Saturday, July 18, 2009

The LuLac Edition #880, July 18th, 2009



Just days before the 40th anniversary of the lunar landing, Walter Cronkite, an American icon passed away at age 92. He was in ill health for a time. His career spanned much of the 20th century, as well as the first decade of the 21st. The native of St. Joseph, Missouri, broke in as a newspaper journalist while in college, switched over to radio announcing in 1935, joined the United Press wire service by the end of the decade and jumped to CBS and its nascent television news division in 1950.
Former Wilkes Barre City Councilman Jim McCarthy knew Cronkite well. McCarthy worked at CBS from 1957 to 1981 and held various titles within its news organization. In his capacity as the Bureau Manager for the Owned and Operated Stations as well as the Chief Correspondent in the radio division McCarthy got a glimpse into the personality of the veteran broadcaster. “He came from WTOP in Washington, D.C. making his way to New York as the anchor. Walter would come to Washington about twice a month and he loved the city. They say New York is the news capitol of the world but really, it’s Washington and Walter knew that. One time he needed a broadcast booth to do his 2 minute radio commentary and because the studios were under repair, space was limited. So he asked me if he could use my radio booth to do his piece. I of course said sure and when he was finished, he nodded to me and said, “Thanks boss”, noted McCarthy. “Boss?” I responded, “Walter the only guy that’s your boss is God!!!” McCarthy said that at least for 10 seconds I was Walter’s boss. Cronkite covered World War II's Battle of the Bulge. “He was a war correspondent and was sometimes too brave for his own good” added McCarthy. Cronkite also covered the Nuremberg trials, several presidential elections, moon landings, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and the Watergate scandal of President Richard Nixon's administration.
In 1962, Cronkite succeeded Douglas Edwards to become the anchor for the “CBS Evening News”, a position he would hold for almost 20 years. His rise from correspondent to anchor chair had been long and steady, but once he reached the top, Cronkite, already one of the most widely recognized and trusted journalists on television would become synonymous with the word “news.” In September 1963, Cronkite had the opportunity to interview Kennedy once again. Sitting on the front lawn of the famed Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port, MA, Cronkite quizzed the young president on many issues of the day, including the growing war in Vietnam. Kennedy famously said that the war could not be won without the support of the people. “In the final analysis,” he said, “It’s their war. They’re the ones who have to win it or lose it.” Just two months later, Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, TX. Cronkite was one of several anchors covering the tragic event, but was forever remembered for his emotional reaction to confirming that the president had been killed. With eyes blurred by tears, Cronkite repeatedly removed his thick horn-rimmed glasses in an effort to maintain composure while reporting the details of Kennedy’s death. Because he displayed humanity over professionalism, Cronkite comforted millions of Americans grieving in one of the nation’s most painful moments.
At times he even made news: A 1977 question to then-Egyptian President Anwar Sadat about Sadat's intent to go to Israel -- at the time considered a nonstarter because of the lack of a treaty between the two countries -- received a surprising "yes" from the Egyptian leader. Soon after, Sadat traveled to Jerusalem, a trip that eventually led to the Camp David Accords, which included a peace deal between Israel and Egypt. At his height of influence as CBS anchorman, Cronkite's judgment was believed so important it could affect even presidents. In early 1968, after the Tet Offensive, Cronkite traveled to Vietnam and gave a critical editorial calling the Vietnam War "mired in stalemate."
Noting Cronkite's commentary, President Lyndon Johnson reportedly said, "If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost Middle America." Johnson announced he would not seek re-election less than two months later. “That Vietnam trip was a real turning point in the war, Walter was only there for a day or two but what he saw convinced him that America was not going to win that war” said McCarthy. While Cronkite was regarded as a celebrity by most folks, McCarthy said Cronkite was a guy who would just as soon share a cup of coffee with you than attend a state dinner. Even though sailing was his first love, Cronkite took his job seriously. “He was in awe of the history happening around him. One time at a dinner in Washington, he asked me to introduce him to Judge Sirica who was the original district D.C. Judge in Watergate. He was genuinely excited, not at the man but the history that man was making. And he was part of it,” said McCarthy. The former Wilkes Barre politico had in common with Cronkite their roles as war reporters. Cronkite in WWII and McCarthy in Korea. “We used to swap stories about covering news from a war front, he was a very modest, even handed man” noted McCarthy. He was voted “the most trusted man in America” in numerous polls over the years. Even in 1995, he was voted “the most trusted man in television news” even though he had been off the CBS anchor desk for 14 years. Unlike the broadcast world of today where departures are fast and furious, Cronkite’s mark was indelible. At a reunion for Cronkite’s 90th birthday, McCarthy said the memories were pouring out from fellow CBS travelers like the Kalb Brothers (Bernard and Marvin) and George Herman. McCarthy added, “Cronkite was the type of reporter who was down to earth and grounded. He had this ritual of never eating anything until after his broadcast was over. He felt he was too nervous to eat before he hit the airwaves. Sometimes he wouldn’t eat until after the west coast feed. He was a regular call who was telling you what was going on in his world as well as yours. If I had to sum him up, I’d say he was a humane human being. Everything he did in terms of journalism touched him. He felt the high and the lows like his reactions to both the Moon landing and the JFK assassination. He felt everything he said. It was an honor to know him and work with him” concluded McCarthy.
As a youngster I became aware of Cronkite during the space launches of the early 60s. We were a CBS house and it was a daily ritual watching the evening news at 630PM. Cronkite gave me the news on the biggest stories of my young life, the NASA program, the Bay of Pigs, the killings of the Kennedy Brothers and Martin Luther King, Vietnam, Watergate and that glorious moon landing. Like many newsmen, Cronkite’s career traversed one of the richest and most tumultuous stretches of our history. He not only presided over it, he was a part of it. Cronkite by extension, made all of us part of his window on the world to history as it unfolded before us.
For that, we are all thankful.








