He retired years before I became a zygote. He was doing panels and the occasional correspondent work for CBS while I was learning fractions. I am in no place to personally tell you how great Walter Cronkite was.
Tom Brokaw was the evening news figure I grew up watching, so after many years, when his time on this earth has ceased to be, I will probably be sad and empathize with those who are mourning the death of Walter Cronkite on July 17. All I can really do is acknowledge his relevance and impact in that era, the same way I can read up on the moon landing or the Civil Rights movement or Jimi Hendrix.
They say there will never be another Walter Cronkite, and they're right; with all the bloggers and eyewitness tweeters and cable news on-air talent, the sum of their parts has a greater reach than any one individual. But back then, Cronkite probably had a larger following than CNN, MSNBC and all the blogs out there, combined. He was borne out of necessity; should the Internet keel over and collapse like a tarot card house, maybe someone out there would rise to the challenge and relay important information to the world, and then we'd have another Walter Cronkite. But that's highly unlikely. The Internet only dies for minutes at a time, when the tubes get clogged with videos of cats playing the keyboard.
It will be fascinating to see what some punkass my age who has yet to become a fertilized egg has to say about the Brokaws and Rathers 30 years from now. They may not be able to comprehend it since their YouTube clips will be comparatively few and far between. Actually, in 30 years, YouTube will be a silly website where old geezers watch old-timey shows like Family Guy and The Daily Show. No, in 30 years every TV show will be on hologram-o-vision. And the twentysomethings in 2040 will contend that since Larry King doesn't have any hologrammed video clips … and what the hell are those, suspenders? God, what awful fashion sense they had back then.
So back when the evening news served as the best way to communicate news on a large scale, Cronkite was invaluable. I cannot fathom or comprehend that, but I recognize his merits and his impact. On-air anchors today try to emulate and improve on his craft and make it work today. Do Brian Williams, Charles Gibson, Katie Couric, Wolf Blitzer, or Shepard Smith have a fraction of the impact Cronkite did? Probably not. Does any Twitter user, or even the entire collection of microbloggers, hold the same gravitas? That's debatable. Would any journalist today be able to do what Cronkite did, given the same historical setting? Rhetorical questions are fun! But Cronkite was there first, and Edward R. Murrow was before him, and Robert Trout was before that. And none of them held a candle to Paul Revere, the original evening news anchor/blogger/tweeter. Now THAT was journalism!