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Archive for Friday, July 17, 2009

Walter Cronkite dies at 92

July 17, 2009

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CBS television newscaster Walter Cronkite is shown in this undated file photo provided by CBS. Cronkite, known as the “most trusted man in America,”died Friday. He was 92.

CBS television newscaster Walter Cronkite is shown in this undated file photo provided by CBS. Cronkite, known as the “most trusted man in America,”died Friday. He was 92.

Remembering Cronkite

Have a particular memory of Walter Cronkite that you would like to share? We would like to hear them.

— Walter Cronkite, the premier TV anchorman of the networks’ golden age who reported a tumultuous time with reassuring authority and came to be called “the most trusted man in America,” died Friday. He was 92.

Cronkite died at 7:42 p.m. with his family by his side at his Manhattan home after a long illness, CBS vice president Linda Mason said. Marlene Adler, Cronkite’s chief of staff, said Cronkite died of cerebrovascular disease.

Morley Safer, a longtime “60 Minutes” correspondent, called Cronkite “the father of television news.”

“The trust that viewers placed in him was based on the recognition of his fairness, honesty and strict objectivity ... and of course his long experience as a shoe-leather reporter covering everything from local politics to World War II and its aftermath in the Soviet Union,” Safer said. “He was a giant of journalism and privately one of the funniest, happiest men I’ve ever known.”

The face of news

Cronkite was the face of the “CBS Evening News” from 1962 to 1981, when stories ranged from the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to racial and anti-war riots, Watergate and the Iranian hostage crisis.

It was Cronkite who read the bulletins coming from Dallas when Kennedy was shot Nov. 22, 1963, interrupting a live CBS-TV broadcast of the soap opera “As the World Turns.”

He died just three days before the 40th anniversary of the moon landing, another earthshaking moment of history linked inexorably with his reporting.

“What was so remarkable about it was that he was not only in the midst of so many great stories, he was also the managing editor of CBS News and the managing editor for America,” former NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw said. “Walter always made us better. He set the bar so high.”

Cronkite was the broadcaster to whom the title “anchorman” was first applied, and he came so identified in that role that eventually his own name became the term for the job in other languages. (Swedish anchors are known as Kronkiters; in Holland, they are Cronkiters.)

“He was a great broadcaster and a gentleman whose experience, honesty, professionalism and style defined the role of anchor and commentator,” CBS Corp. chief executive Leslie Moonves said in a statement. CBS has scheduled a prime-time special, “That’s the Way it Was: Remembering Walter Cronkite,” for 6 p.m. CDT Sunday.

President Barack Obama issued a statement saying that Cronkite set the standard by which all other news anchors have been judged.

“He invited us to believe in him, and he never let us down. This country has lost an icon and a dear friend, and he will be truly missed,” Obama said.

His 1968 editorial declaring the United States was “mired in stalemate” in Vietnam was seen by some as a turning point in U.S. opinion of the war. He also helped broker the 1977 invitation that took Egyptian President Anwar Sadat to Jerusalem, the breakthrough to Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel.

He followed the 1960s space race with open fascination, anchoring marathon broadcasts of major flights from the first suborbital shot to the first moon landing, exclaiming, “Look at those pictures, wow!” as Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon’s surface in 1969.

“He had a passion for human space exploration, an enthusiasm that was contagious, and the trust of his audience. He will be missed,” Armstrong said in a statement.

When he summed up the news each evening by stating, “And THAT’s the way it is,” millions agreed.

Two polls pronounced Cronkite the “most trusted man in America”: a 1972 “trust index” survey in which he finished No. 1, about 15 points higher than leading politicians, and a 1974 survey in which people chose him as the most trusted television newscaster.

Midwestern roots

Like fellow Midwesterner Johnny Carson, Cronkite seemed to embody the nation’s mainstream.

Walter Leland Cronkite Jr. was born Nov. 4, 1916, in St. Joseph, Mo., the son and grandson of dentists. The family moved to Houston when he was 10. He joked years later that he was disappointed when he “didn’t see a single damn cowboy.”

After a brief stint at KCMO in Kansas City, Mo., he joined United Press in 1937.

In 1940, Cronkite married Mary Elizabeth “Betsy” Maxwell, whom he had met when they both worked at KCMO. They had three children, Nancy, Mary Kathleen and Walter Leland III. Betsy Cronkite died in 2005.

Comments

Fred Whitehead Jr. 5 years, 7 months ago

How sad.... I grew up with Walter Cronkite, every day at 5:30 it was stop and watch the CBS news. We have lost a great national treasure.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 7 months ago

Excerpts from "Celebrating Cronkite while ignoring what he did"

http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2009/07/18/cronkite/index.html

By Glenn Greenwald

"Despite that, media stars will spend ample time flamboyantly commemorating Cronkite's death as though he reflects well on what they do (though probably not nearly as much time as they spent dwelling on the death of Tim Russert, whose sycophantic servitude to Beltway power and "accommodating head waiter"-like, mindless stenography did indeed represent quite accurately what today's media stars actually do). In fact, within Cronkite's most important moments one finds the essence of journalism that today's modern media stars not only fail to exhibit, but explicitly disclaim as their responsibility."

"I think there are a lot of critics who think that [in the run-up to the Iraq War] . . . . if we did not stand up and say this is bogus, and you're a liar, and why are you doing this, that we didn't do our job. I respectfully disagree. It's not our role" -- David Gregory, MSNBC, May 28, 2008.

"The Vietcong did not win by a knockout [in the Tet Offensive], but neither did we. The referees of history may make it a draw. . . . We have been too often disappointed by the optimism of the American leaders, both in Vietnam and Washington, to have faith any longer in the silver linings they find in the darkest clouds. . . . "For it seems now more certain than ever that the bloody experience of Vietnam is to end in a stalemate. . . . To say that we are closer to victory today is to believe, in the face of the evidence, the optimists who have been wrong in the past" -- Walter Cronkite, CBS Evening News, February 27, 1968.

terrapin2 5 years, 7 months ago

He was a wonderful man. May family knew him (I did not) because they were in the newspaper business. We have a wonderful old photo of my mother dancing with Walter on her 21st birthday in 1948. It is a treasure. He reminded me a lot of my grandfather and I too grew up watching him every night. He was always comforting.

Rex Russell 5 years, 7 months ago

The first (and last) great class act of reporting and news. If all our news was rendered to us in his great objective style, we'd all be better off. Mr. Cronkite, I salute you. You were a class act. Rest well, and good night.

Marcy McGuffie 5 years, 7 months ago

I find it kind of sad that when Michael Jackson died, there were hundreds of comments. Walter Cronkite dies and there are very few comments. I realize Cronkite was older and his death "less" shocking, but...

Who was more important?

Newell_Post 5 years, 7 months ago

There was simply never a better newsman. And that's the way it is, July 18, 2009.

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