Friday, July 17, 2009

Uncle Walter

Walter Cronkite, the longtime anchor of the CBS Evening News, died today at the age of 92.

If you didn't grow up watching Cronkite, it's difficult to explain the power that he wielded at the helm of CBS News. These days you can get your news from any source you'd prefer, but during Cronkite's tenure he was probably the most important and influential newsman in the world. For many Americans, you would only learn about something if Walter Cronkite told you about it.

Politically, Cronkite was a fairly traditional liberal, hardly different than most other journalists then and now. For the most part, his reportage on the CBS Evening News was pretty even-handed. His colleague Eric Sevareid handled the commentary most nights and that worked pretty well, although there was one very important departure from that. You didn't get a sense that Cronkite had a rooting interest in the outcome of political campaigns, even though he almost certainly did. He made certain to avoid outward shows of partisanship while he anchored the news. His successor, Dan Rather, wasn't as careful.

Later in his life Cronkite got significantly more involved in politics and ultimately became a standard-issue leftist. It's hard for me to care too much about that any more. He was a citizen exercising his First Amendment rights and while his fame certainly garnered him a larger platform than most of his fellow citizens, by that time his voice was one of many, not the pre-eminent one.

There's a lot of old video out there of Cronkite. Here are a few examples:

Assassination of John F. Kennedy

Assassination of Martin Luther King

Death of Lyndon Johnson (this one I remember watching)

RIP, Uncle Walter. We'll not see your like again.


Gino said...

the news that he died came as shock to me cause i thought he was already dead.

ho hum...
carry on.

Right Hook said...

I certainly hope we don't see one like him again. His defeatism during Vietnam ended up aiding the enemy and cost thousands of American lives.

I think Cliff Kincaid at Accurracy in Media puts Cronkite in the proper perspective: