Media World: Walter Cronkite is the last of a breed

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CronkiteWalter Cronkite, the newsman who Americans turned to in good times and bad when he anchored the "CBS Evening News" for 19 years, reportedly is near death.

According to TVNewser, CBS (CBS) began updating the obituary of the 92-year-old broadcaster a week ago. The expected passing of the newsman signals the end of several eras.

First, Cronkite may be the last link in the modern media to Edward R. Murrow, the legendary CBS broadcaster who gained fame for his riveting radio reports from London while it was being bombed by the Nazis during World War II. Murrow later moved to television and recruited Cronkite, who covered the Nuremberg War Crimes trials, in 1950 for the fledgling television news division of CBS.
During his tenure from 1962 to 1981, Cronkite was "the news" to most Americans. He captured the ratings lead from NBC's Huntley-Brinkley Report in 1967 and held onto it until he was forced to give up his anchor's chair to Dan Rather. People turned to Cronkite for the big stories of the era including the Kennedy Assassination, Watergate and man's first landing on the moon.

President Lyndon Johnson decided to leave Vietnam when Cronkite, dubbed "the most trusted man in America," told his audience that the war was not winnable. Having so much power rest on the shoulders of one man is awe-inspiring.

In his day, Cronkite was seen as the leader of what people now call the liberal media elite. He wasn't just a news reader. He was a news demigod. People probably would have stuck a fork in an electric socket if Cronkite told them it was okay.

With the advent of cable and the 24-hour news cycle, people realized that anchors were mortal after all. After his retirement, the network evening news began its slow, steady decline. Cronkite appeared in movies, supported Democratic presidential candidates and served as a special correspondent for CBS and other news organizations. He never lost interest in the network that made him famous.

In a 2005 interview with CNN, the newsman made headlines for the unkind things he said about his successor Rather. He said "Face the Nation" host Bob Schieffer would have been a better choice. "I would like to have seen him there a long time ago," Cronkite told Wolf Blitzer.

Cronkite's instincts proved to be correct. The network tapped Schieffer to replace Rather after he was forced to step down in 2005 after the network broadcast a report on then-President Bush. Schieffer is credited with adding some 300,000 new viewers to the "CBS Evening News."

Once again, Uncle Walter was proven right. He is the last of a dying breed which is a pity because the media could use more like him.
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