Tonight marks the end of an era.  I am not quite certain what era, but definitely an era.  I feel like Santa Claus and Walt Disney all died in one fell swoop.  “The most trusted man in America” is no longer with us.

Walter Cronkite appeared to be the consumate professional.  We didn’t know his politics.  We could count on his objectivity as he reported the nightly news.  He was hero.  He stormed the beach at Normandy as a war correspondent.  He covered the Battle of the Bulge and attended the Nuremburg Trials.  Walter Cronkite announced the death of JFK. 

Yet there was no greater cheerleader for the space program than Walter Cronkite.  It wasn’t what he said as much as it was his exuberance and enthusiasm as he reported the events of Apollo 11 40 years ago.  How fitting that he exit this earth as we commemorate “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

There is wonderful overview of his life and career at Wikipedia.  There is so much to say but I will leave it to our contributors.  So for tonight, in the immortal words of Walter Cronkite, “…And that’s the way it is.”

In his own words:


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80 Thoughts to “Walter Cronkite Dead –Age 92”

  1. JustinT

    I did not mean to touch off a firestorm with my comment. Everyone who has died since 2008 election has caused me to have that thought: at least they lived to see Obama as President. It is a historical event even if you are upset about it. Bush’s presidency is also a historical event. I thought it was agreed across party lines that Bush was a complete disaster for our country. Isn’t that why Republicans all ran away from him in the elections. Vietnam meanwhile is not not my era so I won’t argue with all you experts here. But my impression was that Vietnam was also a disaster for our country, without any partisan label since both parties were responsible. Correct me if I’m wrong, but Democrats lied us into the war and Republicans lied to keep us there. To me that adds up to an American tragedy rather than cause for partisan bickering.

  2. Moon-howler

    Slowpoke: vocation or advocation? My former next door neighbor did it for a vocation. I am very bad at tracking things like that. Thank goodness a bunch of old ladies before me had a keen interest in doing it or I would just have to say I was hatched from a buzzard egg.

  3. Moon-howler

    Justin, I think that is a gross over simplification of the Vietnam War. We started off under Eisenhouer advising. Kennedy actually sent advisors. It escalated over time. There should be no partisan bickering over it. Many people changed their minds as the war progressed.

  4. Moon-howler

    One thing Justin, I forget who made the statement here about how vets were treated. It has been a while. Many people have read that they were spat upon, called names, and treated horribly. Some were. It was not however, a universal event. Much of it had to do with where you were. In the south, there was not much of that. While there were no parades (people came home on rotation rather than at war’s end)not everyone or even close to everyone was treated disrespectfully.

  5. Gainesville Resident

    Leila – I never found any statistics on the other issue. But you didn’t either – so I find it funny you accuse me of not giving statistics, when I didn’t see you giving them either. you can’t have your cake and eat it too, which is definitely what you’re trying to do. It wasn’t about head scarves anyway. You said I must have some hidden reason for saying that I did not think Hasidic Jews were the majority of Orthodox Jews. You strongly implied I had a hidden agenda. I could pull up your post and quote it, but you know what? It’s not worth my wasting time on it. What hidden reason would I have? That’s kind of odd to say – but that’s what you said basically.

    Anyway, the whole thing is a silly debate. You know what? I don’t really care. If you want to say the Hasidic Jews make up the majority of Orthodox Jews, that’s fine with me. My Orthodox Jewish friends beg to differ, but I guess you’d just say they had a hidden reason for doing so too! As I said, it’s a silly debate, and one I’m not terribly interested in pursuing. I just find it funny that you accuse me of not having any statistics, when you don’t either – or have never proviced any solid numbers or cited any sources. I at least cited my sources – several Orthodox friends of mine in a position to know – one is the editor of an Orthodox Jewish newspaper with a large circulation in Northern New Jersey – SHE would be in a position to know such a thing if it were true or not. I take her word over someone I don’t know and only know via a pseudonym on a blog. Maybe that makes me foolish, if it does, so be it.

