My dad owned a garden center that doubled as a Christmas tree sales lot in the winter. He came home every night with a “highball” waiting for him and would sit in our lounger with his Jim Beam watching CBS News with Walter Cronkite. Then, we would eat as a family and often talk about the world we had seen through Cronkite’s eyes.
It was the influence of Walter Cronkite, while growing up in the 60s and early 70s that more than anything led me toward Journalism. He was such a calming, authoritative force. His writing was straight broadcast style, often made remarkable with some descriptive flourishes. His image marks all of the great tragedies and triumphs of my childhood. My understanding of who this guy in the TV box was started early — I was 7 years old when John Kennedy was assassinated. The family watched TV constantly for several days enthralled by the images of death and grief. He was there when Dr. King was killed in Memphis and when, 40 years ago this past weekend, we were thrilled to witness a man on the moon.
When I became a reporter and part-time anchor out of school in 1979, I always thought how amazing it was to be in the same profession as someone like Walter Cronkite. I have an old poster of him that, for many years now, has been in my garage. It’s what I see everyday when I get home. His famous sign-off “And That’s The Way It Is” has taken on new meaning as I’ve gotten older. I look at it as I drive in and try to let any of the work days issues or frustrations flow out of me (“hey, that’s the way it is, move on”), so I can really be present at home.
There will never be another TV anchor like him. I think he helped America get through a most troubled time, not by glossing over all the issues (Vietnam, Civil Rights, the 60s revolution), but by reporting them accurately and without partisanism. What a great life and a great man.