I was thinking a little about Walter Cronkite’s passing and it is the finality of an era. There is simply no way for folks to remember what the information age was like prior to the never-ending, sometimes imagined newscycle foisted in us by Fox, CNN, MSNBC, and the like.
My folks used to take time out after dinner for a “news nap” during the National news at 6:30. You got your information from John Chancellor on NBC, Cronkite on CBS or Frank Reynolds (I think on ABC). My folks were Chancellor fans. My dad later explained that no matter what was happening, Chancellor never got to excited and it was easier to get a quality nap to better attack the rest of the evening.
But when something of importance happened, it was CBS all the way. My grandfather was a Cronkite guy and a semi-retired journalist when I was growing up. Things were an event because Walter Cronkite said so.
I’ve seen the file footage of the ’68 Convention where he called the Chicago cops “thugs” for roughing up Dan Rather and the ’63 clip where he struggled to maintain composure when talking about President Kennedy. I do remember his voice and the moon landing and the sense of excitement he conveyed. I couldn’t tell you if he was a conservative or liberal since neither of those words were used with the disgust they have now.
With Fox being conservative, CNN being Liberal and MSNBC being a better financed Comedy Central, information and how you get it has become a polarizing process. Cronkite was remarkable because none of those things seemed to matter. He provided a non-partisian review of what happened that day, that hour, watching with us as the world unfolded. When President Johnson said “when I lost Cronkite, I lost the country,” there was a undeniable truth to it. With the variety of opinion decidely smaller that it is today, events took on a greater focus because there wasn’t the exhaustive recapping that exists today.
It was simply “the way it is.