  6. Gainesville Resident

    OK, Emma, I was just having a little bit of fun, I just couldn’t resist – as I had just looked out the window before you remarked on the sky being blue! In fact, it was really pretty with some high stratus clouds, and had just admired that from the window of my computer room (a spare bedroom) right before I read your ‘sky is blue’ comment! Anyway, not to worry, I’m enjoying the nice day here on the weekend – and not being at work, etc!

  7. Gainesville Resident

    I’m kind of surprised Walter Cronkite’s death has brought so much controversy on this thread as far as comments directly about him (there’s some controversial side issues brought up – but I’m referring to comments about Cronkite himself). I always thought he was universally respected and admired. Then again, I guess there’s never 100% agreement on anything, so I was a little naive in that respect. Still, I’m a little bit surprised at the controversy over how great he was, or how unbiased he was, or if he put his own influence on the news, etc. It is making for an interesting debate however. I personally think he set a high standard of unbiased reporting, that no one in recent times has matched. Dan Rather was a very poor successor, who was super biased, and also just a bit strange, to put it mildly. Leaving Dan Rather aside, I don’t see any broadcast journalists in the post-Cronkite period (1981 and beyond) who matched his standard. Back in his time there were indeed other journalists that were also very honorable, didn’t portray their political leanings, etc. But people just for the most part trusted Cronkite. I don’t know about anyone else, there’s not a broadcast journalist on the national stage now that I trust. Does anyone trust Larry King, Lou Dobbs, Glen Beck, or any other CNN or FOX names? I just picked those 3 at random – they were 3 who came to mind – but I don’t mean to imply they are any better or worse than any others – or that I like any of them, etc. So no inferences should be made as to why I picked those 3 and left out a bunch of others that I also wouldn’t trust. None of them give us unbiased news coverage, and I don’t particularly trust any of them – not just those 3 but all of the cast of characters on both Fox and CNN. The best unbiased reporting I’ve gotten on the Iraq situation is the dozen or so soldiers I’ve encountered in my job, who have been on the ground there and have given me the straight scoop. It is 180 degrees different than what Fox or CNN or anyone would have you believe.

    Anyway, I’m just surprised at the controversy about Cronkite, but maybe I really shouldn’t be. No one person is going to have anywhere near 100% of the people thinking the same thing about him, so I should have figured Cronkite’s no exception. But personally I believe he was right up there with other great journalists of his time, and was for the most part well respected and trusted by at least a majority of Americans (greater than 50%).

  8. Emma

    Lucky you, Gainesville–I’m actually at work today:(

    My most prominent memories of Cronkite’s reporting were when the lists of missing and dead soldiers used to be run on the evening news. My dad was a high-school teacher, and I remember him watching every night for names of his former students. Also remember Watergate and all the hoopla surrounding the Hong Kong flu. You always would get the sense that everything would be explained to you. Maybe we were all getting royally played, but sometimes it’s nice to look back at a time when there was a lot less generalized cynicism and anxiety. Kind of like August 2001, when the biggest stories involved shark attacks.

  9. Punchak

    Emma

    Not a bad comparison – LOL! Jimmy Swaggart – hehehehehe! Whatever happened to him BTW? No, I don’t really want to know.

  10. Moon-howler

    How on earth do you remember those shark attacks, Emma? I had forgotten all about that until you mentioned it. Little did we realize what real sharks lay in wait for us.

  11. Gainesville Resident

    Emma :
    Lucky you, Gainesville–I’m actually at work today:(

    That’s right – I forgot your a nurse and nurses work any day of the week and all kinds of odd hours. I should know better – one of my sister’s is a nurse. Of course, my wife was a nurse but over here she hasn’t pursued getting any certifications as of yet.

    I do remember the reporting on the lists of the missing and dead soldiers from Vietnam however.

    I remember that rash of shark attacks too – I had forgotten about it, and didn’t even remember the timeframe – didn’t realize that was in August 2001! That was big news then, until of course bigger news came, unfortunately. Indeed, I had forgotten all about the shark attacks until Emma mentioned them, and wouldn’t have been able to say what year, let alone what month they were in, other than it was during the summer (obviously).

