When I got the alert around 8:30 p.m. that former CBS news anchor Walter Cronkite had died, I immediately called my husband to make sure he knew. He was, after all, in a newsroom at Greenwich Time. I was bumming around at home, with no reason to care about such an important event.
"Yeah, I know," was all Albie said. Then he got back to work.
An hour or so later, I got an e-mail from my husband with the subject "That's why you know who he is." It contained parts of an AP story about Cronkite, saying his name is synonymous with the title "anchorman" in many countries. In Sweden, in particular, anchors are known as Kronkiters, the article said.
I've actually never heard that term - at least not as far as I can remember (perhaps I should have paid more attention in Journalism 101). But I do remember the first time I saw Walter Cronkite. It was when I entered the student newspaper office at Westchester Community College.
In the back room of The Bunker, as the office was known, was a conference room taken up by a big rectangular table. Across from the entrance hung a poster-size black-and-white framed-in picture of an old man looking important.
It took a while before I worked up the courage to ask who that man was. It took even longer before I asked what the heck his picture was doing in The Bunker.
To the older students at the paper (at a community college, students of all ages gather), Walter Cronkite was a god. He was a myth and a legend, just as much as he was a credible journalist. His portrait hung on the wall to inspire us, to make us strive to be the best reporters we could be.
Even those of us who didn't know who he was at first knew that we wanted to be like him. Power and authority streamed down at us from that picture. This was an important man. And if we couldn't make a newspaper this man would be proud of, we weren't doing much good hanging around in The Bunker.