Saturday, July 18, 2009

Death of an Icon

I wouldn't be a good newshound if I didn't lament the passing of "Uncle Walter" Cronkite, who for so many of us for so many years WAS the evening news.

I remember when the evening newscast was lengthened from 15 minutes to 30 minutes, to give the broadcasters time to cover the news in more depth, and I remember Douglas Edwards, who was the broadcaster at CBS before Cronkite—but it is Cronkite that I remember most strongly from the years when I was still living with my parents.

Later, out on my own and in college—when I was fortunate enough to have a TV, which wasn't always the case—my news broadcast of choice became the Huntley-Brinkley Report on NBC. It seemed to me, at the time, that Brinkley's reporting on the Vietnam War was deeper and more scathing than Cronkite's, and since I didn't support that war, I liked the NBC broadcast better.

But of course I will never forget Cronkite's coverage of John F. Kennedy's assassination and its aftermath. Here's a cogent quote from Cronkite—his closing remarks after JFK's funeral—that appeared in our local paper today:

"It is said that the human mind has a greater capacity for remembering the pleasant than the unpleasant.

But today was a day that will live in memory and in grief. Only history can write the importance of this day: Were these dark days the harbingers of even blacker ones to come, or like the black before the dawn shall they lead to some still as yet indiscernible sunrise of understanding among men, that violent words, no matter what their origin or motivation, can lead only to violent deeds?


Tonight there will be few Americans who will go to bed without carrying with them the sense that somehow they have failed.

If in the search of our conscience we find a new dedication to the American concepts that brook no political, sectional, religious or racial divisions, then maybe it may yet be possible to say that John Fitzgerald Kennedy did not die in vain.

That's the way it is, Monday, Nov. 25, 1963. This is Walter Cronkite, good night."

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