Friday, July 17, 2009

Death of a Legend

The news of Walter Cronkite’s death may not seem too significant to younger Americans. And while I wasn't a huge fan of Walter Cronkite in later years, there is little doubt as to his influence on the American psyche of his time. There have been many newscasters since but there was something about Walter Cronkite that made him unique that is difficult to describe to a younger person. To say simply he was the most trusted man on TV doesn’t convey what that really meant at that time. It’s hard for a twenty-something to have a feel for the cultural significance of network TV before the advent of cable. And Walter Cronkite was THE TV Network anchorman icon of the Cold War Era. It wasn’t that the majority of people knew Walter Cronkite, it was that EVERYBODY knew Walter Cronkite. He was part of American culture – like Coca-Cola.

Ed McMahon also died recently. Like Johnny Carson and Walter Cronkite, it was as if a family member had passed away. These people where part of your family every evening.

Today there are hundreds of shows and channels to choose from on TV. And there is the internet to occupy our time. Although the country is still tied up to mass media culture, it’s no longer a unifying force but rather a divisive one. Walter Cronkite really represents another America, one that was gone before he died.

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