At 7:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

wonderful tribute to walter cronkite. councilman mccarthy's comments were just superb and added a local twist. both are true americans.

At 7:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was too young to view Walter Cronkite on CBS. But did see him on the History Channell. Very good historical persepective. Thank you.

At 10:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember Three Mile Island and CBS swarming the Camp Hill Area. That video brought back those memories and they are as vivid today as they were when I was going through them. Good site.

At 11:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was home from school on the day John Kennedy was killed. My grandmother was watching the soaps on CBS and around 1:15 Cronkite's voice comes on the air. There was a black slide up. Then they put him on the air. I never saw him without his suit coat. After that, it seemed like he spent the entire weekend on the air.

At 12:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just when I'm geared up to hate your guts and write something snarky about your left leaning political beliefs, you go and do something like posting that CBS eye with the tear drop. You are maddening.

At 2:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think he retired too soon. He had many good years left when the suits pushed him out. Love his Discovery Channell stuff.

At 7:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember a book called, "CBS Reflections in a Bloodshot Eye" and the book cover was great. Your CBS with a teardrop was even better. CBS is today a far cry from what Paley, Murrow, Cronkite
and others gave us so long ago. The freefall that started when Rather replaced Cronkite continues.
CBS is just another news outlet today as we mourn the last of the greats, Walter Cronkite.


At 8:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great stuff on Cronkite. Mr. McCarthy's remebrances was also a good addition and as always on your part, good reporting and writing.


At 9:31 PM, Anonymous The Scranton Guardian said...

Rest in peace Walter.

At 10:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Walter Cronkite was right on the money about Vietnam! It was a bold and dramatic move. Anchors didnt do commentary or tell us their opinions at the time. Newspapers did opinion pieces. Previous poster was correct, Cronkite succeeded Murrow as the face of CBS News and he held the Network to a higher standard. These guys were Giants. Today we get lightweights with giant salaries!
Nice piece, Mr Yonki.

At 10:36 PM, Anonymous David DeCosmo said...

We should also remember how critical Walter Cronkite was on what television 'journalism ' has become!
The trust for which he is perhaps best recalled seems to be a lot harder to find these days.
It's hard to find journalists dedicated to their profession and their community. And that, like the passing of Walter Cronkite, is truly a loss to everyone!

At 10:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The end of Murrow journalism and the beginning of the left media was Walter. He was a great man but he brought politics into mainstream journalism and single-handedly destroyed the objective press.

At 3:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with anon 10:23. Walter's Vietnam speech brought forth an end to objective reporting. If the most trusted man in American could insert his opinion into the news why couldn't anyone else?
The sad part he was correct about Vietnam, the sadder part is that his break from journalism did NOTHING to hasten the end of the war, but it hastened the era of opinion news.
As Matt Drudge is a direct descendent of Walter Winchell. Bill O'Reilly is a direct descendent of Walter Cronkite.
Of course, no one in main stream media will ever admit to this shameful fact.

At 1:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

another icon passes and america is poorer for it.

At 10:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bill ORielly and Walter Cronkite dont belong in the same sentence no matter waht connection or point you are trying to make!

At 7:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think Anon 3:45pm has a point. If Cronkite did not break journalistic rules and insert his opinion into the story, people like O'Reilly would not have been able to flourish..


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