Happy birthday, Walter Cronkite (a bit late)


Missed this one.  But contrary to what most of my journalism profs said, I think news is news so long as people don’t know it.

Walter Cronkite - undated photo via Mediabistro

Walter Cronkite - undated photo via Mediabistro

Walter Cronkite turned 92 on election day, November 4.

Astounding.  He’s still active in news, though heaven knows CBS doesn’t use him as they should (where was he on election night?).

I’ve been interested to see the prominence he gets, now, in history accounts of the Vietnam war.  At the same time, it’s painful that we have students whose parents didn’t grow up with Cronkite on the air.  They’re a generation removed from knowing what they missed.

My one brief Cronkite story:  Late one afternoon I was preparing for a hearing at the Senate Labor Committee for the next morning, preparations that had been slowed by a fair deal of breaking news around Reagan’s Labor Secretary Raymond Donovan, whose potential links to crime organizations had been hidden from the committee during his nomination hearings (Donovan was acquitted of wrongdoing in a later trial).  Chaos might be the best way to describe the events, especially in the news area.   A lot of misinformation was passed around, about what were the position and concerns of Labor Committee Chairman, Sen. Orrin Hatch (my boss), what was the position of the White House, what was the evidence and what wasn’t the evidence on Donovan, etc.

I turned on the television to catch Cronkite’s broadcast.  About five minutes in, the phone rang.  It was Rita Braver, then a CBS producer, and she really gave me the third degree about some minor point on the Donovan story — a minor point, but one that had been reported incorrectly by others (I forget now what the issue was).  I had known Braver, chiefly on the phone, for some time.  I found her extremely careful with the facts, which was comfortable considering where she sat in CBS’s ranks; the stuff she worked on was on the evening news regularly.  We talked for a few minutes, and then rather abruptly she yelled “Hang on!”  and put me on hold.  The newscast I was watching went to a commercial break, and as sometimes happened, the camera pulled away, and Cronkite on the air reached for the telephone on his desk.  The commercial came on simultaneously with the voice on the phone:  “This is Walter Cronkite.  Mr. Darrell, I have a question about this report I’m holding.  I think Rita has spoken with you about it.”  We talked about the issue for just about a minute, he thanked me.  As the show came out of the break, Cronkite read the news about Ray Donovan that day, with Hatch’s views.  He got it right, of course.

Do most people realize how intensely most news operations work to get even the small stuff right?

It was really odd watching Cronkite reach for the phone, and then hear him on my phone.

Other Cronkite news:

4 Responses to Happy birthday, Walter Cronkite (a bit late)

  1. mpb says:

    Roger Mudd was the logical successor. Dan Rather and his posed sweater and mannerisms was a sellout of the viewers.

    Like

  2. Ed Darrell says:

    Not hanging on to Cronkite was one of the dumbest things CBS ever did. He was very active until well into his 80s. They ought to bring him back more often.

    Zonker may have been a better choice for a spaniel. No need to put pressure on him.

    Like

  3. Mary A says:

    I grew up with Walter Cronkite joining us at supper time each day. I couldn’t see him from my seat at the table, but could hear him in the background. He’s still one of the most admired Americans in my book.

    In fact, when we first got our new cocker spaniel puppy many years ago, I couldn’t decide whether to name him Walter due to his brushy eyebrows or after Zonker Harris of Doonesbury fame. The cartoon strip won out.

    Like

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