I Slept Close to Walter Cronkite
By Dian Vujovich
Okay, now that I’ve gotten your attention, the truth is my suite was next to his on a world cruise we both were on two years ago. And from what I can tell, that’s about as close to any kind of scandalous gossip as anyone can get when it comes to the wonderful Mr. Cronkite.
I know this blog is supposed to be about money, but today it’s not. Instead it will be a tribute to all things good in the world of journalism and TV reporting as exemplified by one inspiring individual.
You would have thought I was a 10-year old schoolgirl when I learned Mr. Cronkite and I were going to be on the same leg of a Silversea World Cruise. That was back in May 2007. He was onboard to speak and to provide commentary about the Louis Vuitton Cup sailing race. I was there to write a travel piece.
The first time I saw him was after dinner when I passed by the cigar lounge where he was enjoying a smoke along with a glass of some no-doubt fine brandy. He looked just as he always had to me—like an old guy.
He was old-looking when I was a kid watching him report the news on television, too. But no big deal. I grew up in an era when old was cool and age—or aging—not considered horrible and unseemly as it is today. Old was something that meant someone had experience, wisdom, worth and value. It was a far better time from that regard than the youth-centered culture we live in today. Mr. Cronkite was old when he was young and young when he was old—a lucky man indeed.
My personal interview with him the worst I’ve ever conducted. Too star-struck. Five of us sat around a small table one afternoon, my questions all seemed pretty stupid (can’t remember a one of them now), I forgot to turn on my tape recorder and could see that he was forgetful too. He reminded me of my dad. Both were around the same age, both had problems with hearing and didn’t walk as well as they once did. Both showed signs of dementia, both counted on their significant others for care, both still had twinkles in their eyes, a sense of humor, a working mind and both very much alive.
Mr. Cronkite was engaged and supposed to marry that summer. I read he never did. His fiance, Joanne, was delightful.
Those who deliver the news are supposed to do so concisely, honestly, directly and without opinion. Mr. Cronkite took his delivery one step further: he spoke just a little bit slower than most so that the listener, or viewer, could catch his every word. As a result, his presentations were power-packed because people were actually hearing him.
There was also was a little bit of Zen in the guy. We heard it every time he closed his nightly news report and would say, “And that’s the way it is.” He didn’t say, “was” or “will be” but “is” as in presently. He knew things changed second-by-second. It was good to be subtly reminded of that.
Mr. Cronkite wasn’t the greatest news reporter of my day, he still is. He is the one anyone who really wants to learn the trade ought to look to for direction. He is the one all in the biz ought to be grateful ever picked up a pen, held a microphone or sat in front of a camera.
And he is one man I’m very glad to have met.
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