Off-Ramp for July 18, 2009

Appreciating Walter Cronkite

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Photo by Brad Barket/Getty Images

NEW YORK - OCTOBER 18: Walter Cronkite arrives to the opening of 'Absurd Person Singular' at the Biltmore Theater on October 18, 2005 in New York City.

(Note from John Rabe: I posted this earlier this week, before news reached us Friday that Cronkite passed away.)


I stumbled acros an eye-opening video before I learned that Walter Cronkite, anchor of the CBS Evening News from 1962 to 1981, is dying of cerebrovascular disease, according to his family. The video tells you everything you need to know about Cronkite ... (MORE INSIDE)

I grew up watching Walter Cronkite's evening news broadcasts with my family. I clearly remember the endless counting of the days of the Iran hostage crisis. I remember thinking of him as solid and respected. I learned later about his taking a stand against Vietnam, and came -- slowly -- to understand and appreciate his strengths as reporter and anchor as I learned -- slowly -- to be a reporter and anchor.

But I was too young to remember seeing this newscast, from January of 1973.

In the clip, Cronkite takes a call ON THE AIR from Lyndon Johnson's press aide, who tells him that the former President has just died.

Imagine one of the current crop of anchors being able to handle a scene like this. Imagine one of today's networks going with a story that was coming in like this, with no graphics or sound. But really, what more do you need to tell the story?

Note how Cronkite holds up a finger to tell us to hang on a second. It was all he needed to do. He knew the audience would immediately know that if Walter Cronkite was on the phone when they could see him, he wasn't taking a call from his wife. It was something we should wait for. And since it was Cronkite, we waited.

(PS: Note, too, the stylish cufflinks and watch. And KPCC's Frank Stoltze heard the typewriters in the background. Was someone really typing, or was it their job to make it sound more like a newsroom?)


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