Twice over the years I met and chatted with Walter Cronkite, both times in buffet lines at parties. He was the opposite of Peter Jennings, who nearly knocked me down in the inner halls of ABC, loudly telling me and my teenage nephew Aaron, for whom I had wangled a private tour, to “get out of my way” as he burst through some hallway doors and swooped toward the newsroom. Cronkite was almost shy when I spoke to him, and somehow I found us talking about our fathers who both had done work at the Mayo Clinic. He also discovered we had Texas backgrounds. His instincts as a reporter were powerful stuff — managing between the salad bowls and deserts at the end of the buffet table to learn a lot about me! I feel another connection to this giant of bygone media. He raised his family on a quiet 84th Street block on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, 2 blocks from where I have lived since 1971, though I never saw him on my many jogging jaunts down his block toward the East River promenade.
This post is a hail and farewell to yet another pillar of past media. There is a New York Times Media Decoder story today that I recommend to readers who remember the heyday of Walter Cronkite. The story captures how very much times have changed: from one trusted voice to crowd reporting and, I think and I cheer, media inoculated with wisdom of the crowd. The Media Decoder begins:
Sean McManus, the president of CBS News, learned of Walter Cronkite’s death while he was at the dinner table on Friday evening, sharing a meal with his two children, ages 8 and 10.
After taking the phone call, he tried to explain to his children — who have grown up bombarded with news and information — the value of Mr. Cronkite’s once-a-day news updates.
“There probably will never be anybody who has the presence and the stature and the importance that Walter Cronkite had in this country,” Mr. McManus said in a telephone interview, recalling what he told his children.
“I tried to explain to them that most people in America expected to get both good and bad news from one man, and that was Walter Cronkite,” he said. “That will never be duplicated again,” because of the fragmentation of the media. . . .
Image above from New York Times Video