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Saturday, July 18

RIP, Uncle Walter

The radio and television correspondent termed "The Most Trusted Man in America" passed away yesterday at the age of 92. For millions of Americans, Cronkite was Uncle Walter, whose baritone voice seemed a comforting presence during some of the most tumultuous years.

I grew up watching him, my parents preferring him (the inheritor of Edward R. Murrow's mantle) over NBC's Huntley and Brinkley. He reported on the Kennedy and King assassinations and was an enthusiastic booster of the US space program.

Like many Americans, he at first supported the war in Vietnam, but was starting to grow disillusioned by the time the Tet Offensive started in 1968. His editorial remarks (he was always careful to tell his watchers when he was editorializing, and researched his position well) famously made President Johnson remark, "If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost middle America."

Later in life he embraced the Internet, seeing in it the possibility of having the news reach every part of the globe almost instantly. We've seen that in the protests and unrest following the elections in Iran, for example.

But when he retired he left the field to second-rate minds, and as the media slowly downplayed the news into "newstainment" those second-rate minds retired from the battle and gave the task of supplying us with information to people who will all too often allow their politics, ideology and biases to taint the flow of information.

Even a television veteran like Bob Schieffer, relegated to CBS's Bullshit the Nation, no longer has the iron in his blood to ask truly probing questions of his guests. And forget about people like Couric, Gregory, Stephanopoulus or Mike Wallace ever measuring up to Schieffer (let alone to Cronkite's standard).

So, rest in peace, Walter Cronkite. You did well.

"And ... that's the way it is."

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