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Centrifical Force


It’s a time to reflect for me. Walter Cronkite is no longer with us. And yet for two and a half generations of us he will always be there. He was there for my grandparents. He was there for my parents & he is most definitely there for me.

While others talk about how Mr. Cronkite was a nightly fixture; the family gathering together for the evening news (most definitely), or his awe and sorrow of history in the making (JFK’s death, Bobby’s death, Martin Luther King’s Death, McCartney, man walking on the moon, Watergate), many talk of their favorite memories. I love this homage in the Washington Post & I love Ted Koppel’s short but succulent piece.

Walter Cronkite was a part of my daily life from birth to high school graduation. He was a day to day Anchor for fair-minded telling of the news; a man who in his nightly orating of the day’s news stories gave us all a commonality of information. My parents still tell the story of how on the day JFK died, for the first time, at the age of seven months, I failed to cry at my normal times and looked up at them with compassion. While I believe that to be an overstatement on their part, I’ve seen the footage. He sounded different that day; sad and unbelieving. Aside from my Mom and Dad, Uncle Walter was the only voice I heard every day, and he was shook. I’m sure that seven month old baby knew something was up.

His retirement from daily T.V. , was for me, more jarring than when Johnny left the air. My television viewing lost its only common denominator. From then on I did flip the dial, look for what I interpreted the news to be. I believe it to be fairly telling of my own perspective and news as told today that my three must sources every day are The Guardian, Reuters and Perez Hilton. This is not something I’m proud of, it’s just the way it is.

This man who gained the trust of Americans everywhere to the point where the Q ratings were able to be invented and ruled them for his entire run was able to do so because he did believe the story was the star.

Many of us, who want the news presented to us without spin every day, who desire a broadcast without a life feature, who wonder when the antics of D List or even A List celebrities became as important and more googled than war casualties will miss our youth for the entirety of our days. You see, there was a time when one source was enough, when the paper in the morning followed by the CBS news allowed us all to interpret for ourselves what was going on.

I’ll finish with my first true memory of the CBS Nightly News. Walter Cronkite, in his rich baritone saying, “The following footage will be difficult to watch but it’s important that all of us do watch it.” This was followed by the young reporter Dan Rather in Vietnam reporting on the War and our fallibilities. I saw a man blown up and dead children. I was six. I understood what America was, as opposed to what it deigns to be. That personal perspective hasn’t changed in the last forty years even though the news most certainly has. And in no small part due to Walter Cronkite, I believe one day, we will get there. To where America wants to be as opposed to where it is.

And so, I thank you Mr. Cronkite for the basis in truth those of us who saw you day to day have, as opposed to the questioning of any newscast those who began watching the news after your retirement need to have.