Monday, July 20, 2009

That's The Way It Is...Now

It's tempting to say that there will never be another Walter Cronkite, and that very well may be true.

But maybe there IS another Cronkite out there---we'll just never know it.

Who's to say that there's not a Cronkite out there, somewhere in this vast, information-flooded cosmos?

Cronkite, the legendary newscaster who died last week at age 92, came into our living rooms at a time when the pie was cut into four slices, basically: ABC, CBS, NBC, and UHF.

It was easier to become part of our consciousness with those odds.

This isn't to take a thing away from Cronkite, because even with those odds, a whole bunch of Walter's competitors tried and failed to weave their way into this nation's fabric.

You had Chet Huntley and David Brinkley over at NBC, the flavor of the day at ABC, and Cronkite---not at all in that order, either.

Today, there's so much darn TV and so much freaking Internet (thanks for stopping by, by the way!) that the pie Cronkite was baked into is now more of a mish-mash---kind of like cobbler instead of pie. Hard to find the slices.

There's no Cronkite anymore, with all due respect to Brian Williams and Katie Couric and the like, because there's no way to be Cronkite anymore.


Cronkite, announcing the death of President Kennedy in 1963


How can you be Cronkite when the viewing audience is sliced into pieces as thin as onion skin?

How can you enter our consciousness when we won't stay put long enough?

There might be some Cronkites out there, but they'll have to settle for doing so on a much smaller scale.

It was the veteran news anchor Cronkite who, like cub reporter Dan Rather, had some of his finest moments in one of this country's darkest hours---the assassination of President Kennedy.

If there was any question as to the soothing powers of Cronkite, it was dispelled during that horrifying November weekend in 1963.

Cronkite manned the desk for hours on end, his face haggard and his shirt sweat-soaked.

In a famous clip, Cronkite almost loses it as he announces the official word of JFK's passing. But he gathered himself and delivered the awful news with all the professionalism and calm that he could muster.

The late, great sports anchor Jim McKay, who also came of age during tragedy, i.e. the 1972 Munich Olympic hostage ordeal, once told of one of his proudest moments.

It came the morning after Munich, the morning after all those Israeli athletes were killed.

A telegram was waiting for McKay when he arrived back at work.

"You did your country and your profession a great service," it read.

"Signed, Walter Cronkite."

And that's the way it is.

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