When the news was The News…

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.

5 thoughts on “When the news was The News…”

  1. I remember watching his reaction when we landed on the moon. One of the best moments of any newscast since. An amazing man. I watched him almost every night with my father and mother and started reading newspapers at 8. Yeah, I was weird.

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    1. Same here – loved his enthusiasm. Was saddened when he retired because I knew life would never be the same. Loved Brian Williams. I hate what happened with him. Brian and NBC News could have saved it with a real human moment. NBC chose to suspend him instead of doing what was so easy.

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  2. We need to be careful putting too much Vaseline on the lens of yesteryear. Cronkite, Murrow etc from the era were more alive, more human than the talking headshots of today, but like all journalists what they present(ed) was subject not just to what they saw and heard but also to what they were told. From editors and editorializing, censorship, moral codes of the era, government controlled information release. It was a much different time as well. When everyone’s dirty laundry wasn’t up for scrutiny, when “don’t ask don’t tell” was embedded long before it became “policy.” Not just as regards sexual orientation but who’s a drunk,who’s playing grabass, who’s swimming nude. A time when access was extremely limited, cameras weren’t everywhere, problems were solved in half an hour and television was often a promotional tool and propaganda machine mush as much as it is today. Producers currying favor or agenda could run propagandized content and sell it as entertainment. Vaccines? Behavioral pathways? Good and bad? Look no further than Marcus Welby’s disease of the week. Old politicians trying to slow the women down, devaluing their presence? Read some Hollywood history and discover the reasons behind the plethora of single fathers from gunslingers to aeronautical engineers. And nary a single working mother because it was a myth at the time. What I miss about Cronk and the rest is the simplicity. Here’s a person in the living room telling you to the best of their ability what they know about what’s happening, instead of a group of acceptably diverse focus group passed hairstyles buried in flashy sets and technology. There’s a fascinating article in the NYT about the entire hoax culture, fake news, acceptable lies, plagiarism. That it’s not new, it’s just way more obvious. And okay. More of that stuff that stayed bottled up in the fifties, but had to be there.

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