Admittedly I was twelve years old when Walter Cronkite said his “That’s the way it is” for the last time as CBS Evening News anchor, but not only do I remember him well, but just the mere mention of his name evokes memories and emotions of a world that was much different than today.
As coincidence has it, I am currently reading a book titled ‘Lennon Revealed’ written by another news man, Larry Kane. In it, he reflects on how at the time, when The Beatles were on their U.S. tour in 1964 and 1965, the press was cooperative and compliant when asked to keep the fact that John Lennon was married ‘under wraps.’ He goes on to point out how that must seem implausible from todays perspective, in this time of celebrity media frenzy to expose even the most personal tidbits of any notable persons public or private life.
But it was a different time. Perhaps turbulent, perhaps troubled, certainly not innocent yet there was a barometer of what was ethical and responsible that has somehow been lost on the garbage spewing dirt dishing media of today.
Walter Cronkite was a man amongst men… an ethical man reporting the news in an ethical way in a more ethical time Some called him the most trusted man in America while many others held his opinion in such high regard that when he spoke out against the war in Vietnam, President Lyndon Johnson was reported to have said, “If I don’t have the support of Walter Cronkite, I’ve certainly lost the support of the American people.” He reported from the battlefields of World War II, reported on The Korean War, the death of J.F.K., Bobby Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., Vietnam and the first man landing on the Moon. This man was history.
From 1962 to 1981, Mr. Cronkite was the man America tuned in to to get their news, and memories of my grandparents huddling around the television every night for the CBS Evening News (you could set your watch by it) is a memory I will not soon forget.
What is most sad about his passing, and I realize this only as I now write this, is that so many never had the privilege of knowing him as a broadcaster. He lived twenty eight years past his retirement, and although CBS felt it was time for a younger fresher face, he could have gone on for much longer. This isn’t a man who ‘got old,’ on the contrary, if my memory serves me correctly as I have heard others say as well that Walter Kronkite always was old… it was part of his charm.
You will be missed Mr. Cronkite, although you already were.
And that’s the way it is.
Charcoal drawing of Walter Cronkite by Jayson Mondala