Today he is remembered as, perhaps, the last and greatest honest, trusted and impartial news reporter. Almost every story, blog, commentary and tweet says, "He will be missed."
The truth is that he has already been missed. Cronkite's last broadcast was in 1981 and I daresay 95% of those writing, blogging and reporting today never actually saw Cronkite at the anchor's desk. It's been 28 years since Cronkite set a standard that, today, absolutely no one attempts to live up to.
If anything it is a shame that Cronkite outlived journalism, the profession he so loved.
Scott Simon, this morning on National Public Radio, presented a thoughtful tribute to the man who was the face of news in America for over 20 years. You can and should listen to Simon's entire essay here. In his essay Simon made an astonishing honest observation (the editing and emphasis are mine, please listen to Simon's entire tribute):
|Millions of people wouldn't believe that President Kennedy had been shot, or men were on the moon, until they heard it from Walter Cronkite.|
No one person in news will probably have that kind of audience and authority again. There are almost a dozen different national TV news operations now, plus radio, Internet sites and citizen journalists who blog and tweet in real time, and often with real attitude.
Today, so much media doesn't try to reach a mass audience, with all its unpredictable diversity and variations. They look for like-minded people who want a view of the news that will reassure them that they're right.
If the moon landing happened in today's media landscape, you might have one network trumpet the accomplishment as a triumph for the American way of life. Another might say: impressive, yes, but a victory for the crew-cut military-industrial complex that sucks money for shock-and-awe adventures from social welfare programs.
And bloggers might bleat: It was all staged on a set in Roswell, New Mexico.
So today, tonight and tomorrow, as you watch newscaster after newscaster, pundit after pundit, and blogger after blogger, pay loving tribute to a man they never actually saw practicing his craft, ask yourself why no one is attempting to emulate him.
That's the way it is.