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Number 1 Shimbun

From the Archives: Walter Cronkite – Trusted Anchorman

From the Archives:
Walter Cronkite – Trusted Anchorman
by Charles Pomeroy

No1-2018-06 01

Walter Cronkite, long-time anchor of CBS Evening News who was known as “the most trusted man in America,” spoke at the Club on May 22, 1981, some two months after his retirement. Seated to his left is Jack Russell (NBC), FCCJ president, and to his right is Terry Anderson (AP), both noted journalists of the time. Terry himself would make the news four years later when he was abducted in Lebanon by Muslim terrorists and held captive for almost seven years.

Cronkite was born in Saint Joseph, Missouri, on November 4, 1916, but lived in Houston, Texas, from age 10 after his family moved there. He dropped out of university in 1935 during his junior year to concentrate on journalism, and then worked as a radio announcer before joining the United Press (UP) in 1937. After making a name for himself covering major battles as a war correspondent during World War II, he joined CBS in 1950 and covered news ranging from political conventions and elections to the 1960 Winter Olympics. As host of other popular programs, he also narrated historical re-enactments and documentaries.

Cronkite’s reputation for trust further strengthened after 1962, when he took over as anchorman for CBS’s nightly newscast – soon expanded from 15 to 30 minutes and in 1963 re-named CBS Evening News. Highlights included his coverage of John F. Kennedy’s assassination in November of 1963; Viet Nam, (he commented editorially in 1968 on the futility of that war); the Apollo moon missions of 1969 and 1970; Watergate in 1972; and the Iran hostage crisis of 1979-1981. Accuracy and depth of coverage got the credit when his newscast surpassed NBC’s long-time Huntley-Brinkley Report viewer ratings in 1970. Thereafter it reigned as the top-rated program until his retirement in 1981.

Excepting nights when he concluded with commentary, Cronkite ended his broadcasts by intoning “… And that’s the way it is,” which became his hallmark. Early in the Iran crisis he added to this a count of the days U.S. citizens had been kept hostage. He displayed it until the end of their 444-day captivity. Indeed, the man knew how to retain the attention of viewers.

Although Cronkite’s long career on CBS ended with his retirement on March 6, 1981, he remained active as a special correspondent covering political and cultural events, and even John Glenn’s second space flight in 1998, as well as narrating documentaries and taking part in panel discussions. In addition to his many other awards and honors, the journalism school at Arizona State University was named after Cronkite.

Walter Cronkite died on July 17, 2009, at the age of 92. A further honor was extensive documentation of his life now preserved at the University of Texas at Austin.

And that’s the way it was.

Charles Pomeroy

Published in: June 2018

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