Category Archives: CBS News

Walter Cronkite


I knew Walter Cronkite was going to die soon. Before the rash of celebrity deaths (McMahon, Fawcett, et al.), it was reported that he was gravely ill. And yet his pasing yesterday still saddens me.

For some reason, I always knew his birthday, November 4. I always how he felt when his 63rd birthday was the taking of the hostages in Iran.

I was aware of his reporting during World War II. But my first recollection was watching him on a history program called The Twentieth Century, which was on from the time I was four to the time I was eleven; my, I was a geeky kid. I was an avid news watcher, pretty much alternating between Cronkite on CBS and Huntley-Brinkley on NBC, until Walter eventually won out.

I have some specific recollections. While I didn’t see the now-famous announcement of JFK’s death in real time – I was at school – I’ve seen the footage so often that I feel that I did. I was watching CBS News for wall-to-wall coverage of the aftermath (Oswald being shot, the JFK funeral).

When Cronkite went to Viet Nam in early 1968, then came back and declared in an editorial on February 27 that the war “unwinable, LBJ knew he was sunk and declared his decision not to run for re-election a little more than a month later. It, along with Martin Luther King’s opposition to the war, also had a profound effect on my own view of the conflict, which, when I was 14, was vaguely, “It’s an American war and I’m an American”; by the time I was 15, this changed to “What ARE we fighting for?” Speaking of King, it was from Cronkite that I heard the awful news of April 4, 1968.

Cronkite was a great cheerleader for space exploration. I must admit not being totally sold on it. But his enthusiasm for it, which won him NASA’s Ambassador of Exploration Award three years ago, was so infectious that I was almost as excited as he with each new launch.

He was a hoot playing himself on the Mary Tyler Moore Show in February 1974.

After he retired as anchor in 1981, I always made a point of watching him in documentaries. Until recently, he was also host of the Kennedy Center Honors.

In this rash of celebrity deaths, I heard a lot about how people should feel a certain way because they didn’t “know” them personally. (Did we “know” JFK or King? Yet we mourned.) When you’ve let someone into your home through television (or music or whatever), you do feel that you’ve “known” them. Having let Walter Cronkite into my home for almost my entire life, now that I think of it, and in ways of great impact, I mourn his loss.

ROG

News About News

I was watching the Democratic Iowa “debate” Sunday on ABC-TV. I qualify the term because 1) the questions were designed intentionally to provoke – the “some say Obama’s not ready to lead; what do YOU think, Hillary?” or “some say Clinton can’t win the general election; what do YOU think, Barack?”; and 2) the so-called minor candidates were given short shrift. So I was surprised to see the results of an unscientific survey – I was stunned to see this as of 4 pm yesterday:

Who do you think won the Democratic debate?

Dennis Kucinich 11,821
Barack Obama 8,721
Hillary Clinton 5,546
Joe Biden 3,338
John Edwards 3,150
Nobody won. I’m voting Republican. 1,639
Nobody won. I’m waiting for Al Gore to get in the race. 1,145
Bill Richardson 1,109
Mike Gravel 1,044
Chris Dodd 201
Total Vote: 37,714

Dennis Kucinich, whose first chance to comment was about 30 minutes in. Kucinich, who had 2% of the vote in the polls in Iowa going in (Clinton, Edwards and Obama all have about 23% each). Kucinich, who provided my favorite moment in the event. When each candidate was asked about God and prayer. Dennis Kucinich said, “I’ve been praying to God for the last 45 minutes that you would call on me!” In spite of the flawed process, some things that the Ohio Congressman said hit a nerve. I’m not quite sure what, because my local ABC News affiliate cut off the 90-minute event after an hour in favor of its scheduled program, Teen News.
***
I’m feeling sorry for poor Bill Plante, not about the row over the CBS News White House correspondent’s remark at that Bush bye-bye for Karl Rove (“If you’re so smart, why did you lose Congress?”, he yelled), for which he’s been labeled a rude liberal and adversarial, among the nicer terms – here are Plante’s thoughts on that controversy. Rather, because he’s ALSO been cast as another brainless MSM TOUTING Rove here. And what praise did Plante bestow on the outgoing official? “He’s not only the mastermind behind everything – he’s the president’s senior advisor…” But he WAS considered the mastermind, or as Bush put it in 2004, “the Architect”. He HAS been a Bush advisor for decades. I think Plante was just stating fact, not fawning over power.

