Friday, July 17, 2009
Some thoughts about Walter Cronkite
In the classes I have taught at South Middle School and Diamond Middle School, there are only a handful of students who know who Charles Gibson, Katie Couric, or Brian Williams are.
From 1962 to 1981, everyone knew the anchors who brought us the evening news, and the one who stood far above the rest was Walter Cronkite, who died today at age 92.
When he ended his broadcasts with "That's the way it is," you had confidence that it was just that. I was in second grade when John F. Kennedy was assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963, so I did not see his announcement of the death, but it was Cronkite's coverage that I followed through the next several days.
I can vividly remember Cronkite's coverage 40 years ago of the moon landing and his excitement as Neil Armstrong stepped foot on the lunar surface. I was watching as a 12-year-old when he made sense of the riots, both from protesters and from police, at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago.
And it wasn't just his calm, authoritative reading of the news that made Walter Cronkite one of journalism's heroes. He also was an astute observer who recognized important news long before most of his colleagues did.
It was his report on Watergate that took up more than half of the CBS Evening News that finally turned it into a national news story and not just a crime story being told by Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.
It was also Cronkite who laid it on the line with Americans and told them the reality in Vietnam was not what was being told to Americans by our leaders.
Cronkite received much of his training as a wire service reporter, and that print background was something he never forgot. He was always a reporter first.
The rumor that Cronkite was near death first surfaced a few weeks ago. Sadly, if he had passed away at that time, it would have been lost in the media overkill over Michael Jackson.
Hopefully, Walter Cronkite's death will receive the coverage it deserves.