Patt Morrison

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Walter Cronkite and Some Other Stuff

Walter Cronkite was a household god when I was growing up -- the very model of a modern newsman, trained in print and tested on the air. His masterly handling of the assassination of JFK and the death of Lyndon B. Johnson are YouTube legends. In the here and now, when anyone can throw up a blog and call himself a ''journalist,'' when talking heads' idea of excelling has to do the ability to outshriek one another, the Cronkite model of probity, professionalism, reportorial equanimity and judgment is still a gold standard to all who aspire to it, and a reproach to those who think it's ''old news.''

When I got to interview him, in the late 1990s, on KCET, it was with a tiny bit of trepidation that I hadn't felt with all the presidents and Nobel Prize winners I'd talked to. He was kindness itself; funnily enough, he'd been told the wrong time for the end of the interview. He was tapping his watch as a signal to wrap up when we still had a lot of time left! Afterwards, he sent me -- I guess there's no other world for a message from Uncle Walter -- an avuncular note of thanks.

Friday's program was divided between politics and science -- the possible cuts to the state prison budget to make up that $26 billion with the early parold of some felons, among other changes, and how cancer funding errs on the side of the cautious rather than the bold -- and the second hour, when we spent a lot of time talking about the effect of the recession on relationships. Some couples can't afford to divorce, yet some singles are finding new ''significant others'' in bad times. My favorite call was from Ismael, who said that prosperity had distracted him and his wife with all the goodies, the appurtenances of the good life. But losing a house and a lot of money had helped his family to rediscover the pleasures of simple things, starting with one another. And he said he's never been happier.

Monday, we talk about the 40th anniversary of the moon landing -- and how did all those ''we-never-went-to-the-moon'' conspiracies get started, anyway? -- and how national African-American organizations like the NAACP are grappling with gay marriage measures across the country; California's NAACP opposed Proposition 8, but a number of black ministers are denouncing gay marriage from the pulpit. How will this work out as Proposition 8 goes to court, and gays go to the chapel?

-- Patt Morrison

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