Friday, July 17, 2009

Walter Cronkite: 1916-2009

I assume by now the country has learned of the death of journalist/news anchor Walter Cronkite. I grew up in the era of Dan Rather hosting the CBS Evening News and so I do not personally recall when Cronkite was the anchor but I knew of him through his appearances on television programs and his distinctive voice isn't to be forgotten if you've heard it. I've been watching the coverage of the various tributes to Cronkite and those who are hard-core fans/appreciators of Cronkite will get the irony in this situation that's unfolded. He was known to not be very happy about 24/7 news channels, cable news specifically...because in his opinion he felt all-news networks politicized the coverage and those who watched cable news were watching because of the viewpoints of broadcasters and talk-show hosts about what's happening, and that they weren't watching to find out the in's and out's and facts of what's happening.

So, I find it very ironic that the 24/7 cable news stations that he often spoke out against are the very same outlets who are airing tributes to him even as I write this blog entry. I clicked over to CBS and they're airing their usual line-up of programs...no salute, no tribute, no fanfare. If anything demonstrates just how times have changed, the cable news channels of CNN and MSNBC are interviewing cable news anchors and personalities: the likes of Brian Williams, Sam Donaldson, Bob Schieffer, Morley Safer, Don Hewitt, Tom Brokaw, and several radio broadcasters have given their thoughts of Cronkite. Of course, watching cable news the last several hours I could have missed a CBS news-break or something but I just find it bizarre that, as far as I know, they hadn't said anything on their broadcast network. Perhaps the early morning newscasts will offer some commentary about the broadcaster who brought the network millions of viewers? If they don't, well, that's the way it is...

Anyway, it just seemed ironic that a lot of Cronkite's admirers in the news business shared their thoughts of him via the 24/7 cable news channels instead of on CBS...and I could be wrong but it appears as if CBS didn't want to interrupt their programming with any lengthy salute or tribute. Even more ironic is Cronkite passes away a few days before the 40th anniversary of the Moon landing of Apollo-11...and Cronkite is considered the face and voice of NASA's man on the moon coverage in 1969. It's his broadcast that typically gets singled out and re-played. July 16, 1969 was the launch and July 20, 1969 was the day of the moon landing. Just wrapping up on Fox News Channel was an hour long program about the Apollo-11 moon landing. It was a taped program...I assume contracts prevented the network from postponing the air-date. After it was over, a live transmission aired featuring a 5 minute look at Cronkite...but then it went into regularly scheduled programming of The O'Reilly Factor, a repeat from earlier in the evening.

Walter Cronkite was a radio correspondent/journalist during World War Two...and he joined CBS in 1950 and did a multitude of reports and stories. He hosted a series called You Are There for a total of four years, 1953-1957. Afterward he became the host of The Twentieth Century, a documentary program, which ran nine years, 1957-1966. Afterward, it was replaced by The Twenty-First Century, again hosted/narrated by Cronkite. This version remained on the air through 1970.

Eight years earlier, though, in 1962, he became the anchor of the CBS Evening News. It was in this position that he relayed and broadcast all of the events that took place in American and world history from 1962 through 1981. Dan Rather took over the anchor position and became a fixture in that position for decades, too. Cronkite continued to appear in news stories and remained a face/voice in news and current affairs programming. He lent his voice to a variety of projects...becoming the narrator/host on a 4-part series called Dinosaur for the A&E Network in 1996.

In his later years he became more known for his appearances on, and his narrations of, a wide variety of documentary programs ranging from sports to science to all points in American and world history. He often narrated documentaries on PBS. He hosted and or narrated several programs of that vein in this millennium. For those who think Cronkite slipped into obscurity and never did much after the 1980s you'll be in for a treat when you browse his credits at the Internet Movie Data Base.

1916-2009.

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