It is six years today that legendary CBS anchorman Walter Cronkite passed away.
A genial, erudite man he was once dubbed ‘the most trusted man in America’, after he looked after Richard Nixon’s ego whilst he holidayed in Galverston.
Evidently, Cronkite didn’t think much of the most trusted man accolade. Apparently, he deemed that it wasn’t a great achievement, as there wasn’t a lot of competition at the time!
It’s not widely known, but during the Watergate Scandal in the 1970’s, after Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford uncovered that the Nixon administration was involved in ‘dirty tricks’, such as bugging offices, cover ups and cheating at Buckaroo, Cronkite found a bug under the desk in his CBS office.
The Missouri born broadcaster grew attached to the insect, named it Arthur (after someone called Arthur) and gave the bug carte blanche to roam around his New York office. He was said to be heartbroken when Arthur ran off, after a fallout over artistic differences on story delivery..
Hoffman and Redford – They were credited with uncovering the tangled web that was the Watergate Scandal!
Cronkite was an articulate man who was credited with being the first anchorman to use the word schardenfreude on mainstream TV. He utilised the word to correct a studio guest, who mistakenly thought schardenfreude was the sister of ‘father of psycho-analysis’ Sigmund.
His catchphrase was “And that’s the way it is” followed by the date at the end of each show. This meant that, if nothing else, his viewers at least knew the date, even if the news stories hadn’t held their attention much!
Amongst his many awards Cronkite received the Carr Van Anda Award for enduring contributions to journalism, a “Freedom of the Press” George Polk Award and the Paul White Award from the Radio Television Digital News Association.
Further accolades included The James Madison Award for Distinguished Public Service , the Ischia International Journalism Award and he became the first non-astronaut to receive NASA’s Ambassador of Exploration Award
Additionally, Cronkite was honoured with the induction into the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Jimmy Carter in 1981. He was also voted the ‘Person Least Likely to Say F**k Live on TV’ for three years on the trot in the late 60′. Cronkite was also famously credited with never using the word juxtaposition in his career.
Of all the news stories he presided over in his time as CBS anchorman (1962 – 1981), perhaps this clip live on CBS on November 22nd 1963 was his most famous. In it he is delivering one of the most famous and hard hitting stories of the 20th Century. During this Cronkite displays understandable emotion, shock and great humanity. It says a lot about his professionalism that he managed to recompose himself in front of millions of viewers.
What’s a middle aged English bloke, who never saw Walter Cronkite broadcast live, writing this half witted tribute for? That would be a good question, to which I have a full and articulate response…….. Actually, I haven’t! …………. I’ve absolutely no flipping idea!
However, there must have been something special about the guy. After all, a news anchorman very rarely gets the profile and recognition that Cronkite achieved in his nations psyche. Not many, if any, news broadcasters in the UK have achieved the plaudits and legendary status afforded to the Missourian born anchorman.
Some would argue that his fame was guaranteed. After all, he delivered some of the most historic news events of that century, when he was CBS anchorman, between 1962 – 1981. People may point out that when you’re the face of news on CBS during Vietnam, the Iran Hostage Crisis, assassinations of a President and civil rights activists, John Lennon’s murder and Watergate et all, your profile is bound to be high.
I’d agree with that to some extent. However, scores of other broadcasters worldwide would also have the same stories to report on, but from what I can see they didn’t leave the same indelible mark on their viewing public.
As I write this I wonder how Cronkite’s calm amiable delivery and professionalism would be tested by the news stories of today. I think it maybe something akin to this……..
Anyway, here’s to the guy who left that indelible mark, on the anniversary of his passing!
A clip of Cronkite announcing the murder of one of the finest songwriters of the last century, in 1980