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July 18, 2009

Walter Leland Cronkite, Jr. (1916-2009)

Yesterday's NYT: "Walter Cronkite, Voice of TV News, Dies". Cronkite was part-Midwesterner, part-Southerner, and started out in print journalism. He earned his reputation as a war correspondent in Europe, covering some of WWII's major campaigns. Recruited to CBS in 1950 by Ed Murrow, he was America's first "celebrity" anchor, and we saw him nightly from 1962 to 1981. He took what he did very seriously: broadcast journalism as religion, the fourth branch, and something to be done the right way.

A studious-looking Lefty, Cronkite likely thought of JFK as "his" president. The two men were born eight months apart. We and our parents saw him choke up on the air--even if barely--just that one time: November 22, 1963, reporting JFK's death in Dallas. Cronkite had just turned 47. But he always seemed older somehow. He had this reassuring voice: authoritative but never affected or self-important. You never got the impression when he reported one crisis after another--there was a new one every month from 1963 until 1975--that he was telling you that things would be "okay". Rather, he was telling you the truth--and that it was his mission to get it right.

He served you. He was the soundtrack of every American Boomer's youth: from Kennedy's somehow promising but wistful and aborted New Frontier, Viet Nam, more assassinations, GOP and Dem party conventions that were serious brawls or riots, the Johnson, Nixon, Ford and Jimmy Carter administrations, and up to the start of the overly-serious, and some think seriously-demented, Reagan Revolution that gave us the Newt Brigades. Nearly 20 years.

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(Photo: Washington Post)

Posted by JD Hull at July 18, 2009 02:14 AM

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