An Era Sadly Missed

Alistair CookeFor no other reason really than the fact that Joanna Jenkins left me a comment saying that she missed Walter Cronkite (I guess for the integrity he and others of his era brought to news reporting), I was reminded of Alistair Cooke who was responsible for the longest running radio speech programme in the UK – probably anywhere.

His weekly “Letter from America” was a breath of fresh air for me, though I regret I didn’t always catch them in recent years. The first one was broadcast in 1946 and he presented them for 58 (yes, that’s fifty eight!) years – right up until 2004.

This is a terrific BBC archive of his more recent epistles, which from the beginning were always written and presented with such complete professionalism and frequently provided an interestingly different slant on some aspect of life in the US and were full of insight and always hugely informative for the British audience. You can read the transcripts, but if you have the right software (RealPlayer, I think) you can even listen to him and there was, to me, something quite special about his voice.

Alistair Cooke lived most of his life in America – New York in fact. Once a year, though, he would usually come to London for the Wimbledon tennis tournament and record his article whilst there. Like me, his love was apparently for the women’s game, which he saw as being full of far greater skill, rather than the often seemingly raw power of the men’s game. In spite of his relaxed tone, I got a sense that he was quite passionate about many things and he certainly loved America and the American people, eventually becoming a US citizen. Nevertheless, he was actually English, being born in Salford, Lancashire.

The most important thing about him for me, though, is what a fine example he was of something that I see as being almost as rare as the proverbial hen’s teeth these days – a true gentleman from an era that is now long past and that I for one certainly mourn the loss of. It does still exist, but in ever smaller measure and I really regret the passing of Alistair Cooke and all his brand of journalism stood for and typified. There was always a feeling of calm integrity about his reporting and that in particular is what I (and I suspect Joanna Jenkins) grieve for above all else in these days of the fast buck and an attitude that seems to favour getting a story at almost any price.

2 Responses to “An Era Sadly Missed”

  1. Hi Adam, I totally agree. Alistair Cooke was a real gentleman with great integrity.
    Thanks for the shout out. Have a great weekend.

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