Black and White Good Night

July 17, 2009

End of trust and straight-talk – Walter Cronkite died today at age 92.

 (Illustration found here).

In memory, Ben Bradlee with a piece posted today in Newsweek on Cronkite and Watergate:

In October 1972, Cronkite devoted two segments, back to back, to the Watergate story.
The first was 14 minutes, the second eight.
I think that second night was curtailed by CBS chairman William S. Paley because Paley was scared of it.
The fact that Cronkite did Watergate at all (let alone at that length) gave the story a kind of blessing, which is exactly what we needed — and exactly what The Washington Post lacked.
It was a political year, and everyone was saying, “Well, it’s just politics, and here’s the Post trying to screw Nixon.”
We were the second-biggest newspaper in the country trying to scramble for a good story — whereas Cronkite was the reigning dean of television journalists.
When he did the Watergate story, everyone said, “My God, Cronkite’s with them.”

A near-about same story with LBJ and Cronkite’s view of Vietnam:

As the TET offensive continued into February, the anchorman for the CBS evening news, Walter Cronkite, traveled to Vietnam and filed several reports.
Upon his return, Cronkite took an unprecedented step of presenting his “editorial opinion” at the end of the news broadcast on February 27th.
“For it seems now more certain than ever,” Cronkite said, “that the bloody experience of Vietnam is to end in a stalemate.”
After watching Cronkite’s broadcast, LBJ was quoted as saying: “That’s it. If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost middle America.”

Cronkite was still a straight-talker: He disliked the current war in Iraq, telling Esquire magazine, “Indeed, we are in another Vietnam. Almost play by play. It’s a terrible mistake that we’re in Iraq, and it’s a terrible mistake to insist on staying there.”

No one paid any attention.
Cronkite had been pushed further and further away from the modern reality of journalism — He was the image and very-much-so the voice of a generation, which apparently trusted and accepted that’s the way is…

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