Walter Cronkite: An icon of a rapidly fading era

Reading the Chicago Tribune in the morning and watching Walter Cronkite in the evening.

That is what I remember about how my family got its news in the late ’70s and early ’80s, at the end of Cronkite’s daily presence on the “CBS Evening News.” Still being in elementary school at the time and just becoming interested in the news myself, specific recollections may be hazy, but Cronkite’s presence in them aren’t.

Like millions of Americans, Cronkite was the guy who told us what was going on in the world. He presented the news in a calm straightforward style, which for the era was the standard and today is the exception.

It was with no small amount of irony how I – and probably many others – found out about Cronkite’s death last night. It was through a breaking news alert e-mail on my phone, which came across while I was texting a friend about the Cubs game — on Channel 741 of my digital cable — we were watching several hundred miles apart.

Technology has changed the news business upside down and inside out.

The need of sitting down at a specific time to get the latest news every night is gone.

There is no longer a sense that you missed out on something by not watching Cronkite or his later protégés.

My most lasting memory of Cronkite came actually before I was born, linked to the Apollo 11 moon landing, the 40th anniversary of which is Monday. Seeing footage of Cronkite dusting a tear away as Neil Armstrong left his indelible mark on the lunar surface and world history is an iconic image.

Such emotion was rare for Cronkite and his drawing card.

Eliciting an emotional response is now part and parcel of television news. It’s an approach Cronkite rejected professionally, one worth honoring as you scan through the seemingly infinite menu of options of where you get your news today.


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