  12. Emma

    I remember because every year after that PWH staff had to watch the video about 8-year-old shark victim Jessie Arbogast. The Pensacola hospital where he was treated became a benchmark for customer service. Since I worked at the annual competency day, I listened to the tape on continuous loop all day.

  13. Moon-howler

    I always think of Gary Condit when I think of August 2001. 9-11 sure took him off the hot seat.

    My daughter and her family were in Florida and many of the shark attacks had been there, fairly close to where they stay. Therefore, I remember sharks.

  14. Emma

    “Journalism is a profession because it requires the application of high ethical considerations, not the least being the discovery and elimination of bias and prejudice, not excluding one’s own, in preparation and presentation of the news. But in its technical aspects it is a trade, and it is sad to see so many young people with lofty ambitions wasting their academic years learning a trade when they should be building the base of knowledge of all those myriad things on which some day they must report.

    We are desperately in need of good, intelligent, well-trained and courageous journalists. It is a great challenge”

    Words of Walter Cronkite in a letter to a friend who wrote to him when we were in high school asking about how to prepare for a journalism career. Just as apt now as it was in the late ’70s, I think.

  15. Gainesville Resident

    The whole Gary Condit saga was something. Indeed, it was a major story right until it got derailed by 9-11. Condit obviously had nothing to do with the murder, but he sure did some inappropriate stuff and then tried to cover it up – which is what got him nailed. He came across as a real sleazy guy in interviews about it. Well, just another typical politician, no different than any of the others. It was his bad misfortune though to get involved with someone and have an affair with her, who ended up being a murder victim.

    I also just remember the constant articles on the shark attacks, and how they seemed to be happening every week or so.

    That’s a real nice Cronkite quote you put up there Emma – definitely a great example of everything he stood for. It is too bad more journalists haven’t taken up his challenge, that’s very unfortunate! There’s an awful lot of journalists out there that could stand to take a page from “Uncle Walter’s” book, let’s put it that way!

  16. Slowpoke Rodriguez

    Moon-howler :
    Slowpoke: vocation or advocation? My former next door neighbor did it for a vocation. I am very bad at tracking things like that. Thank goodness a bunch of old ladies before me had a keen interest in doing it or I would just have to say I was hatched from a buzzard egg.

    Actually made me laugh, there! It’s my hobby/passion. I have to say, I’ve never met a professional before. Right now I’m writing and trying to locate 1200 acres of land in Virginia that my fifth great grandfather left to his kids.

  17. Moon-howler

    That sounds like a lofty ambition. Where in VA?

    5th great grandfather would be about one time period?

    I actually might be able to share an email with you. The guy I correspond with knows everything…literally. He found me from a comment I made in a newspaper once and he knows more about my Virginia family than my brother or mother knew. I will give you his email address off-blog.

    Moon.howler07@yahoo.com

  18. Moon-howler

    @ slowpoke

    The woman I knew was Mormon and actually was employed as a genealogist for one of their sites. She moved out of the area though. No one seems to keep records like the Mormons!

    The person I am speaking of above has tracked several families that go back into the late 1600-early 1700s. Once you do that, you touch on everyone, it seems. Dan and I are distantly related by marriage. I guess you can say that about most of Virginia though. He has sure shared much with me about my family.

  19. kelly3406

    @Moon-howler

    I was not bashing Walter Cronkite, nor was I asking you to do so either, MH. But no discussion of Walter Cronkite is complete without discussing his comments on the Tet Offensive. Even Tom Brokaw mentioned it in his op-ed piece in The Washington Post. As benign as his comments were, Walter Cronkite opened the way for opinion journalism. And we still feel the impacts today. For example, to lessen the strategic impact of opinion journalism, the military no longer grants journalists unfettered access to the battlefield.

  20. Moon-howler

    I would dare say that others had beaten him to the punch. He was not the first. That door was already open.

    The point about Cronkite is that for most of his long career as a journalist, we did not know how he felt. He reported, he was not a commentator. He didn’t filter our news for us so that it was laced with his opinions.

    He did share his conclusions regarding the war in Vietnam with America. They weren’t based on armchair quarterbacking but on first hand observation. Perhaps those conclusions being shared was long overdue.

