July 18th, 2009

RIP Walter Cronkite

Walter Cronkite, the anchorman for whom the word “avuncular” seemed to have been invented, has died at the age of ninety-two.

The tributes will pour in. He was a giant of a newscaster in a way that no one can be anymore, because television news was in its infancy then and limited to the big three stations.

Cronkite started in print journalism, but segued to TV and earned renown for the reassuring timbre of his deep and sonorous voice. Who could ever forget his struggle to suppress the emotion that overcame him when he announced to a shocked nation that its young president had died so suddenly and cruelly on a beautiful November day in 1963?

See the video; it’s in the last 45 seconds that Cronkite delivers the official word on JFK’s death. He shows his grief and anger by pressing his lips together tightly and doing a repetitive bit of business with his glasses, taking them off and on, off and on. A consummate pro, he never really falters. But it clearly costs him a great deal to maintain his composure:

We all bonded to Cronkite that day.

[But see this post of mine on Cronkite and Vietnam for “the rest of the story.”]

16 Responses to “RIP Walter Cronkite”

  1. Foxfier Says:

    92, dies at home with family… that sounds alright to me.

    Prayers to his family, and may he rest in peace.

  2. Jim G. Says:

    I do not want to speak ill of the dead, but Uncle Walter, though a skilled journalist, is a man who, because of his enormous personal charisma, did incredible damage to this country. Many millions of Southeast Asians died as well as thousands of our own military forces because of his incorrect reading of the situation after Tet. What is worse, he was never able top wrap his mind around the facts after they became crystal clear. Unrepentant and, yes, arrogant to the end, he is much too typical of people with the liberal mind set. He was blind about Vietnam and remained blind about what a disservice he did to our country to the end.

  3. neo-neocon Says:

    Jim G: that’s the subject of this essay of mine that I linked to.

  4. SteveH Says:

    I never really thougt about it, but i guess Walter’s comments on TET were the actual jumping off place for journalism. When liberals decided social engineering held merit over millions of individuals having the facts and charting society’s authentic course.

  5. waltj Says:

    My parents were Huntley-Brinkley viewers when I was a kid, so I never got to watch Cronkite much. The few times I did watch CBS News, his supposed charisma left me flat, as if he were trying too hard. So even when I was a youngster, Cronkite didn’t particularly impress me. Chet and David lacked any sort of artificiality, Chet especially, and that sort of delivery worked better for me (maybe that’s also what my parents liked).

    I wish Cronkite peace in the hereafter, but I agree with Jim that Cronkite never got what he really did to the country, and wouldn’t have cared if he had.

  6. bad haikumenter Says:

    God bless him
    He gave his life that we might
    Be spared Jackson coverage

  7. huxley Says:

    waltj: I grew up in a Huntley-Brinkley house too, and when I left home, I stopped watching TV, so I never got the Cronkite mystique.

    I also thought that the H-B theme, the second movement of Beethoven’s Ninth, was pure class.

    It surprised me to learn later how powerful Cronkite’s commentary was. To me he was just that fusty older guy on CBS.

  8. Gray Says:

    I’m 41. He was always just some hectoring old anti-american dolt to me. It’s another boomer thing….

  9. vanderleun Says:

    I’ve linked this in my sidebar where I note,

    Regarding Cronkite, I noted yesterday that “We will not see his like again” and that’s true. What’s interesting to me is that we shall obviously not see the like of his era again. It seems to me that we’ve now entered the era (and I understand why) where there is no forgetting or forgiving in our politics. Even in death. I not only don’t like where that leads, I fear it.

  10. Scottie Says:

    I wasn’t even born when Kennedy was assassinated, so I guess I missed out on the “bonding”. However, I was aware in the late 60’s and early ’70’s of Vietnam.

    My perception of the man is based almost entirely upon his words and actions regarding that war – and those perceptions are not positive.

    It boggles my mind that this one individual could have had such an impact on the thinking of so many in this country.

  11. Richard Aubrey Says:

    If you get a chance, see “Absence of Malice” with Paul Newman and Sally Field.
    Cronkite said it “savaged” the media, and he was disturbed by that.
    He was even more disturbed mentioning that movie audiences cheered when the newspaper got faked by Newman into shafting itself.
    He may have had some kind of folksy gravitas, but he was in the bubble for the last thirty years of his life, apparently.

  12. huxley Says:

    For all the Vietnam War and Watergate cred journalists give themselves, they don’t seem to notice that they consistently rank in bottom tier of institutions trusted by the American public — way, way below the military, the police, organized religion, and even the presidency.

  13. waltj Says:

    “I also thought that the H-B theme, the second movement of Beethoven’s Ninth, was pure class”.

    Yes, it’s hard to beat “Ludwig van” in just about any context. Come to think of it, the H-B theme was probably my earliest exposure to classical music. But not my last, I’m happy to say.

    Regarding your 10:29 comment about the low regard we have for journalists, I’d have to say that they brought it on themselves. All they do is tear down people and institutions that they view as targets. They do nothing to uplift.

  14. Wandriaan Says:

    I don’t know how the tv-newscoverage was in the US before 1965, but here in Holland it was far more ‘austere’ than now. There was a strict commitment to present the newsfacts as neutral as possible and this fitted in with the somewhat austere Protestant culture here. Now this has all gone.
    Boy, we are all relaxed pals now, aren’t we! We mix it all nicely together, make it smooth, ad some attractive womenfolk in ‘appropiate attire’
    and make sure that, even when they are outragiously partial, they smile nicely, in that typical smug, semiseductive way.
    When I saw the video of Cronkite announcing the death of Kennedy I remembered the way it used to be here.
    I used to welcome the more ‘relaxed’ ways
    after the sixties, but now my feelings are far more mixed, to call it mildly.
    Since a few years I expressly avoid watching tv-newscoverage because of the brainwashing effect of mixing facts and views. The ‘in your face character’ of tv-broadcasts make the avoiding of being brainwashed far more difficult than when reading news in writing.

  15. rickl Says:

    I was five years old when JFK was assassinated, so I don’t remember the live coverage that day. I was ten at the time of Tet and that didn’t make much of an impression on me either at the time.

    The thing I will always remember Cronkite for the most was his coverage of the space program in the mid-to-late 60s. I always cut school to stay home and watch the launches, and my mom would always write a note for me to take to class the next day. Some of my teachers understood that I was watching history in the making.

    At the beginning of the movie Apollo 13, the astronauts and their families are gathered to watch Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon. They turn on the TV and are trying to decide which channel to watch, and people in the room call out “Walter! Walter!” I think that captured it pretty well.

    It’s kind of fitting that he died during the observance of the 40th anniversary of the flight of Apollo 11.

  16. grackle Says:

    If you get a chance, see “Absence of Malice” with Paul Newman and Sally Field.

    One of my favorite movies. But the only way a movie with such a theme can be produced is if there is no hint of anti-Progressivism. The movie is about the thoughtless expose by a government official of someone whom Newman’s character held dear which led him to fake the collusion of a politician with organized crime, duping the newshounds and getting the government leaker fired. Wilford Brimley’s performance is priceless.

    Thoughtful viewers can extrapolate from the plot to MSM prejudice but the general public seems to be not so thoughtful. A movie openly addressing the Progressive bias of the MSM? Never happen in a million years.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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