And that’s the way it was

19 Jul

Last week was long, important, and fun. It included petonque, councilmen, Miss New York, Zip cars, editors, Harry Potter, Stendhal, Borders, birthdays, and poetry at Bryant Park.

But, more importantly: Walter Cronkite died on Friday night. He was 92. A huge loss, still. I had the privilege of seeing him in person when he spoke at Columbia’s J-School during my first year at Barnard.

I remember this clearly not only because of Cronkite himself, but because it was it was the first time I asked a professor to make a Spec exception for me. Cronkite was a formidable, self-deprecating man, who, unsurprisingly, attracted a huge crowd. I remember my mother flipping out with excitement when I told her about the assignment. Cronkite—this is a real man. He took to the podium, and, between sips of water—he apologized, as he usually drinks “not water” but he just recovered from surgery—and slapped the media on its behind for its screwy management.

Then he said:

“The young people I see entering the field of journalism today are no less intelligent or dedicated than in my generation. … They are indeed … brave to be entering a profession with far less job security and far greater economic uncertainty … out of a deep sense of commitment to public service.”

What an inspiration, to see a hero laud my choices, despite admitting to their drawbacks.

But as the Times notes, he’s leaving us in a world where “the television news business long ago lost that kind of prestige and importance; the audience for evening newscasts has so dwindled that this year there were more viewers on an average night for “American Idol” than for the programs on CBS, NBC and ABC combined.”


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