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Generational Idolatry of the Evening Newsperson

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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!

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  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    But Cronkite was there first, and Edward R. Murrow was before him, and Robert Trout was before that.

    Actually, Matt, Morrow, Trout and Cronkite all worked at the same time during WWII, all working for CBS. Robert Trout was the newsreader for the 15 minute CBS national TV news broadcasts that preceded the half hour format developed for Cronkite. Trout had the standard accent of the previous generation of news reporters. Cronkite sounded very different – especially to a Brooklyn boy used to hearing East Coast English as the standard for broadcasters.

    As for tweets and live blogging, they are more like the reportage of the explosion of the Hindenburg dirigible as it hit a wire in Long Island in 1937, rather than the format of Walter Cronkite on CBS, or Huntley and Brinkey on NBC. Morrow’s reportage from London was also in the tradition of the reportage of the explosion of the Hindenburg, but far more creative. During the Vietnam War, NBC embedded reporters in army units who provided reportage that built upon Morrow’s – something you will not see again.

    The replacement of news with infotainment bullshit has thrown real reporting back a good 70 years to the days of the reporting of the burning of the Hindenburg. You really do not understand or comprehend all that you have missed, and all that has been lost.

  • http://www.joannehuspek.wordpress.com Joanne Huspek

    “The replacement of news with infotainment bullshit has thrown real reporting back a good 70 years”

    That and the insertion of the so-called reporter’s political agenda.

    It’s not about the “news” anymore; it’s all about the money.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I don’t know about “political agenda,” Joanne. But even reporters are supposed to have a point of view, however it cuts.

    I recommend a classic movie with Clark Gable and Doris Day – Teacher’s Pet.

  • http://www.joannehuspek.wordpress.com Joanne Huspek

    I loved Teacher’s Pet! :-)

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Good ole times, Joanne.