By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Walter Cronkite is said to be gravely ill

Legendary anchorman Walter Cronkite is gravely ill, according to TVNewser columnist Gail Shister, citing “multiple CBS News sources.”

Cronkite, 92, wasn’t the first anchorman, but in many ways he invented the role. You can see the images just by thinking about them: Cronkite overcome with emotion after announcing the death of John Kennedy; the space flights; coming out against the Vietnam War; paving the way for the Israeli-Egyptian rapprochement by interviewing Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin even before President Jimmy Carter could get involved.

Cronkite, with his famous nightly sign-off (“And that’s the way it is”), was the embodiment of something close to a national cultural consensus, which doesn’t remotely exist today. Of course, there was much that was phony about that. But there was nothing phony about Cronkite. He was the real thing.

Photo of Cronkite in 1973 by Vin Crosbie and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

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  1. LFNeilson

    The way it was? Hopefully, it still is. That was his sign-off.Pay attention to what he did so well: Report the news with no embellishments.There's very little that any of us could say in tribute that would measure up to what this man said and did in his lifetime.zzzzz

  2. Peter Porcupine

    DK – Regarding 'phoniness'.Years ago, when my daughter told me she didn't like church, I asked why and she said the minister was a 'phony'. I pointed out that he really was LIKE that, ergo, he was not a phony.I agree Cronkite was 'like that', but found him unctuous and condescending. To me, Huntley/Brinkly seemed far more informative. I sincerely question how much of his 'national consensus' was just a product of him and admirers saying so…

  3. Dan Kennedy

    PP: I did not find Cronkite to be unctuous. But it's a little-known fact that Cronkite never became the ratings leader until after Chet Huntley died.

  4. Bill H.

    I liked Cronkite. He was an avuncular character in an age when people still listened to their uncles. His time coincided with the apogee of the American century and I believed that he could be trusted. He certainly had a long and full life and an outstanding career.

  5. Dan Kennedy

    I'll bet more than few CBS executives wish they'd let Uncle Walter keep anchoring right up until Katie Couric took over, and skip the whole Dan Rather reign of error.

  6. O-FISH-L

    Cronkite put the BS in C-BS. He emboldened the likes of Rather and Mapes to do whatever necessary, including the use of fake documents in a quixotic effort to bring down a Republican president. Cronkite did perform at least one great public service, unintentionally encouraging thoughtful viewers to seek their news from sources other than the "big three." Cronkite's legacy is Katie Couric's record-low ratings today. —Impartial?"I know liberalism isn't dead in this country. It simply has, temporarily we hope, lost its voice…. We know that unilateral action in Grenada and Tripoli was wrong. We know that 'Star Wars' means uncontrollable escalation of the arms race. We know that the real threat to democracy is the half of the nation in poverty. We know that no one should tell a woman she has to bear an unwanted child…. Gawd Almighty, we've got to shout these truths in which we believe from the housetops. Like that scene in the movie 'Network,' we've got to throw open our windows and shout these truths to the streets and the heavens. And I bet we'll find more windows are thrown open to join the chorus than we'd ever dreamed possible.” • Cronkite at a November, 1988 banquet of the liberal People for the American Way, as quoted in the December 5, 1988 Newsweek

  7. b.f.

    Although Cronkite seemed to become more critical of U.S. foreign policy after he retired as CBS anchor, he apparently was friendly with folks like former CIA Director Allen Dulles in the 1950s and early 1960s.According to Deborah Davis’ 1979 book Katharine The Great: Katharine Graham and `The Washington Post’: “Paley’s own friendship with [former CIA Director] Allen Dulles is now known to have been one of the most influential and significant in the communications industry; he provided cover for CIA agents, supplied outtakes of new films, debriefed reporters, and in many ways set the standard for future cooperation between the CIA and the major broadcast companies.”Davis also noted in her book—which Germany’s Green Party nominated for the 1989 Alternative Nobel Prize, after the book was re-issued—that the CBS Evening News anchorman for many years, former CBS Director and former WNET/Channel 13 Trustee Walter Cronkite, was “a man who had experience with American intelligence” and that during the 1950s and early 1960s Washington Post male employees “continued to see Paley and Cronkite every Christmas at a dinner given by Allen Dulles” in Washington, D.C.’s Alibi Club. Although the New York Times noted in its May 20, 1991 issue that the Alibi Club was “an elite group of 50 business executives and political officials” which “meets in a Washington townhouse that features elephant heads and tiger skulls,” Davis noted in her book that membership in the Alibi Club “is limited to men in or close to intelligence and is by invitation only.” Coincidentally, former CIA Director and U.S. President George Bush I was also a member of the men-only Alibi Club.

  8. Ed

    Great man who I grew up with watching.Check out my homage to him and stick around for more great content.

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