Saturday, July 18, 2009

Walter Cronkite...may we all be so aware and so kind

Legendary TV anchorman Walter Cronkite (right) interviewing Bill Gill, the assistant director of the Mars station, on July 4, 1969 for CBS TV. They are seated in front of the scan converter. The rack to the right of the scan converter contained the Fairchild slow scan monitor provided to the MSFN stations. Photo: Bill Wood. From a website I found.

From an article I found:

“Just as the Beatles were the soundtrack for our lives, Cronkite was the voice of the news growing up,” said Yelland. “He only had 20 minutes to tell us what was going on in the world and we trusted that he could.

And that pretty well sums up, way too succinctly, how I felt when I read about the death of Walter Cronkite. He was the background voice of my growing up years...a growing up that went extra fast because of so many things. One, I lived on the Space Coast in Florida - which we called the Spaced Coast* in the years of leaps and bounds with rockets, my father right in there with the rocket scientists, but what did I know? We thought it was entirely normal to be rounded up by teachers and let out of class into the playgrounds to watch rockets shoot into space. One time, talking to a friend who lived about 10 miles away (on the barrier island I grew up on), I told her, hey, I have to go, there's a rocket going off. She ran outside and yelled to all of her neighbors THERE'S a ROCKET going off! Half an hour later she called me back and said, what rocket??? I said, oh, my brother is shooting off some rockets... Because of where we lived, she assumed that there was a BIG rocket going off....she should have waited for Walter Cronkite to tell her!

But even before that, when I was in fourth grade and John Kennedy was assassinated, he was the voice as my siblings and I marched in our living room to the cadence of drums and horses hooves, drawing the casket of a man that, young as I was, I knew was one of a kind. Walter Cronkite's voice took us down that road.

And then there was the Viet Nam war, with the kindly, serious face and voice of Walter Cronkite giving us, for the first time in history, an all too close to reality ongoing toll of statistics and visuals every night at dinner time.

Oh, but there was more, so much more. Walter was far from finished. He led us through the first moon landing, with his (and the rest of the world's) outdrawn breath, with that first step down on such an unimaginable place:

"Whew, boy (laughs). ... There he is, there's a foot coming down the steps. ... So there's a foot on the moon, stepping down on the moon. If he's testing that first step, he must be stepping down on the moon at this point. ... Well, look at those pictures. It's sort of shadowy, but we sort of expected that in the shadow of the lunar module. Armstrong is on the moon — Neil Armstrong, 38-year-old American, standing on the surface of the moon, on this July 20, 19 hundred and 69."

He continued to grace us with his words of wisdom and gentle humor until not long before his death. He was a gentleman, a consummate professional, and a joy as a human being not to be forgotten.

I can't cover here all that Walter Cronkite covered, every day and night for so many years. But thankfully, it is recorded. If you are of an age to take a big trip down memory lane, a USAToday
site, of all places (an irony I think Walter would appreciate) has a great compilation of many of his highlight moments (which includes most of the significant historical moments in a span of time stretching from when history was slo-mo to the speed zone of now).

Bless you, Walter Cronkite, for being the man you were. Right time, right place, well done. Rest in peace, though no doubt peace will be incredibly boring for you.

*if you are at all interested in what it was like Growing Up With Rockets, here is a multi part You Tube of an independant film of the same name. A lot of these people were friends of mine, though I never met the folks who made this. Bless them!

Thank you, Walter Cronkite. There is no one to fill your shoes of unbiased reporting and the world, particularly America, is worse off for your loss.

I'm so lucky to have live through times without the Rush Limbaughs of the universe. Rush, meet Walter...and be glad if you could lick the soles of his shoes.


  1. In an article on page 1 of this morning's St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the headline reads, "Would Cronkite be a king in today’s TV news world?". Charles Jaco, formerly the chief war correspondent for CNN, says he couldn't get hired, today. "Take a look right now at any of the 24-hour news channels and you're going to get the same thing," said Jaco, a veteran reporter for KTVI (Channel 2). "Bug-eyed anchors preaching to you with their body language, about how urgent the story is that you're about to hear. What they're saying is you're too stupid to know what's important."

    I don't know whether I agree with him about Walter, but I DO think that the phenomenon he describes is a huge contributor to what ails us. That Limbaugh could possibly enjoy the success he has would have been too preposterous to imagine when Cronkite was narrating history. *sigh*

  2. Let's see, Moonshiner (is that a fishbait, hooch or occult based nickname?), would you be old enough to remember when Mr. Cronkite was actually behind a desk and not speaking out on his own as a regular, if celebrated, citizen quite allowed any bias he pleased? Because as an anchorman, he was unbiased in a way we will most likely never see again.

  3. Hooch and yes.

    He was an out and out liar about many things, the worst of which was his claim that we lost the Tet Offensive.

    If you wanted to pin the blame of losing the Vietnam war on one person Cronkite would be a very good choice.

  4. This is a fair commentary on what too much hooch will do to your brain.

    Any role Cronkite played in Viet Nam (getting us out of there, we lost as soon as we entered with military that could be talked about) would only be considered yet another compliment to the man, in many quarters...I guess you've failed to acquaint yourself with McNamara's "Now that I'm almost out the door I guess I should fess up" deathbed apology for his role in Viet Nam?

    Try a little history, Shiner. It might sober you right up.

  5. Yes, Doug. And sadly, a generation is growing up thinking reality television is real and that - most - news reporting is real as well. Sad. I think shortwave radio listening (oops, internet international radio listening) should be required. When most of the rest of the world knows more about what is going on in America than the *average* American, it's a sorry state but it seems to be the one we live in.

  6. Late to the discussion but have one observation:

    Comparing Limbaugh and Cronkite is apples and oranges. Though I can't stand him, Limbaugh is not an journalist or an anchorman nor a news guy. He's a commentator ... and a blowhard. ;-) If you're going to throw Limbaugh into the equation you might as well include Keith Olbermann. Neither, in my opinion, are worth my time.

    Perhaps a better comparison would be any of the current network news anchors. Whether it's NBC or Fox News (to name two), I always feel like I'm being fed a line of bull and an agenda when I watch. Then I go take a shower. :-)

    Maybe this is why I don't have a TV on Culebra. The world can spin without me thank you very much.


    ps -- wasn't sure how to set up a profile so I posted as anonymous ... but MJ it's Frank ... yes THAT Frank. ;-)

  7. I agree with the comparisons, to a point. I haven't watched television in a long time (except when housesitting) so I really don't know any news people except maybe Wolf Blitzer and the last time I saw him, he seemed as biased as anyone out there. So to me, even though Rush isn't a *journalist* just today I read about some pol putting him in the same basket as real POLITICIANS! so...I guess my point is, Cronkite was the real deal...and we're stuck with goop.

    I don't know how to tell you to set up a profile but glad to know it's you, Frank. The llamas miss you.