I am age 66, midway through the Baby Boom spanning 1946-64. I watch the news as little as possible these days because it has become more political opinion than news – certainly one-sided depending upon which way a media outlet swings.
Walter Cronkite and other great news professionals brought us the news back in the day – not opinion. They told you what happened and showed you with the best technology available at the time. Then – signed off bidding you farewell for the evening. Cronkite signed off each evening at the dinner hour with, “And that’s the way it is…January 24, 1976…” and the deed was done.
Cronkite told us the way it was and without opinion though Cronkite certainly had his thoughts on nearly everything. He just didn’t make his opinion part of the evening news broadcast. Fictional character Archie Bunker of CBS TV’s “All In The Family” always called him “Pinko Cronkite…” and we laughed. We knew exactly what Bunker meant and what his personal opinion was as a conservative.
I will never forget the excitement of NASA space launches throughout the 1960s and the boy-like euphoria of Walter Cronkite during each space launch. There was Frank McGee at NBC who covered the launches. Jules Bergman – Science Editor at ABC. Bergman was very matter of fact with these launches. He explained to us how it all worked – and if it didn’t work, why it didn’t work and what the fix was. Frank McGee spoke so eloquently about each launch and gave us a play by play. Cronkite got your adrenaline flowing, which went with his space broadcasts.
July of 1969 when we landed on the Moon, Cronkite was rather giddy. He’d long covered our journey to the Moon with the Gemini and Apollo space launches – and the time was now. We had arrived at the destination after much anticipation. We’d done it before everyone else and Walter was there to tell us all about it. He was there for the setbacks too – such as Apollo 1 in 1967.
We all cried. So did Walter…
July 20, 1969 – Neil Armstrong took those first steps from Apollo 11’s lunar module and stood on the powdery Moon landscape we will forever remember as the Sea of Tranquility. It was mankind’s first steps on another celestial body beyond Earth.
We’d done it.
Walter made sure we heard all about it from his CBS broadcasts.
Who could forget Apollo 13 in 1970 when the world held its breath and NASA pulled off the seemingly impossible. Thousands of engineers and program managers rallied together as the greatest engineering team in the history of the world. Three seasoned astronauts came home safe and alive. Walter Cronkite was there too through several minutes of agonizing silence during reentry and splashdown.
The world breathed a collective sigh of relief.
As time passed after Apollo 11, space launches became routine and the general public zoned out. Moon launches stopped due to budgetary concerns and no one even noticed. Those first Space Shuttle launches got some attention because the darned thing was faster than the sluggish Saturn V launches. ABC’s Frank Reynolds was majorly stoked during that first Columbia launch, watching and commenting with utter fascination at how fast the 6.5-million-pound Shuttle was coming off the pad at the Cape. It got there fast and the International Space Station was the result.
Although it would never be good for ratings today – the news needs to get back to being The News. To some degree it still is – but these 30-minute news broadcasts are little more than just the headlines for the first 15 minutes – then – “After the break…” followed by a battery of commercials, one nothing 30-second news story, then “After the break…” followed by another miserable five minutes of commercials, followed by another lame news quickie followed by “After the break…” more commercials and a “heartwarming” good news story.
Gee I feel better…
The networks must think we’re blind. However, we’re Americans…we put up with it.