As a former TV news guy, I’m saddened by the news that Walter Cronkite has died at age 92.
Hard to imagine that before anchors in all their high def glory stood up to read the news all we really needed at night was someone warm, friendly and trustworthy to sit in front of us and tell us how everything was.
Good or bad, Cronkite told it all straight, in a non-digital world. He was a “just the facts guy,” who popularized the term “avuncular.” Avuncu-what? That’s just a guy who is like an uncle, a man who had your trust from the word go. What Uncle Sam did for recruiting, Uncle Walter did for the country and for TV news. He was the industry’s face. And then it all took a turn when TV glammed up for ratings.
I met Cronkite once after a dinner in Washington. It is one of the few pictures I ever sought out and kept from my time there. I was at NPR at the time, a Filipino American anchoring “All Things Considered,” imagine that. I’d look at that picture whenever I questioned something I did or an approach on a story. What would Walter do? For journalists of my day, Cronkite represented a standard. His picture remains on my desk.
I never quite understood why Cronkite had to be forced out of the anchor chair. In my mind, no one has ever quite matched what Uncle Walter brought to the table.
For all the technology and all the hair spray, something has always been missing. Anderson Cooper has something. But avuncular ain’t it.
So tonight Cronkite makes news as his life fades to black. It’s been years since he’s been on TV. But the image is indelible. Walter Cronkite will always be my anchorman.
And that’s the way it is.