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RIP Walter Leland Cronkite 1916-2009

“That’s the way it is” – he said it and most of the United States believed it.

The story from the CBS Evening News (obviously):

Walter Cronkite, who personified television journalism for more than a generation as anchor and managing editor of the “CBS Evening News,” has died Friday night in his New York home following a long illness, surrounded by family. He was 92.

Known for his steady and straightforward delivery, his trim moustache, and his iconic sign-off line -“That’s the way it is” – Cronkite dominated the television news industry during one of the most volatile periods of American history. He broke the news of the Kennedy assassination, reported extensively on Vietnam and Civil Rights and Watergate, and seemed to be the very embodiment of TV journalism.

Walter Leland Cronkite was born in St. Joseph, Missouri on November 4, 1916, the only child of a dentist father and homemaker mother. When he was still young, his family moved to Texas. One day, he read an article in “Boys Life” magazine about the adventures of reporters working around the world – and young Cronkite was hooked. He began working on his high school newspaper and yearbook and, in 1933, he entered the University of Texas at Austin to study political science, economic and journalism. He never graduated. He took a part time job at the Houston Post, left college to do what he loved: report.

He told the truth as he saw it, and became the most trusted man in the United States. The other networks had news shows, but CBS had the news. The network news has been going downhill since he left.


1 Steve Bates { 07.17.09 at 9:32 pm }

I’ll never forget Lyndon Johnson’s response to Cronkite’s eventual dissent over Vietnam: Johnson reportedly turned off the TV and said, “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost middle America.” Johnson was right. So was Cronkite. It is ironic that, with all the baldfaced attempts by media “journalists” today to influence aspects of the federal government directly, Cronkite was able to do so merely by reporting the truth as he saw it. There’s a lesson in there, if only today’s reporters would stop jockeying for positions of greater power. Texas will freeze over in mid-August before that will happen.

Speaking of Texas, Cronkite received his elementary school education a mere mile or so from the elementary school I attended. His was of course a few years earlier, but the fact pretty much puts the lie to the notion that public education is necessarily of inferior quality.

I miss him already.

2 Bryan { 07.17.09 at 9:48 pm }

I hate to think of the dismay he felt watching what became of the CBS News department in recent years, and the media in general.

He would have ripped the Shrubbery a new one, in his calm authoritative way, and the media would have followed his lead.

3 Lab Kat { 07.17.09 at 11:50 pm }

It’s not “news” anymore… it’s commentary and pandering.

I’m sad, sad, sad at the moment.
.-= ´s last blog ..And, that’s the way it was =-.

4 Bryan { 07.18.09 at 12:15 am }

Uncle Walter was the news for a major part of my life. I transitioned from Edward R. Morrow to Walter Cronkite to nothing.

5 Kryten42 { 07.18.09 at 8:15 pm }

Very sad, but he had a long life. My mother used to love watching him here in the 80’s (we had replays on pay TV usually late at night.) And I remember watching him several times and being very impressed.

The saddest part is that it’s one more voice of sanity and reason gone.

R.I.P. Sir.

6 Bryan { 07.18.09 at 9:07 pm }

One of the odd things that no one learned from Cronkite is the way he responded to an error in reporting. People don’t remember the errors, because he didn’t hide them. If a mistake was made, you heard it from him, on the broadcast. If he didn’t trust something he checked himself. These days all of the media try to hide mistakes, which only makes it worse.

It’s hard for people in today’s media environment to understand, but for a lot of the country, it wasn’t true until Cronkite told you “That’s the way it is”. He was trusted, not because he never made a mistake, but because of the way he handled mistakes. He took responsibility for what he reported.

When he turned sour on Southeast Asia, there was no suggestion of attacking him, the way journalists are routinely attacked today, to attempt it would have been political suicide. LBJ was one of the toughest, bare-knuckle politicians to ever become President, but he wouldn’t fight a pronouncement from Walter Cronkite.

It’s hard to believe that there was a time when you could believe what was reported on network news, but there was, and it is sorely missed by those of us who remember that time.

7 Kryten42 { 07.18.09 at 10:31 pm }

Yeah, all too true sadly. I guess the closest currently might be Olbermann. He does at least admit mistakes and has given public apologies, though he’s really a commentator giving his own opinions than an actual fact-based news reporter (and I can’t think of a mainstream one off the top of my head. Maybe Maddow, but she’s not yet ‘mainstream’ unfortunately.)

Sadly, we have to rely on people like Stewart and Colbert who can only get away with it by wrapping the news up in comedy, like the court jesters of old.

I’m amazed Mr. Cronkite lasted so long truthfully, he must have been very tough, even though he obviously had a huge heart. A very rare combination. 🙂

8 Bryan { 07.18.09 at 11:16 pm }

He spanned Herbert Hoover and the Depression through Barack Obama as an adult, and kept the faith of the original purpose of journalism – to inform people so they could make their own decisions.

He never gave an opinion while sitting in the news chair, he insisted on rendering all opinions in separate programs. He was an old school straight reporter.

There is no equivalent currently available on television. You either get stenography or opinion, although Christiane Amanpour of CNN can come close, which is why she is rarely on television anymore.

He lasted because he played as hard as he worked, mostly sailing in the Atlantic.

9 Kryten42 { 07.23.09 at 7:51 pm }

Ahem. “I told you so”. 😉 Heh…

Jon Stewart The New Cronkite? Time Poll Shows He’s The Most Trusted Newscaster In America

This is the money comment:

Not to take away from Stewart’s accomplishments, but it does speak volumes about the way the American people view the major networks and their “news” departments — and that they would take the word of a comedian more seriously than high profile, highly paid network news anchors.

Yeah… what I said. Jon (and a few other’s like him) are the old Court Jesters. What a sad world when the only way to get truth in news is via comedy. One thing I like about Jon is that he does real interviews and becomes a *real* reporter when someone of interest releases a book so he can do an on-air *review*. 😉 I sometimes wonder if he has a hand in commissioning some of the books written that appear on TDS. 😀 (It really wouldn’t surprise me). And then he get’s serious sometimes (though he may throw in a joke or two to keep in character) when interviewing someone, lake Couric a couple weeks ago. 🙂

10 Bryan { 07.23.09 at 8:30 pm }

It essentially shows that Americans have forgotten what a newscaster is under the current corporate reign, because he’s a commentator, not a reporter. I agree that he probably understands the actual news better than the readers on the major outlets, but face it, most of his best stuff is written by people who have been told that they are reporters, rather than the truth – they are comedy writers in need of editors.

Dick Cavett is actually the precursor to Jon Stewart, but most people don’t know who he was.

11 Badtux { 07.23.09 at 11:02 pm }

Latest story going around the networks about Obama was about Obama’s jeans. Were they baggy, unstylish, or what? And I was just musing about that and trying to imagine Walter Cronkite talking about Obama’s jeans. But my imagination failed. I just can’t imagine Uncle Walter doing any such thing.

How far we have fallen, indeed…

– Badtux the News Penguin

12 Bryan { 07.23.09 at 11:27 pm }

Blue jeans, sleeveless dresses, birth certificates, “Joe the Plumber”. the weight of the Surgeon General nominee, the outraged religious whacko du jour, the White House dog, haircuts, et cetera ad nauseum.

It’s a good thing we don’t have any wars, economic catastrophes, environmental meltdowns – important things that need coverage so people can understand what in hell is going on, so there is time to copy stories from the supermarket check-out tabloids.