, we get more of it.

Otherwise, how do you explain the "reality TV" craze?