Walter Cronkite was born on November 4 in Saint Joseph, Missouri
Cronkite dropped out of college during his junior year and began working as a radio announcer for WKY in Oklahoma City, OK
Cronkite joined the United Press and covered World War II
Cronkite joined CBS News as a broadcast anchor
Cronkite covered the first televised Democratic and Republican National Conventions
Cronkite took over as anchor of CBS Evening News
Cronkite broke the news to the American people about President Kennedy’s assassination on November 22
CBS sent Cronkite to report on the aftermath of the Tet Offensive
Cronkite announced his retirement
Arizona State University honored Cronkite and named its journalism and communication department in his honor as The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Telecommunication
Cronkite became terminally ill and passed away in his home on July 17 at the age of 92
The Most Trusted Name in News
Although Walter Cronkite delivered the news from 1962 until 1982, he seemed prescient in his quotes about the state of America that resonate today in 2016, the centennial of his birth. For example, would you have guessed he said, “America’s health care system is neither healthy, caring, nor a system.”? And in 1999, he stated, “For how many thousands of years now have we humans been what we insist on calling “civilized?” And yet, in total contradiction, we also persist in the savage belief that we must occasionally, at least, settle our arguments by killing one another.” Also in 1999, at a United Nations address, Cronkite said, “For many years, I did my best to report on the issues of the day in as objective a manner as possible. When I had my own strong opinions, as I often did, I tried not to communicate them to my audience.” Roger Ebert, media critic, summed up Cronkite:
It was a more straightforward time. The news was the news, and we believed those who reported it to us. They were sometimes mistaken, but they were sincere, and we felt they could be trusted. …When [Cronkite] left the air, something else was already leaving the air: A sense of probity, of caution, of fact-checking, of restraint and decency. What did he make of these latter years of breathless nonstop around-the-clock cable news, with its shouters, its opinions, its fake teases, its blizzards of computer graphics, its obsession with trashy lives led in public? He was 92 when he died. Will we ever again have a newsman who can be described as the most trusted man in America?
Walter Leland Cronkite, Jr
Walter Cronkite was born in 1916 in St. Joseph, Missouri, but spent his youth and high school years in Houston, Texas as a cub reporter and had a paper route – one of the only reporters to deliver his own news by hand. He earned his journalistic chops in print and radio. During World War II, Cronkite joined the United Press and came ashore with the troops on D-Day. He parachuted into combat zones, flew bomber missions (as part of the Writing 69th), and then covered the Nuremberg trials. Edward R. Murrow hired him at CBS, where in 1952, covering the first televised party conventions in the election between Dwight Eisenhower and Adlai Stevenson, he was named anchor* – a now universal news term. His reporting upon his return from the Vietnam Tet Offensive is thought to have influenced President Lyndon Johnson’s decision not to run for reelection.**
Cronkite After the News
After his retirement in 1981, Cronkite did guest broadcasting as well as voice overs, for example, in the 1995 film, Apollo 13. He was a finalist in NASA’s Journalist in Space program, which was canceled after the Teacher in Space Project Challenger disaster in 1986. He narrated a film about the space shuttle, an EPCOT Center attraction, Spaceship Earth, and a program with Robin Williams on Disney’s animation process. Politically, Cronkite was adamant about wanting political advertising to be free to candidates, remarking, “The failure to give free airtime for our political campaigns endangers our democracy.” He also supported President Bill Clinton during the impeachment trial. He was involved in mitigating world hunger, and was a staunch proponent of the United Nations – including accountable global government. He denounced the 2003 invasion of Iraq and stated he felt the same way about the US involvement in Iraq as he did Vietnam.
At Arizona State University (ASU), the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication*** confers degrees in areas including journalism, sports journalism, and business journalism from the undergraduate through the PhD level. Arizona PBS, the largest media outlet operated by a journalism school, makes its home at ASU. There are university-related Cronkite New bureaus operating in Phoenix, D.C., and Los Angeles. While Cronkite’s name has only been on the school since 1984, ASU has a history in journalism studies dating back to 1931.
* In Sweden, news anchors are called “Kronkiters”, while in Holland they are called, “Cronkites”.
** Lyndon Johnson was claimed to have said, “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost Middle America.”
*** Cronkite lent more than his name to the ASU journalism school; he personally participated in advising the school’s leadership, students, and faculty.
Did You Know?
- While attending University of Texas, Cronkite had his first taste of performance, appearing in a play with fellow student Eli Wallach.
- Cronkite, a college dropout, was an occasional “quiz authority” on the game show “Two for the Money” during the 1955-56 television season.
- Cronkite declared himself as the first journalist on television because he participated in a demonstration of television at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair.
Walter Cronkite Report on Vietnam after the Tet Offensive, February 27, 1968
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