Saturday, July 18, 2009

Walter Cronkite: 1916-2009

When Commonwealth Club President and CEO Dr. Gloria Duffy asked retired CBS newsman Walter Cronkite what was his "all-time favorite news story or event" that he'd covered in his legendary career, he replied impishly, "Well, I think actually the victory of the University of Texas in their last major football game ..."

More than two decades removed from his last broadcast as head of the "CBS Evening News," Cronkite at that February 23, 2007, event was full of stories and, as noted above, more than a little tease. After all, this is the man through whom millions of Americans got their news of World War II, the Kennedy assassination and funeral, the moon landings, Watergate, and so much more.

He was the giant in a field of giants, but also a media personality from a time before hundreds of cable channels were available in nearly every home, and before TV news personalities were expected to yell at the camera. "CBS Evening News" was at the pinnacle of the network newscasts, a position it has not held since, but when he spoke to Duffy, he was most concerned about the integrity of news, expressing some worry over whether amateur news reporters (i.e., bloggers) could report news effectively. "There are all these various little news blogs, and they are without supervision," he said. "It's a rather dangerous way for our news to be disseminated."

When he appeared at The Commonwealth Club in Silicon Valley in 2007, his advanced years were apparent. Still full of good spirits, a sharp mind taxed by waning hearing, Cronkite told stories of his career, emphatically endorsed journalistic ethics and courage, and discussed whether he could have had an effect on a modern president similar to the effect he had on President Johnson when he urged a pullout from Vietnam.

Asked by Duffy to repeat his famed signoff line from the news, Cronkite first joked about his memory, then complied:

Cronkite: What's the date again? You'd be surprised at how many times I forgot the date before I got on the air. Finally, one of the writers on our evening news program every day was assigned to write the date down and see that it was on my desk before we went on the air.

Duffy: February 23, 2007.

Cronkite: And that's the way it is, February 23, 2007. Good night.

Rest in peace, Walter.


jay said...

When walter Cronkite utters his first words on the radio/TV, he becomes the dady of the whole nation. Everybody listens.

Dr. Jay J. Hamdouch

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