We was what we need from a reporter. Honest, clear, a person of integrity. He had opinions, but he revealed them only very rarely. He was interested in all of the best of American life and covered with admiration such dimensions as the space program, science, the arts.

He exemplified the best of the American nation: our positive attitude, our curiosity, our sense of fairness.

I doubt he would have a career in TV news today, his ideas of the integrity and independence of news from advertising would not sit well today.

And I suspect his approach to reporting would attract only scorn from those who unblushingly carry the title of journalist today without understanding what the word meant. In his autobiography, Cronkite described how his first newspaper boss paper drilled him endlessly in the difference between what you knew and what you suspected, the difference between having the facts exactly right and having them approximately right. No one in TV news cares about that now.

There was a reason he was known as "the most trusted man in America" and as "Uncle Walter." Who do we really trust now?

Bio and links

Born in 1916, he was most famous for his tenure as anchor of the CBS Evening News from 1962 to 1981.

Bio at Museum of Broadcast Communications (Up 2/7/06)

Reporting America at War (PBS) (Up 2/7/06)

Cronkite essays at NPR. Looking back. (Up 2/7/06; posted 5/15/05)

A DVD of CBS reporting on Vietnam from the 60s (Amazon) (Up 2/7/06)

Famous words

From Dallas, Texas, the flash, apparently official (reading AP flash): President Kennedy died at 1 p.m. (CST)--2:00 EST, some 38 minutes ago. [ He was the first anchor to break the news of Kennedy's assassination. ]

To say that we are closer to victory today is to believe, in the face of the evidence, the optimists who have been wrong in the past. To suggest we are on the edge of defeat is to yield to unreasonable pessimism. To say that we are mired in stalemate seems the only realistic, yet unsatisfactory, conclusion.

On the off chance that military and political analysts are right, in the next few months we must test the enemy's intentions, in case this is indeed his last big gasp before negotiations. But it is increasingly clear to this reporter that the only rational way out then will be to negotiate, not as victors, but as an honorable people who lived up to their pledge to defend democracy, and did the best they could. [ This is from the editorial he delivered at the end of the February 27th, 1968 CBS Evening News. It is credited as marking a significant step forward in changing public discussion of the war in Vietnam. ]

It looks like we've got a bunch of thugs down there. [In reference to the Chicago police roughing up reporters at the 68 Democratic convention.]

Wow. Comment on the Apollo 11 moon landing.

And that's the way it is. His signature signoff line on the CBS Evening News

Last modified 10/11/09; posted 3/23/2003; original content. © 2009, 2003 John P. Nordin