Sunday, July 19, 2009

Walter Cronkite 1916-2009

Friday night, the United States and the world lost the last newsman of his kind as the legendary Walter Cronkite went off to the glory and signed off the last time.
Now, I grew up with Uncle Walter, as he was known to millions of Americans. I was still in high school when he signed off for the last time in 1981 with the signature "And that's the way it is." and with that came the end of an era.
While I will agree that Uncle Walter did put a stain on his credibility when he decided to inform Americans that the war in Vietnam was lost, Uncle Walter made a seamless transition from writing reporter to broadcast reporter to television anchorman.
Having a voice of authority helped bring credibility to the news business when he became the lead anchor of the CBS Evening News in 1962. He replaced a legend in his own right, Douglas Edwards. But, it was with Uncle Walter that the CBS Evening News went from a 15 minute broadcast to a half-hour broadcast.
But, what also happened and is still the case today is that the three network cartel, ABC, CBS and NBC believe that all the news is in a cocoon in Manhattan and all three seem to have the same stories with the same wording, just different people.
When Uncle Walter was forced to give up his anchor role in 1981, the news business was changing and the crack came from the upstart Cable News Network, CNN. Within a decade and a half, there would be the Fox News Channel, the internet and something called blogging.
The news was not hermetically sealed and released by men like Uncle Walter, David Brinkley, Chet Huntley or Howard K. Smith. There are now many sources of news and information. And those big three networks continue to not have a clue as to why they are going down in viewership.
One problem is that when one watches CNN or FNC, it is live. There is no tape-delay of the main news programs. Yet, the big three still depend on some authoritative voice to deliver three-hour old news to people on the West coast. We do not need to wait. We can go to CNN, FNC, MSNBC, or Headline News. And that, along with the media bias all three big networks have shown blatantly in recent years is what has made people look to other forms of news and information.
Which makes Uncle Walter the end of the era of that authoritative voice that could be trusted no matter what. Even when he all but sealed defeat in Southeast Asia and the Communist takeover of Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.
I think that the news business on television really took a nosedive when Uncle Walter left the anchor desk. Now, there is maybe about 10 minutes of "news" and a lot of fluff. Something that Uncle Walter and those of his era would not have put up with.
Goodbye Walter Cronkite. And that's the way it is.

1 comment:

DoorHold said...

"While I will agree that Uncle Walter did put a stain on his credibility when he decided to inform Americans that the war in Vietnam was lost, ..."

It was much more serious than a stain on credibility, with that he eventually morphed into an advocate for liberal causes. He DESTROYED his reputation, but having had that reputation in the first place people held him close to their hearts for a long time (and still do). I don't see how whitewashing his loss of objectivity is in any way useful.