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‘Uncle Walter’ Cronkite Would Be 100 Years Old Today

November 4, 2016

If you were alive in the 1960s or ’70s, you tuned in to “Uncle Walter” on your TV for the most important news of the day.  Known as “the most trusted man in America,” Walter Cronkite was a legendary broadcast journalist many turned to for decades to get the latest news on World War II, Watergate and the Vietnam War, among other things. In honor of the 100th anniversary of his birth, Google created an animated doodle highlighting some key moments in his career, including his memorable reports on the assassination of President John Kennedy and the Apollo 11 moon landing.

My grandparent’s home produced many memories for me in my childhood.  They lived across the road from my family out in the country, and since we did not a have TV while I was a young boy, it was a pleasure to head over the road to watch the big events, such as the moon landing on the console television set.  The astronauts would change, as would the number of the Apollo mission, but the anchor of the CBS News broadcasts stayed ever-present and informative.  Walter Cronkite was as much a fan of the unfolding drama as we were in that living room.

I recall a Saturday morning as if it were yesterday that Walter Cronkite explained with a plastic model of the moon buggy about how it would operate, and what precautions needed to be taken to insure its successful movements on the lunar surface.  I sat there in rapt attention, and Grandma true to form for these big occasions would have chips or cookies to nibble on.  She sat in a larger chair off to the side and behind me, while I sat on the sofa and we would watch Walter on that large console TV set.

Later I would re-create the events in my backyard and the green grass at my parent’s home would be the gray surface of the moon.  Walter’s voice of the events unfolding would echo in my head as I moved slowly to impersonate the gravity free conditions that the famed astronauts encountered.   Now at age 54 I am not able to separate the space adventure with the broadcasts of ‘Uncle’ Walter.  They will forever be joined in my mind, and I am glad for that.

While there are many reporters and anchors, there are few models of ethical journalism that meet the standards that Cronkite carried on his shoulders for decades. He is remembered for embodying a reporting approach based in objectivity, accuracy, fairness and integrity. He was also an outspoken advocate for respecting the standards of responsible journalism.

I still miss him these decades later.

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