There are times when the passing of an individual seems to sum up an era of time. I believe the death of Walter Cronkite was one of those times. His passing points to the passing of a way of journalism and a way of receiving. I remember the days of only 3 networks. You sat down and watched the news of the day usually over dinner. There was no CNN or internet just CBS, NBC and ABC. News seemed well for lack of a better way to put it more like news. There was fluff but there seemed to be a great deal less of it than today.
As for Cronkite, in particular one of my very first memories, is of him. Actually, of an event he reported on. It was the assassination of John F. Kennedy. It is something that is indelibly etched in my mind. I remember my mom and I were watching a soap most likely the Secret Storm when CBS interrupted the broadcast. After a while, I’m not sure exactly how long, Cronkite made the announcement of Kennedy’s death. I remember my mom crying. I also remember later in the evening my dad coming home and entering the house through our back door at the moment Kennedy’s coffin was being taken off Airforce One.
Cronkite might be best remember for his trip to Viet Nam and his report that followed. He concluded there was no way to win the war. Shortly after Lyndon Johnson announced he would not run for re-election. Did Cronkite cause that? He certainly was a major fact in Johnson’s decision. The oft quote from Johnson was after watching the report Johnson said to the effect if I’ve lost Cronkite I’ve lost middle America.
And in light of the 40th anniversary of landing on the moon today, you have to talk about Cronkite’s coverage of NASA. (Here's a link to a great story at USA Today.) I don’t think you could call him a booster of NASA. I think he showed what everyone thought when Apollo 11 landed on the noon. Wow this is really happening. Cronkite’s enthusiasm was great. He was like a little kid.
Cronkite’s passing is sad because it really is an end of an era.