Friday :: Jun 19, 2009

Walter Cronkite Reported To Be Gravely Ill

by Turkana

MediaBistro is reporting that legendary 92-year old newsman Walter Cronkite is gravely ill.

A native of St. Joseph, Mo., Cronkite made his mark as a World War II correspondent for United Press. He joined CBS in 1950 as a Washington correspondent. In 1962, he was named anchor of "CBS Evening News," then 15 minutes in length. The following year, it became network TV's first 30'minute weeknight newscast.

Cronkite's nightly sign-off -- "And that's the way it is..." - became part of the popular lexicon, and his gravelly voice was instantly recognizable. During his tenure, he led "Evening News" to first place in the Nielsen ratings.

It's hard to believe there was a time when a network news anchor was known for professionalism and compassion. When a network news division dared challenge the powers that be. It's hard to believe that a man such as Walter Cronkite could have had such a national platform. He was known as the most trusted man in America. A news man!

Cronkite's most famous moments came at times of national tragedy. He was the person with whom you wanted to share such moments. His emotional announcement of the death of President Kennedy was criticized by some, but the humanity behind his professionalism helped solidify his status as voice of the people.

His single most famous moment may have been his February 1968 editorial comment, after the Tet Offensive, that the Vietnam War was unwinnable. The YouTube embedding has been disabled, but you can view part of it here.

From the text:

This summer's almost certain standoff will either end in real give-and-take negotiations or terrible escalation; and for every means we have to escalate, the enemy can match us, and that applies to invasion of the North, the use of nuclear weapons, or the mere commitment of one hundred, or two hundred, or three hundred thousand more American troops to the battle. And with each escalation, the world comes closer to the brink of cosmic disaster.

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.

The impact of that editorial was later explained by Tom Wicker:

When Mr. Cronkite came back from Vietnam after the Tet offensive of 1968, he concluded on national television that the war had become no better than a stalemate. Hearing that, President Lyndon Johnson told associates, ''If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost Middle America.'' And he had.

In this recent interview, Cronkite reflects:

Walter Cronkite. Journalist. Gravely ill. Let's hope for the best, and send our wishes, prayers, and other positive thoughts and emotions. The world will not see his like again.

Turkana :: 4:23 AM :: Comments (4) :: Digg It!