And speaking of Rove, I heard him on Meet the Press on Sunday. As Chris Matthews was recently criticized for saying, he DOES talk really fast. I think he’s very good at manipulating information to his political advantage, but judge for yourself.

ROG

Slippery affiliation

I was going to request a tape of the season finale of Gilmore Girls on this blog, but I’ve already been helped by a certain blogger.

It has been one of the very few shows that Carol and I watch religiously, ever since we caught it in summer reruns during its first season. It’s a soap opera, and I don’t mean that pejoratively at all. (N.Y.P.D. Blue, ER, Hill Street Blues – all soap operas.)

I had set the VCR to tape at home. But I neglected to tell Carol that she needed to put in a FRESH (just like the WB!) tape and the incumbent tape ran out of space about 20 minutes into the show! (I would have changed it myself except that I was still in Lake Placid.)

And since I was still in Lake Placid Tuesday, I went up to my room after the SBDC awards banquet at about 10 p.m., turned on the TV, flipped through the channels and came across an episode of Gilmore Girls. Initially, I assumed it was a rerun broadcast on ABC Family cable, but it soon became evident that it was THAT NIGHT’S episode, which I watched.

Most of the buzz about this series has about the rapier-quick dialogue between Lorelei and Rory, the relationship of Lorelei (and Rory) with Lorelei’s parents, and the Luke and Lorelei relationship- Will they? Won’t they? They did – now what? (An aside: I’ve long wondered if their names are nods to Luke and Laura from the daytime soap General Hospital.)

But the best thing about this show is about the parallel construction that the show tends to provide. I don’t always pick it up until the show is over. This season ender was about quitting. Will Rory quit Yale? Will her best friend Lane Kim quit her band? Where they each end up, and how they got there, was a real treat.

But why was it on at 10 p.m.? Was there some (amazingly rare) Presidential news conference or some major catastrophe that backed up the programming?

Nah.

In the Plattsburgh, NY/Burlington, VT television market, there is no WB affiliate, so WFFF in Burlington (actually Colchester), FOX 44, broadcasts the 8-10 pm WB shows from 10 pm-midnight!

Those of you in large markets may not appreciate this fully. When I was a kid, there were 7 stations in New York City, 2 (CBS), 4 (NBC), 7 (ABC), 13 (PBS), and 5, 9, and 11 (all independents). Eventually, 5 became a Fox affiliate, 11 became the WB’s outlet, and 9 went with UPN (and moved to New Jersey).

(Incidentally, this numbering is the reason most fictional TV stations in those days were 3, 6, 8, or 12, the remaining numbers on the VHF dial, or some upper number on the UHF dial, Channels 14-83. Most notable is WJM, Channel 12, Minneapolis, on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. And if you don’t know what the heck I mean by VHF and UHF, look here.)

But in a smaller market, such as Binghamton, NY, where I grew up (and at a time when there were only the three “major” networks), there were only two stations, WNBF, Channel 12 (CBS) and WINR, Channel 40 (NBC).

Then one Saturday morning in the fall of 1962, I turned on the TV just before 7 a.m. to Channel 34. Where there had nothing, suddenly we had a third station! It was WBJA, an ABC affiliate. My TV viewing choices had just increased by 50%!

What I didn’t realize until later is that Channel 12 (and perhaps Channel 40) were broadcasting some ABC programming before
Channel 34
came on the scene. I specifically remember Lawrence Welk, an ABC show, showing on Channel 12 Saturday nights at 6 or 6:30 pm. I recall that other ABC shows such as Bachelor Father, The Flintstones, Hawaiian Eye, Leave It to Beaver, Ozzie & Harriet, The Real McCoys, and Top Cat would show up on the schedule, often on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, outside of prime time (which was usually 7:30-11 pm in those days.) I remember these shows quite clearly, and most of them were off the schedule by the fall of 1962. I must have seen theme SOMEWHERE. Cable didn’t exist and I didn’t go to New York City that often.

Apparently, shows broadcast by one network appearing on the affiliate of another network was common in most small markets, going back to the days when there was a fourth network, Dumont, in the mid 1940s to the mid-1950s.

You big-market folks just don’t understand the confusion…