Friday, July 17, 2009


Walter Cronkite
Walter Cronkite (1916-2009), veteran newsman.

With today’s passing of Walter Cronkite, veteran reporter, a final nail has been driven into the coffin of the twentieth century. Cronkite, 92, was at one point considered “the most trusted man in America” thanks to a felicitous combination of professionalism and an avuncular demeanor.

Cronkite’s career took him from a brief stint in newspaper reporting to radio, from which he made the jump to television in 1950. He cut his teeth covering political conventions and hosted the program You Are There, which used a news reporting format to recreate historical events. Beginning in 1957, he hosted an narrated The Twentieth Century, a program that documented key events of (you guessed it) the twentieth century using newsreel footage. It was on that show that I first heard his unforgettable voice.

It was “Uncle Walter” who brought the major events of my formative years to the small screen. The Cuban Missile Crisis (I was ten years old and scared shitless); the assassination of President Kennedy; the Apollo moon missions... all of these are indelibly engraved on my brainpan with a soundtrack provided by Walter Cronkite.

It is unfortunate that Cronkite did not live a few days longer. Monday evening will mark the fortieth anniversary of the first manned moon landing, perhaps the most significant technological achievement of the human species... and covered wire-to-wire by Cronkite, of course.

I cannot name a single contemporary television reporter who can hold a candle to him. Alas, the Infotainment Biznis being what it is these days, I fear that I shall never see his like again.

Requiescat in pace, Uncle Walter. We’ll miss you... and that’s the way it is.

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