Walter Cronkite (1916-2009)
He spoke for a generation, and was authoritative and influential at that too. Walter Cronkite’s breakthrough moment came on November 22, 1963 at 1:40 p.m., when he broke the news of the Kennedy Assassination to the viewers of “As the World Turns”. Cronkite was having lunch at his desk when the wire report came in. Although bulletin reports like this would have usually been handled by others such as Harry Reasoner or Charles Collingwood, both were out to lunch. Instead, Cronkite grabbed the bulletin, and ran it; he briefly seemed to lose his on-air composure when he removed his glasses from the bridge of his nose at around 2:30 that afternoon, telling viewers in a voice that was choked with emotion that the president had died.
Over the following two decades his authority stamped itself on every major news story around the world – presidential elections, the moon landings, the Vietnam war, the Watergate and Three Mile Island Incident. ‘Uncle Walter’ was voted “the most trusted man in America”.
In 1968, as the Tet offensive continued into February, Cronkite traveled to Vietnam (above). Although all of his broadcasts ended with the words: “That’s the way it is,” Cronkite took an unprecedented step of presenting his “editorial opinion” at the end of the Vietnam 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.” He decided then not to seek re-election.