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"It's an ill bird that fouls its own nest."
A little news and opinion on environmental and sociopolitical happenings.
An ancient volcanic field in northeast New Mexico includes the remains of a cinder cone volcano rising 1,300 feet above arid plains. I took a nature walk with Park Guide Melissa Weih to learn more about this rugged area.
Parties pledge more than $1 billion crowns for battling climate change. FOR MORE, CLICK
Record warmth for two years leads to record-shattering break up. FOR MORE, CLICK
A little bit of warming leads to a lot of burning. FOR MORE, CLICK
Bringing wildlife indoors lessens life outdoors. FOR MORE, CLICK
Record-setting fires aren't just in California, but also Siberia. FOR MORE, CLICK
Reporter looks at water quality and availability in US. FOR MORE, CLICK
We called him Uncle Walter. His associates called him Iron Pants. But no contradiction exists between the two terms describing the life of Walter Cronkite.
My family called him Uncle Walter because he came into our household every evening. We trusted him. His associates called him Iron Pants because of his reluctance to leave his newscaster’s chair during a big story, outlasting the most dedicated of his fellow journalists.
Cronkite was born in the same city that I was born in, St. Joseph, MO. But when I was born, he was 36 years old, had worked for United Press International for 14 years, and worked with CBS for a year.
Cronkite hadn’t lived long in St. Joseph. His parents moved to Kansas City when he was a year old and then to Houston when he was ten. So his childhood influences had little to do with our shared hometown. But St. Joseph residents claimed him for their own because he was a character worth claiming. He was honest, hard-working and smart. He didn’t necessarily make sense of the world every evening, but he brought the world into perspective.
He was the first to tell us about most everything that happened in our time. Of course, the most notable and infamous thing that happened was the assassination of John F. Kennedy. The shock and disappointment in his face and voice mirrored the pain we felt.
Cronkite’s other painful job was informing America that the Vietnam War was a mess and a mistake. A World War II correspondent, Cronkite reportedly agreed early on with the necessity of the conflict in southeast Asia. But after a visit there, he recognized the futility and brutality of the conflict. When Uncle Walter broke the news that Vietnam was a lost cause, we knew for certain it was.
I especially remember “The Twentieth Century,” one of Cronkite’s innovations. It was a documentary television program that Cronkite hosted about recent political and cultural events. At that time, there was nothing like it on television and he set the standard for the evening news programs that would follow.
Cronkite was big on technology too, especially the space program. He devoted himself to explaining it to Americans, and NASA recognized the effort. The space agency gave him an Ambassador of Exploration Award in 2006. He was the only non-astronaut or non-NASA employee to receive the award.
I often wonder how Uncle Walter would rate in today’s skeptical-of-the-media climate. In his time, he was repeatedly named the most trusted man in America. Once he was fired because he refused to report a story that had not been verified.
But nothing about Uncle Walter was fake. He earned the loyalty of honest people, and the political career of Johnson ended when Cronkite reported on the Vietnam War and Nixon’s career was doomed when Cronkite wouldn’t let Woodward and Bernstein’s undercover journalism die. If Cronkite said it, it was true because he was devoted to the truth.
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