    What if? What if the American public and congress had not been lied to? That question was ignored.

    I suppose this is that ‘I told you so’ that Brokaw spoke of?

  21. Gainesville Resident

    Here’s an interesting story I found about Cronkite and his famous “tag line” that I thought might be of interest:

    Throughout his career as a television anchorman, Walter Cronkite had a few memorable run-ins with other powerful figures at CBS News.

    anford “Sandy” Socolow, who worked at CBS News for 32 years, more than four of them as Cronkite’s producer, said Cronkite ran into trouble soon after he took over for Douglas Edwards in the “CBS Evening News” anchor chair.

    “The first night up, he ended the show by saying, I’m paraphrasing, ‘That’s the news. Be sure to check your local newspapers tomorrow to get all the details on the headlines we are delivering to you.'”

    That didn’t fly.

    “The suits — as we used to call them — went crazy,” Socolow told CNN, referring to CBS executives. “From their perspective, Cronkite was sending people to read newspapers instead of watching the news. There was a storm.”

    CBS News President Richard Salant met with Cronkite, who initially resisted, then agreed to change his sign-off, Socolow said.

    “In the absence of anything else, he came up with ‘That’s the way it is.'”

    But that too ruffled feathers, Socolow said.

    “Salant’s attitude was, ‘We’re not telling them that’s the way it is. We can’t do that in 15 minutes,’ which was the length of the show in those days. ‘That’s not the way it is.'”

    Still, Cronkite persisted and that’s the way it was from then on.

  22. Gainesville Resident

    Here’s another interesting story that I think is a good example of Cronkite’s insistence on journalistic integrity – and NOT sensationalizing things (some folks CBS, NBC, ABC, FOX, and CNN could take a page from his book, I think):

    Around the time of the 1979 Three Mile Island accident, in which a nuclear plant’s core partially melted, the movie “China Syndrome” was released with a similar theme.

    “I was so knocked out to its proximity to the events of the day, I arranged a screening for the entire staff of the ‘Evening News,'” Socolow (Cronkite’s producer) said.

    Though Cronkite did not attend, “the next day, I go into him and say, ‘You know this is really uncanny that this movie should be so close to the bone, and it’s just stunning, a stunning coincidence, and I think we could make a story out of it.’

    “He shouted at me, ‘I’m not in the goddamn business of selling movie tickets.'”

    Cronkite even disliked promoting pieces that were slated to run in the next day’s newscast, Socolow said. “His attitude being, ‘For God’s sake, we don’t know what tomorrow’s news is going to be. How the hell can we take time away from reporting today’s news by promoting a story for tomorrow?'”

  23. GR, thanks for the fabulous anecdotes! Wow. Who can ever live up to that? And if anyone tried, would s/he be able to hold down a job in the industry? I wonder.

  24. Moon-howler

    I guess it isn’t news if you already know about it.

    And that’s just the way it is… 😉

  25. Moon-howler

    Thanks for posting that, Gainesville. Very interesting and adds even more to the thread.

  26. Gainesville Resident

    Indeed, I thought those two stories kind of capture Walter Cronkite’s personality or how he thought about newscasting, really well. Actually, I had mentioned those stories to MH offline, and she talked me into putting them up here – so I can’t take all the credit for putting them up here!

  27. Gainesville Resident

    And, as “Uncle Walter” used to say – “That’s the way it is”!

  28. Pat.Herve

    RIP Walter Cronkite.

    Where is our Walter?? Who on the networks or 24 hour cable can we turn to and trust to tell it like it is??

  29. GainesvileResident

    There is no one today remotely like Walter! That’s the big problem with the over-the-air and the cable TV networks these days. I don’t see anyone on a national TV news program that is remotely like him, unfortunately. As i said earlier, in my opinion, Dan Rather was a very poor succcessor to him, but no one else out there then or since, on any of the major networks (including CNN and FOX) is anywhere close to Cronkite.

  30. Punchak

    I do have a warm feeling for Brian Williams on NBC evening news. He has possibilities IMHO. (BTW, he makes $10,000,000/year)

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