RIP Walter Cronkite: Passing of an icon whose era passed long before
First, though Cronkite passed away on Friday night, the just-the-facts journalism he advocated throughout his career left the industry long before he was gone, replaced by an emotive, audience-seeking display that newsmen from his generation would have found demeaning and a bit unprofessional.
How quaint it seems now to hear of the earthquake Cronkite caused by voicing his loss of confidence in the Vietnam War. These days, we're inundated with anchors' opinions on everything from Michael Jackson's final days to the chihuahua with a fork stuck in his head.
Of course, they rarely voice opinions on something momentous as an ongoing war -- unless that opinion is so obvious, it's unlikely to ruffle any viewers or sponsors. So viewers are treated to both a deluge of opinion on things that don't matter and a crushing lack of opinion on the issues that matter most.
When I speak on the shape of modern TV news, I usually pronounce Barbara Walters a bigger influence on today's television journalists -- mostly because her taste for emotionalism and celebrity seem a bigger part of what we all do now, especially on TV.
Secondly, Cronkite's passing was reported as imminent a month ago, starting with a story on the TvNewser Web site -- written by a journalist pushed out of a big city newspaper; how modern is that?
But, as the journalism world prepared for the death at any moment of its biggest remaining old school icon, Ed McMahon, Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, Billy Mays, Fred Travalena, and Karl Malden all left us first.
There's a telling parable about the shape of modern news reporting in there somewhere. I hope, wherever he is now, Cronkite is enjoying the delicious irony of it all.
Click here to see CBS's involved, interactive feature on their seminal star. Look below to see the obit. *