Saturday, July 18, 2009

Walter Cronkite and the Whales

I worked at CBS News from 1968 through 1971, most of the time in the CBS News HQ on West 57th Street in NY. I had the honor and pleasure of working with Walter Cronkite on many occasions, especially during the Apollo 11 moon landing when the whole space unit decamped from New York to Houston.

But my favorite memory of him took place in 1982, long after I'd left the news business. We were on a whale watching boat out of Boston cruising the Stellwagen Banks on a gray day during which numerous humpbacks popped up for a breath of air and then dove. Nothing spectacular but Walter was thrilled. His huge and genuine enthusiasm for the whales was marvelous to see.

On the way back to Boston we saw three humpback whales breaching in tandem almost directly in our path. During the 45 minutes it took us to close with the flying whales one dropped out, leaving two whales still breaching, rising to breathe and then diving for yet another breach. When we were within 100 yards of the whales there was only one breacher but the whale flew out of the water so close to the boat that we all screamed, Walter Cronkite no exception.

Five years later I interviewed him in his well appointed offices at Black Rock, CBS's corporate headquarters on Sixth Avenue and 52nd St. He spoke with great passion and deep knowledge of the environmental issues facing us in those days, which of course have only grown more threatening in the succeeding years.

Walter Cronkite was a great man who really did know "the way it is."

Hardy Jones, July 18, 2009