We knew it was coming, but I’m still having trouble processing it. Walter Cronkite died today at the age of 92, following a long illness.
The word “anchor” was first applied to a newsman when Cronkite “anchored” CBS’ coverage of the 1952 Democratic and Republican conventions.
When I first started working in radio news, I wanted to pattern myself after Cronkite. His steady, level delivery; his calm demeanor in the face of the biggest events of the 20th centruy; and his trustworthiness – if “Uncle Walter” said it, it simply had to be true.
His steady hand can be seen in a lot of places, probably none more important than in covering the assination of President Kennedy. Throughout the obviously rushed coverage, he refused to label rumor as fact – and he delivered the information available without any fanfare. Those too young to remember may not appreciate the fear that gripped the country at this moment. Beside the overwhelming loss of a great leader, there was a near panic concern that the “Commies” would take advantage of this moment to attack. It seems silly now, but at the time it was a very real concern. Cronkite simply reported the facts, including that Vice-President Johnson would be taking the oath of office.
In this first clip, pay particular attention to Cronkite’s sensibilities at the 5-minute mark.
Cronkite was a steady, level-headed influence on America, and even the world through so many key events of the last century. And on those occasions when Cronkite felt the need to editorialize, he stepped out of his newsman role and clearly labeled his editorial as such – and everybody from the lowliest American to the President had to listen and hear what “Uncle Walter” had to say.
The Assassination Of Dr. King
Cronkite’s Editorial on Viet Nam
The death of President Johnson
Three Mile Island
Of course this one is what made the biggest impact on my 8-year old mind…
His influence extended into this century, when we were lost we turned to Walter Cronkite to show us the way:
And that’s the way it is…
Rest In Peace Walter, I fear that we will never see another like you.