Though we live in a time whose sheer volume of news, and channels for it, has splintered the omnibus audience—a time that is quickly transforming the evening newscast, Cronkite’s medium and in many ways his invention, into a living relic—what this weekend’s nostalgia has proved is that Cronkite’s audience was broad not merely because it was captive. We responded not only to “the news,” but to Cronkite himself as its deliverer—to his seriousness, to his integrity, to his unabashed love of the world and its doings. To a mixture that left no room for irony. Forty years ago today, Cronkite watched, with us, as men landed on the moon. And the jumble of his joy—awed, humbled, and appropriately inarticulate—spoke for itself.

Megan Garber is an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University. She was formerly a CJR staff writer.