Friday, July 17, 2009

Walter Cronkite, 1916 - 2009

Walter Cronkite died today at age 92.

I grew up with Walter Cronkite from the time he covered John Glenn's launch and orbit in space from the back of a station wagon in 1962 through his coverage of the Vietnam War, Watergate, the Space Program, to his retirement.
I met him in 1996. He came to the bookstore where I worked for a book signing and an interview with the BBC right in front of where I worked. While most big celebrity authors (like John Grisham) would come into the store with an entourage the size of the Chinese army and take over, Walter Cronkite arrived in a cab with one assistant. He was unfailingly kind to all the staff and to the people waiting for his autograph. He was much more frail that I had expected, and I could see why he decided to retire. I thought the BBC interview was rather poor quality with fairly banal questions, but he handled it with grace and professionalism. The small crowd of employees who watched applauded when he was finished.

Like a lot of people, I knew every evening at 5:30 that if Walter was alright, then the world would somehow make it through another day of history. As we all must, he has now passed into history, and that's the way it is, Friday, July 17, 2009. This is Doug Blanchard.

Good Night.

I'll miss him. As John commented over on Eschaton, he was missed already. There has been no one since he retired who has come anywhere close to measuring up to him as a broadcaster and a journalist.

One more thing:
As I posted over on Mimi's blog, what was so striking about Walter Cronkite was the complete contrast between him and most of today's teevee news people. Cronkite was this ordinary looking guy from St. Joseph, MO who took journalism very seriously. He was all business; no capped teeth, no blow-dried hair, no prima donna tantrums, no drama, no theatrics. He was our representative right there in the middle of it all trying as best as he could to describe it and make sense of it to the rest of us. He talked to us as fellow adults, not as children or as peasants. I doubt that there will be anyone like him again.