Schieffer on Cronkite: ‘I Wanted to Be Just Like Him’

June 19, 2009
Category: Uncategorized
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TVNewser’s Gail Shister and others report that longtime newsman Walter Cronkite is “gravely ill” and may be nearing death.

As we at Poynter talked about Cronkite and his legacy, Poynter’s Jill Geisler sent an e-mail to CBS newsman Bob Schieffer, host of “Face the Nation,” asking for his thoughts. Schieffer serves on Poynter’s National Advisory Board and has taught at Poynter. He quickly sent this reply:

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.

Cronkite was anchor of the “CBS Evening News” for 19 years, from 1962 to 1981. In that time, he covered the Vietnam War, the assassination of President Kennedy, the moon landing and more.

Cronkite said in 2006 that he immediately regretted his decision to retire:

“Twenty-four hours after I told CBS News that I was stepping down at my 65th birthday I was already regretting it and I’ve regretted it every day since … It’s too good a job for me to have given it up the way that I did.”

Cronkite continued to believe in journalism, despite industry declines. In reference to the awards named in his honor, Cronkite said, “Americans may have more places to turn for political news than ever before, but television remains journalism’s largest public square … Especially when resources are painfully scarce, it’s important to celebrate journalists who use their skills at gathering and reporting a story to strengthen our democracy.”

Cronkite recorded the opening of his former newscast, so his familiar voice can be heard saying, “This is the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric.”