He was “the most trusted man in America.”
The veteran newsman who held back his emotion, barely, when he announced to the nation that President John F. Kennedy was indeed assassinated.
The broadcast giant whose tears of pride were evident when American astronauts landed on the moon.
Walter Cronkite retired as anchorman of the CBS Evening News in 1983.
No one has been able to hold a microphone to him since.
Especially not now.
Barbara Walters, herself a pioneer in broadcast journalism, has seen her credibility sink to almost the level of Bill O’Reilly, what with her daily morning gal pal coffee clatch.
Cronkite was of the greatest generation of journalism that cut its teeth during World War II and into the 1950s with Joe McCarthy and the Red Scare.
Journalism, broadcast and print, started down it’s path of sensationalism in the late 1960s with anti-war demonstrations and then into the 1970s with Watergate.
Cronkite was there and kept his opinions to himself (a rarity in broadcast news these days.) Except when he did speak out against the Vietnam War, seeing finally what many young people of the time already knew, that it was dividing the nation.
Up to that point, if there was anyone who was on the fence about Vietnam, the nation’s newsman likely woke them from their malaise.
President Lyndon Johnson was heard to have said, “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost middle America.”
Cronkite was a liberal, but not a bleeding heart — at least not when broadcasting.
Richard Nixon tried to discredit him, but to no avail.
That was like trying to deface Mount Rushmore, only with Walter’s mustached-face carved in stone and not that of the self-destructive crook in the White House.
There are kids working in the journalism profession now who weren’t even born when Cronkite said his final “And that’s the way it is” on his broadcast in the early 1980s.
Sad to think that some of them are getting their “news” from Jon Stewart on “The Daily Show.”
Cronkite has no successor because he has no peer.
Dan Rather, who succeeded him in job title only, was never a serious contender.
Rather had tough shoes to fill, for sure. So it was never meant to be. He is still holding on, in a less than grand network newscast. But he was never able to garner the same clout.
Cronkite was more or less put out to pasture when he signed off lo those many years ago.
CBS made a big mistake letting him go that soon.
He had a lot of good years left.
But it was time to bring in the pretty boys, who, quite frankly, had to compete with the bubble-headed bleached blones surfacing all over the channels.
Every broadcast journalist will pay homage to the newman who anchored the country to ground at its darkest time when it looked like we were losing our way.
Every newscaster — no matter the pay grade nowadays — knows they’ll never reach his status.
That’s just the way it is.