Friday, May 11, 2007

The News On TV

Last night I caught most of American Masters, a series that examines "the lives, works, and creative processes of our most outstanding cultural artists." Last night's episode was a rerun about Walter Cronkite. I was mildly interested in the words about him, spoken by all kinds of people I've been reading or hearing for years, including two who have recently passed away, Molly Ivins and David Halberstam. I was much more interested in the news films, because of course Uncle Walter was reporting on everything, and they showed pieces of his reports.

Turns out Cronkite loved the space program and followed it everywhere. He gives a report about the astronauts practicing weightlessness, during which Cronkite is strapped down on one of those parabolic flights and four guys are flying all over the place, one of them even hitting the camera with his foot. The first manned Mercury rocket, with Alan Shepard in it, leaving the launchpad, with a glorious U-S-A running up the screen, and later, the Apollo 11 landing on the moon.

(It is really difficult for me to believe that NASA got those people up there using slide rules and pencils. It's like the smart people then must have been a lot smarter than the smart people we have now).

I don't think I've ever seen the film of JFK getting shot. Knowing, now, that he'd been shot in the head, it was easy to see that the President had been terribly wounded, and surprising to see the First Lady, always presented as terribly gracious, climbing in fear over the trunk of the car. I've seen the film of John-John saluting his father's casket before, but it again brought a tear to my eye. Such a little boy, and he did exactly what he was supposed to do, the way he was supposed to do it.

There's interesting film at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, during which Dan Rather, in his late 30s, gets manhandled and eventually wrestled to the floor, and though Rather says he is all right afterwards, a clearly disgusted Cronkite basically says that the press is getting treated so badly that they want to pack up their cameras and go home. Not to mention the riot outside the Convention Center, which I've heard about but never seen before, police beating people and pulling them into paddy wagons while you can clearly hear the chant, "The whole world is watching!"

There's a short clip of Cronkite reporting before, during, and after bombing run early in the Vietnam War, and he hops out of the plane and says something like, "Well, that was a great run, right, Colonel?" Like, Whoo hoo! We dropped a bomb and flew really fast! Later, his opinion changed (one of the people they interviewed, and I don't remember his name, pointed out that at the beginning of a war everyone's supportive) and the reports became more critical, and there was film of women crying while soldiers set their homes on fire with lighters and flamethrowers.

It was interesting to see the films, most of them for the first time. And interesting to see Cronkite in action; he retired just as I started paying attention to world events, and I never watch TV news on purpose now. The important stories are too short... Something that Uncle Walter would not have found acceptable, I think.

1 comment:

Saipan Writer said...

There are some great clips of Walter Cronkite on You Tube. Like this one:

We all trusted Walter Cronkite--which is high praise to someone delivering news on a daily basis for years and years.