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Just 10 of The Many Reasons Why I Still Miss Walter Cronkite
Feeble glimpse of a legend
Walter Leland Cronkite, Jr. (November 4, 1916 – July 17, 2009) was an American broadcast journalist, best known as anchorman for the CBS Evening News for 19 years (1962–81). During the heyday of CBS News in the 1960s and 1970s, he was often cited as "the most trusted man in America" after being so named in an opinion poll.
He reported many events from 1937 to 1981, including bombings in World War II; the Nuremberg trials; combat in the Vietnam War; the Dawson's Field hijackings; Watergate; the Iran Hostage Crisis; and the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, civil rights pioneer Martin Luther King, Jr., and Beatles musician John Lennon. He was also known for his extensive coverage of the U.S. space program, from Project Mercury to the Moon landings to the Space Shuttle. He was the only non-NASA recipient of a Moon-rock award. Cronkite is well known for his departing catchphrase "And that's the way it is," followed by the broadcast's date.
Cronkite's toughest news item to broadcast
speaks at the STS-107 Columbia Remembrance at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC February 2 2004.
of this giant of a news anchor are not as glamorous as those of a higher writing intellect. I put up no false fronts. These are my thoughts and no one else's. Cronkite was an important part of my evening every Monday through Friday from 5:30 to 6 p.m., CST., from CBS Network. I seldom missed this telecast.
Cronkite probably never was told about him having "that certain" look and tone about him that said what and whom he was. He never had to say, "This is Walter Cronkite, anchorman for the CBS Evening News," that was said by an off-camera announcer. To me, that is pretty big.
No one, including Cronkite ever thought that Cronkite was perfect, above reproach, or even able to see through walls even though it appeared he was all of these descriptions. He told the news "like it was" no more and no less. Nothing added or nothing taken away from what his writers, editors, producers, and field reporters had filed for each newscast. Cronkite was on top of every story designated for every evening's newscast and why not? It was not just his credibility on stage. It was the entire CBS News Dept. I never fully understood this until I had put in 10 years in the weekly newspaper industry.
As you have already read and seen for yourself, I am no Dan Rather, his predecessor or Douglas Edwards who preceded Cronkite. I am but a simple rural man with a simple mind filled with simple thoughts dancing on the dangerous edge (sometimes) of fantasy and reality.
To this day, Dec. 26, 2016, here are just ten reasons why I (still) miss Walter Cronkite.
10.) Toughness: and I do not mean physical as much as mental toughness. If you will watch carefully the video on this hub of Cronkite having the awesome bulletin (covered in innocent blood) of telling us about the death of President John F. Kennedy. If it had been me, I would have collapsed.
9.) Appearance: a white suit, black tie, black suit coat. That was Walter Cronkite's wardrobe for his evening newscast. It was a fact that five minutes prior to each broadcast, Cronkite would whip out his black comb from his rear right pants pocket, comb his hair and slip on his suit coat with a second to spare before saying, "This is Walter Cronkite reporting."
8.) Wit: yes, you better bet that Walter Cronkite had a wit that was so sharp that it glistened in the sun. I do recall one and now very rare moment on one of his newscasts a story was running about some group of hippies in San Francisco protesting the Vietnam War. At story's end, a spokes-hippy was on camera talking in riddles about what the protest was about if the huge "Make Love Not War" signs on the backs of his friends were not a give-away. Suddenly one of those "million dollar moments" happened. A stray dog did the very first photo bomb throwing off the hippy speaker who said to the camera, "would, uhhh, somebody get the dog off the camera?" To which Walter Cronkite in his perfectly-timed dry wit replied, "which one?" And went to the next story without missing a beat.
7.) Believability: when Walter Cronkite said something, you listened. And believed what he was saying. That was not as important as why I am naming this reason of why I miss him. I, along with millions believed every word out of his mouth, but in the many years of broadcasting the news, Cronkite never abused this trust that people had placed in his abilities.
6.) Warmth: Cronkite could sharpen his sword on the sleaziest of busted corrupt politicians who dared to get themselves invited for an interview on Cronkite's broadcast to tell their side of them being busted by that city's vice squad. They all would leave in an more humble state of mind after being chewed up by "the master" Walter Cronkite. And Cronkite was not afraid to show his warm human side when reporting a story about how a certain area of the Appalachian Mountain Range was stricken with poverty and children were almost going hungry. To me this is pure talent to be able to do both and not sway from being a professional.
5.) Imperfection: very rarely you heard Cronkite misquote or misread a person's name in the news he was broadcasting, but if he did make an error, he never stopped and groveled to ask forgiveness. He simply went back, corrected the error and continued unencumbered.
4.) Trust: viewers trusted Walter Cronkite's reporting and producing and by the same token, Cronkite trusted the hundreds of faceless, nameless writers and behind-the-scenes workers who made each newscast possible.
3.) Calm: were you one of the millions to be blessed to watch Walter Cronkite in action? If you did, you would agree that Walter did not sweat when the pressure was on. (e.g. the nation being informed about the Watergate burglars being apprehended and how that mind be connected to President Richard Nixon and the Republican Party.) Not one drop of sweat dropped from Cronkite's forehead. That, my friends, is true experience.
2.) Self discipline: when a story went against his own views, you would never know it. Walter Cronkite could have easily been a Master Zen Buddhist as he would sit telling one fact after the other about the Democratic Party meeting to execute some outrageous political strategy that might affect the common folk in America. Walter told the story and signed off. Bam! Done!
1.) Sentiment: we only saw this once. When Cronkite gave homage to those working behind the cameras to make the CBS Evening News possible in a very selfless, non-egotistical manner. And then he said "his" trademark line: "and that's the way it is," on his final broadcast of the CBS Evening News. And was never at any moment, a quivering mass of strawberry Jell-O. He was the consummate professional.
Thanks for your time.
Good night, Fulton County, Georgia.
Where were you on Friday, March 6, 1981
© 2016 Kenneth Avery