My point that I am trying to deliver in my way, which is confusing and rambling, is that I grew up thinking that the news was sacred and important. I believed that you should be able to rely that what you were told was the truth, much like what I thought about the government. Sigh. I also thought it should have some humanity as well. Here are two news figures that loomed large in my life.
My family, like most Americans in the 1960s, got their televised evening news from CBS’s Walter Cronkite. NBC had the well-respected Chet Huntley and David Brinkley, but they were dry as dirtbombs. An hour with those cats every evening was like watching paint dry. ABC struggled with a rotating cast of newsmen: a too-young-then and too-Canadian Peter Jennings, the stiff Frank Reynolds, the interchangeable Howard K. Smith and Harry Reasoner, and a couple of other dudes who didn’t last long.
Walter was the man. He was a journalist straight out of Edward R. Murrow’s legacy: someone who was curious about the world, intelligent, passionate but thoughtful and controlled, experienced, and had a sense of humor. Walter Cronkite believed, and it was completely evident in all his work, that the American people had a right to know the important things of the day free from government interference, network honcho pressure, or the personal bias of the reporter. The people trusted him, and he never let them down, through some of the greatest national tragedies and triumphs, or just the stories of everyday life. Walter Cronkite is like the rock star of journalism to me, and I think I would either cry or hop up and down with joy if I were ever so lucky to shake his hand.
Now let’s talk about Albert The Alley Cat.
If you didn’t grow up in the general Milwaukee area during the ‘60s and ‘70s, you will have no clue who Albert was, but if you did, you absolutely know. Albert The Alley Cat was a puppet, YES A PUPPET OF A CAT THAT IS RIGHT, voiced by Jack DuBlon on WITI-TV. Now I don’t know about the rest of you folks, but I feel darn lucky to have had a CAT PUPPET help deliver the weather reports on the 6PM and 10PM local newscasts. Albert was legendary and beloved, paired with Kennedy-haired weather man Ward Allen. He was feisty and comical and misspoke constantly (“the humidery was 90%), and was also featured on WITI’s “Cartoon Alley” and “Funny Farm” programs, so I was Albert-saturated. It was fun to have a little levity in the newscast, and Albert also helped a generation or two of kids become more interested in the news around them via propinquity, I bet.
Walter and Albert. I loved them both. Look at this:
Albert The Alley Cat’s “Cartoon Alley” switched from evenings to mornings on January 8, 1962. Walter Cronkite started anchoring the CBS Evening News on April 16, 1962. I was born on April 6, 1962.
After a complaint from their snooty new qualified weather man Tom Skilling and the American Meteorological Society, Albert The Alley Cat was dropped from WITI’s news team in January of 1981. Walter Cronkite retired from the CBS Evening News on March 6, 1981. I turned 19, and sadly said goodbye to my lifelong news friends, the consummate broadcast journalist and a silly kitty puppet in a knit hat.
That's the way it is.