Friday, July 17, 2009

"The Most Trusted Man in America"

We interrupt our activities at The Thinking Nationalist to bring you the following:

Walter Cronkite, for two decades the face and voice of American television news, died today at the age of 92, of chronic cerebrovascular disease. He was preceded in death in 2005 by his wife of 65 years, Mary Elizabeth "Betsy" Cronkite, and is survived by his three children.

A retrospective of his life and work will be broadcast by CBS on Sunday, July 19 2009, at 7pm EST.

An American Giant has passed.

A quintessential Midwesterner, Walter Leland Cronkite was born November 4, 1916 in St. Joseph Mo., moving with his family to Houston at the age of ten. He got his start in journalism as a campus reporter and stringer for the Houston Post at the University of Texas, leaving college after his junior year to pursue journalism full time. Moving back to the Kansas City area as a reporter for radio station KCMO, he later joined United Press International in 1937.

Covering World War II from London beginning in 1939 alongside his future mentor and colleague Edward R. Murrow, Cronkite covered the Battle of the Atlantic from the deck of a destroyer, rode a bomber on a mission over Germany, and went ashore with American troops in Normandy on D-Day.
After V-E Day, he was chief UPI correspondent at the Nuremberg Trials, and later moved to Moscow as UPI Bureau Chief.

Returning to the United Sates in 1950, Cronkite was recruited to CBS by Murrow to join what was then an infant CBS-TV news organization. He took on a variety of assignments for both CBS TV and radio, notably covering the McCarthy Hearings and anchoring coverage of the Democratic and Republican National Conventions in 1952, 1956, and 1960.

He ascended to the role for which he was best known in August 1962, replacing Douglas Edwards as anchor of the CBS Evening News - a post he was to hold until 1981.

While he is remembered for many of his assignments, he is probably remembered best for his coverage of three stories in the 1960's ... the assassination of President Kennedy, the 1968 Tet offensive in Vietnam, and the Apollo 11 moon landing some 40 years ago this week.

On the Kennedy assassination, few will forget the image of Cronkite,
sleeves rolled up in a crowded newsroom, reading the bulletins as they were handed to him at his desk . And then, finally ..."we now have confirmation that President Kennedy died of his wounds this afternoon at 2:18 pm Eastern time.."

Walter Cronkite didn't just report the news, he helped shape it.

After the January 1968 Tet offensive, he was sent on special assignment to assess the situation.

However, when he returned, few expected him to lead off with the following:

"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" he said, and concluded with: "We are mired in stalemate . This war can no longer be won. It is time to seek a negotiated peace."

Upon hearing that, President Lyndon Johnson is said to have remarked; "If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost Middle America."

But it was his launch-to-splashdown coverage of the Apollo 11 moon landing that made Americans once again take pride in their country and its accomplishments. When Neil Armstrong stepped on the surface of the moon, Cronkite took off his glasses, wiped his brow, and grinning from ear to ear, said:
"He's actually on the Moon !! Can you believe it?"

He continued to both report and shape the news into the 1970's. His coverage of the Watergate scandal helped lead to the eventual resignation of Nixon in 1974. A pair of exclusive interviews with Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin led to Sadat's historic trip to Jerusalem in 1977. And his withering coverage of the ineptitude and weakness of the Carter Administration during the 1979 Iranian Hostage Crisis helped ensure the landslide election of Ronald Reagan in 1980.

But in March 1981, all changed. A new CBS News executive team, eager to advance the young and aggressive "60 Minutes" star Dan Rather, abruptly kicked him upstairs to retirement at 64.

Assured of a continuing role as a consultant to the organization, he nonetheless faded into broadcast history. However, through interviews and occasional Public Television specials, he continued to be heard - most recently after the events of 9/11 and later, on the Bush Administration's conduct of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

To his credit, he never publicly complained about his shabby treatment by the news network he helped make famous. The winner of countless Emmys, and more awards for broadcast journalism excellence from all corners of the globe than any man in history, he set the bar for journalistic excellence so high
that the news industry eventually quit trying to match him.

Right to the end, he maintained that combination of pragmatic realism and common touch that made him "The Most Trusted Man in America."

"And that's the way it was".........

-The Thinking Nationalist

1 comment:

  1. Cronkite's "career" spanned the time from televised news being helpful in "informing the Democracy" to the time when "it all became about entertainment". I suppose, more technically, this was about the various broadcast news departments ratings, whether TV-Nielsen or Radio-Arbitron.

    Like William F. Buckley, Cronkite managed to speak civilly for the most part. Cronkite did eventually allow himself to be influenced by the so-called "Peace Movement" that swept the U.S. in the early to mid 1970s. This made getting the news more about "feelings" than about facts.

    Eventually Cronkite was a victim of the very 60s-70s "Movement" that he chose to support, being replaced by a younger man (remember: "don't trust anyone over 30 -years of age-). His being "retired" starts the era of "news" being about feelings, not about facts. Leaving the mass media, whether newspapers, television or radio competing for who could tell a story in a more sensationalistic style.

    The "news" is no longer "newsworthy". The truth of this is the decline of American newspapers. Sad, yet predictable. People (readers-viewers) want to know something for the investment of their time, not be entertained.