Remembering Walter Cronkite

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Former colleagues, friends and fans remember Walter Cronkite, who died Friday at the age of 92.

Bob Schieffer, host of “Face the Nation”:

Walter is just the best that ever was. He loved the news and had the curiosity of a child, which is the trait that all great reporters share.

Walter and Ed Murrow defined broadcast journalism, and there was no one else then or now who even came close.

I love Walter, I wanted to be just like him when I was a young reporter, and when I came to work for him I found out he was just the same off camera as he was on camera. Somehow, people came to understand that, and I think that is why so many people trusted him.

Walter always understood that … the news was more important than those of us who report it. People appreciated that, and they loved Walter for it.

From Byron Pitts, CBS “60 Minutes” Correspondent:

He remains a force inside CBS NEWS. As generations pass, fewer and fewer people currently at CBS NEWS ever worked with Mr. Cronkite. But he is still revered. His standard of excellence is still the measuring stick.
 
A few years ago, Mr. Cronkite dropped by the studio to say hello. It was as if the Pope walked in the building. The newest to the oldest employees in the building came by the news rooms in waves. The brave ones asked for his autograph or a picture. Most of us just stood at a distance, grateful just to be in his presence.
 
On the good days at CBS NEWS, Walter Cronkite remains the gold standard. On the tough days at CBS NEWS, Walter Cronkite remains the gold standard.
 
I met him once years ago when I was a local reporter in Boston. He was both kind and elegant. Those of us who wish we knew him talk about his resume. Those around CBS who actually know him, talk about his character.

CBS Radio’s Peter King covers NASA and the space program, which had a special place in Cronkite’s heart: 

Interestingly, I was a Huntley/Brinkley NBC guy growing up in the ’60s but watched Cronkite for the Apollo 11 landing and moon walk nearly 40 years ago. With Huntley and Brinkley, you never got the impression that they really cared much about space, although their supporting cast was outstanding. With Cronkite, you always knew that he cared, that he was passionate, and that he was well prepared. Of course, he had a terrific on-air and off-air supporting cast as well, and that should not go unmentioned. But for so many Americans, he became the face of space during the 60s. And I truly believe his enthusiasm and interest helped fuel the fever of the space race, especially in the earliest days of Project Mercury.
 
Cronkite was the guy we saw floating around in the zero-g “vomit comet” and riding the centrifuge to show viewers what astronaut training was like. We never saw Brinkley do that! THAT said, there was a great deal in truth in one of the scenes from “Apollo 13″ where they switch from Cronkite to ABC’s Jules Bergman. The space community loved Cronkite for his popularity, but many felt Bergman was the guy who REALLY knew it what was going on.
 
Cronkite contributed to CBS Radio’s coverage of John Glenn’s shuttle flight in 1998, it was my job to “debrief” him for radio. He was a delight to work with, and when my then-wife and I wanted to take a picture with him and had camera trouble, he insisted on staying until we got the glitch fixed, while his handler tried to move him along so he wouldn’t miss his flight to Houston.

Fred Young, retired senior vice president of news for Hearst-Argyle Television:

Walter Cronkite’s career should be celebrated for what it was — a high mark in an industry that continues to evolve, thanks to men and women like Walter, who molded our medium.

As the face and voice for CBS Affiliates, he, along with Huntley and Brinkley, Frank Reynolds, Jennings, Brokaw, Rather, et al set the standard for the anchor men and women and the network news divisions that partnered with our local news operations. 

There have been and will continue to be many great broadcast journalists — but Cronkite, as a face and voice of TV news, will always be recognized as the head of a very talented class.  

Jim Naughton, former Poynter President, former New York Times White House correspondent in the Nixon and Ford eras:

Cronkite was a god. His avuncular style and grandfatherly look enhanced his credentials as a credible journalist. I remember when Cronkite reported critically on Vietnam; it was a turning point in popular sentiment about the war. He could move a nation with a simple raised eyebrow.

In 1972, I was reporting on the McGovern campaign for The New York Times at the Democratic convention in Miami. The nomination was to be decided by a vote on a challenge to McGovern’s winner-take-all delegates from California. During the day of the vote, I found out from a McGovern source that they were going to deliberately lose an earlier challenge to the makeup of the South Carolina delegation. I don’t recall why that made tactical sense, but it did, and was a device to lull the Hubert Humphrey camp into thinking it would win on California. I passed the information along to R.W. (Johnny) Apple, who was writing the analytical stories for the Times, and he made it the lead of his story. But when Times editors in New York watching the convention on TV heard Cronkite say that the outcome of the South Carolina challenge had doomed the McGovern candidacy, they cut the item entirely from Apple’s story. Even when he was wrong, Cronkite had immense impact.

 
From Chris Clark, veteran former anchor, WTVF-TV (CBS affiliate) Nashville:
 

Walter Cronkite was, in my mind at least, the only real journalist in television when I started in the early ’60s. At that point he had served as a wire service/print reporter far longer than he had been in television.  Walter set the bar very high for local journalists who took their jobs seriously. He never had the showbiz snap of Huntley and Brinkley. He didn’t need it. He had credibility that comes only with knowing what you’re talking about and presenting it in a straightforward way devoid of sensationalism. He delivered just the facts. That was as rare  in the 1960s as it is today.

From Eugene Patterson, former editor of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Poynter’s St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times:

Walter reported the news with authority and excellence and wrapped it in his iron character, which is what convinced America that’s the way it is. He taught journalists to play it straight, to celebrate facts. Walter was a midwesterner and not a knee jerk partisan of either political persuasion. He played it down the middle. He also strongly believed in what was right and what was wrong and this got into his analysis. What was happening to black people in the south was so clearly wrong that he reacted against it. This was typical of him.

In 1963 I had written a column, “A Flower for the Graves.” The CBS station in Atlanta had sent a crew down and asked me to read the column, which they wanted to put on their local Atlanta telecast that evening.

They sent it to New York and Cronkite saw it and he phoned me up from New York in my office at The Atlanta Journal said he had seen me reading this column and would like to run it on the “CBS Evening News.” At that point, it was not even a 30-minute program.

I said “Sure, I’d be delighted.” To my amazement, that evening he broadcast the whole thing. It must have taken fix or six minutes, but he gave up the bulk of his evening broadcast to that and it had an enormous impact across the country. It was my first realization of the magnitude that television could bring to the written word. If I got a dozen letters about a written column that appeared in the AJC, it was tremendous reaction, but I got more than 1,000 letters after the Cronkite broadcast.

From Stacey Woelfel, Chairman, Radio-Television News Directors Association:

Aside from, of course, being a role model for just about every member of RTNDA there ever was or ever will be, Walter Cronkite has quietly given something incredibly precious to this association over the years — his personal time. My favorite example is his “Lunch with Walter” donations to RTNDF over a number of years. It’s exactly what you think it is; Walter donated himself to have lunch with the lucky winning bidder. Can you imagine the thrill of having a one-on-one meal with the greatest television news broadcaster of our generation? It would have been easy for Walter just to write a check and send it in. But I think it shows the kind of man he was that he wanted to enjoy a meal and some conversation with someone to talk about what he loved — the news. That was a true showing of generosity and support for RTNDA and RTNDF.

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