This July 1, 1952 file photo provided by CBS shows TV Washington newsman Walter Cronkite. Famed CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite, known as the 'most trusted man in America' died, Friday, July 17, 2009. He was 92.
As anchor and managing editor of the "CBS Evening News" from 1962 to 1981, Cronkite's masterful, disciplined stewardship helped television news come of age. He was arguably the most respected and recognizable media figure of his time.
Okay, so, what's the big deal? He was a news reader. That's right. He simply read the news to a camera. For you youngsters out there, this was the era of not just newspapers, but two editions. One in the morning, and one at night. And some cities had more than three or four papers. No, really.
Also, in the olden-days most events and news items were shot on film. So if there was rioting or a dead body, CBS would have to get a camera guy out to the scene. Shoot a couple shots, then he'd have to race the film back to the office. They'd have to develop the film, edit the film and then finally show the film. It was a laborious, time consuming process. There were extremely strict deadlines. You'd be lucky to get day old news by 11 EST.
What Walter was known for, among other things, was that the concept of the 'anchor chair.' The idea was built around him. He would set up and toss the story to the person in the field covering it. When over, the reporter would toss it back to the studio - it's a concept that's been used ever since the convention of 1959. If you've ever watched a television news cast, you get the concept. Back in the olden-days, the golden age of television - a news cast was someone reading the newspaper into a microphone. Very classy. Boring, even for the radio generation. The anchor - in today's terms - would be the Home Page or the news agitator that you would return to after reading the story you were kind of interested. Like the Reddit or the Fark Main Page. Walter didn't invent it, but it happened around him.
Walter was "the most trusted man in America" for a time. That's scary. However, you must also note that there were only three sources for television news for his entire run. Three. And that's not MSNBC, FOX and The Weather Channel - it was three network news shows. And Walter owned it for two decades straight. Why? Because he had an awesome baritone voice that was easy to listen to. Cronkite had a comforting Midwestern accent and an everyman likability. He came off as everyone's "Uncle Walter," an image he fostered by leaning back in his chair and fiddling with a pipe at the end of nightly broadcasts. When he signed off the news with "And that's the way it is," many Americans believed him.
Some would say that when Cronkite said America couldn't win the war in Vietnam - it was at that point that we lost. Did he have that much pull? Maybe it just took someone like him to finally say what everyone already knew. The difference is, that in the Iraq war, everyone on television was saying that to get the Cronkite vibe - but they all said it three days after the shooting started, and hardly anyone said it BEFORE. Sigh.
Walter sat in his chair like a king, and ran the CBS News as well. He witnessed some amazing things and told America about it... JFK Assassination, Apollo 11, MLK Jr, Vietnam, up to the US-Iranian Hostage crisis. He left the chair at the early years of the Reagan Administration and gave it up to Dan Rather, a biased newsman, who then gave it up for Katie Couric who just reads off the Teleprompter.
Oh, one note, the obituaries that you'll see all day on CBS and probably all the 523 other cable 'news' outlets have had his 'obit package' sitting on a shelf since before he left CBS. They have those things already produced and ready to air for just about every major celebrity. It's awesome creepy.
And that's the way it is.