Walter Cronkite is gone. Long live his legacy of great journalism.
I can't possibly describe what Cronkite meant to broadcasting and to American culture better than Brian Lowry has on his BLTV blog, so click right here for Brian's spot-on appreciation.
On a deeply personal level, this is one of those passings that really feels like a member of the family — that was Cronkite's gift, after all. Another piece of the world as it was when I was a kid has died, and I cherish my idealized memories of that time enough to mourn for that reason alone.
"The CBS Evening News" was "the news" when I was growing up. To this day, my mom and dad are CBS News loyalists. They watch local KCBS-TV (KNXT to us old-timers) news in the late afternoon and on through the "CBS Evening News." Sure, they flip around to CNN and MSNBC now and then (Dad has crush on Rachel Maddow) but when it's time for them to watch "the news," they head on over to channel 2.
So that's a long-winded way of saying that Cronkite's voice was part of the soundtrack of my childhood. He came on right after dinner like clockwork. And his was the voice of the god of truth in current events as far as my family was concerned. If Cronkite reported it, it was the gospel.
When I first started working for UPI and learned that Cronkite had been a Unipresser (actually he worked for United Press, before it acquired the "I"), I was proud to be even remotely part of the same organization that schooled young Walter (that was before I'd worked there very long).
We knew his death was imminent — last month Cronkite's family released a statement saying that he was gravely ill and unlikely to recuperate (reporting accurately and diligently to the end). But it was still a jolt when I heard the news break on the radio (a CBS-owned station) while driving with my daughter this evening.
I agree with George Clooney, who observed: "He was the most important voice in our lives for thirty years. And that voice made people reach for the stars. I hate the world without Walter Cronkite."
Here's a great vid of Walter Cronkite from his 1998 interview with the TV Acad's Archive of American Television