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And that’s the way it is: Twitter, pop deaths & the digital media

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POSTED July 1, 2009 3:47 a.m.
It was reported last Thursday that Walter Cronkite is seriously ill and “not expected to recuperate.”

That’s according to the family of the CBS News anchorman of the 1960s and ‘70s. Cronkite, 92, was rumored to be on his death bed.

Instead, he is receiving medical attention for cerebrovascular disease – an affliction of the blood vessels and, especially, the arteries that supply the brain – and family members had indicated that Cronkite “apparently suffered for some years.”

It was just three years ago that the legendary newsman made a visit to the University of the Pacific, speaking candidly about people and events that shaped his rather illustrious career.

Many of us on this day – included were news folks from the various publications – had grown up with Uncle Walter, who was often described as “the most trusted man in America.”

For he was the one who delivered the tragic events to a nation as it unfolded on Nov. 22, 1963.

Back then, television was still in its infancy stages, with the assassination of President John F. Kennedy becoming a significant moment for the electronic media.

 “It was a hard day in getting information,” Cronkite said.

During these unprecedented moments, he went on air, breaking the news only that shots had been fired at the president’s motorcade.

Cronkite heard leaks from interns – all unauthorized information – that the news involved the president and the reports were bleak.

In a matter of minutes, a wire report officially announced the death of the 35th president. Cronkite had tears in his eyes, but still had the job of informing a nation.

He stopped speaking, put on his glasses, and after looking over the bulletin sheet, removed his glasses to make this official announcement:

“From Dallas, Texas, the flash apparently official – President Kennedy died at 1 p.m. Central Standard Time, 2 o’clock Eastern Standard Time, some 38 minutes ago.”

Of course, much in terms of news gathering has changed since Cronkite’s time.

In today’s digital age, we have the reputable news sources competing with the internet along with technology of shared information.

The announcement of Cronkite’s physical condition to the world just happened to coincide with the passing of Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson on June 25, 2009.

Fawcett’s death came as no surprise, particularly since she went public with her battle with cancer.

But Jackson’s death coupled with circumstances involving the King of Pop came as a shocker.

I caught word that Jackson had suffered a cardiac arrest while listening to the news update on sports talk radio. I was actually tuned in trying to keep up on the series of player transactions with the NBA college draft scheduled later for that day.

TMZ, a celebrity gossip site, had the scoop, consistently beating the other media outlet to the punch, from the time Jackson was whisked away via ambulance from his rented Los Angeles mansion to UCLA Medical Center, to his death.

Millions, in that time, relayed the message by text, Twitter or Facebook, to name a few.

Michael Jackson’s death became a significant moment of the digital media.
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