WALTER CRONKITE AND ME

July 18, 2009 by dicksworld

I learned of the death of Walter Cronkite when Phil Scoggins called me to ask if I would give him an interview to run on the 11p.m. news on WRBL.  I immediately said, “Yes.”  I was honored to do the interview.

As I told Phil in the interview, my television news career and Walter Cronkite’s started about the same time. He took Douglas Edwards’ place on CBS-TV and I took Glenn Broughman’s place on WRBL-TV, the station that carried the CBS Evening News. 

At that time,  television news reporting was not entertainment oriented.  Dignity and style prevailed.  News was, and still should be, a serious business.  He built a tremendous amount of trust over the years nationally, and I did my best to do the same thing locally. 

I only saw him in person once.  All of the network big guns converged on the Radio and Television News Director’s Association Convention at Miami in the early 1970’s.   I was WRBL Radio and Television news director, as well as anchor of the evening news, at the time.   The network news anchors came to rally America’s news directors in the fight to show President Nixon and Vice President Agnew that they could not harness and intimidate the media.  Their attacks failed as both of them were forced to resign for other reasons.

I was actually on the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite only once. A Fort Benning soldier refused to wear his uniform as a protest against the Vietnam War.  I interviewed him and CBS ran that interview.  The CBS News Southern Bureau chief told me Cronkite said he liked the interview.  Coming from Walter Cronkite, that meant a lot.  

People are saying that he was the “gold standard of broadcast journalism,” and that he was “the most trusted man in America.”  They are also saying that no one today can match the credibility he achieved.  I agree. He was not flashy. He was not Hollywood handsome. He was avuncular, and apparently that’s what America wanted because many millions of them watched him for 19 years on CBS.  When he said, “And that’s the way it is, ” they believed him

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2 Responses to “WALTER CRONKITE AND ME”

  1. Major larry Moore US Army Ret. Says:

    I remember Walter Cronkite very well. I watched his evening news program for years.

    One of his television reporters was embeded with my unit, Company B, 4th battalion, 504rd Airborne Infantry, 173rd Airborne Brigade on 23 November (Thanksgiving day) 1967 when we captured Hill 875 at Dak To, Vietnam in the Central Highlands.

    As a rifle platoon leader for the 1st platoon (LIMA), I was crying after five days fighting for the hill and the reporter said are you all right lieutenant? I said no! I lost 7 KIA and 15 wounded in my platoon and plus my wife does not know if I’m alive. He interviewed me and my family saw me on television in the United States.

    My older brother wrote to Walter Cronkite asking to buy a reproduced copy of that 6-minute interview. Walter sent a letter with a 16mm film and told my brother that the film did not cost anything and “thanks to my family and to 1st Lieutenant Moore for serving our country in time of need.”

    I have the interview on 8mm file to this day. I will always remember Walter Cronkite.

    Knoxville, Tennessee

  2. bobpage_1@hotmail.com Says:

    Dick,

    When I was News Director at WRBL in the late 90’s, the management that was there had a bunch of boxes piled up in the old radio studios. One day I walked back there and started nosing around to see what was in them. There were all sorts of things from the old WRBL wee Rebel and Eyewitness News days, radio days, and a couple of film cans. This was all that was “left” because everything else had been pitched into the dumpster.

    As I looked through the boxes, I came accross a folder that stopped me dead in my tracks. Inside was a WU telegram. I bolted for the front office to ask the GM if he had seen this. Certainly this was not destined for the trash. He took it, read it and simply asked me who Frank Stanton was. WOW. I was stunned. Really? FRANK STANTON?

    I explained to him the significance of that telegram and why it was important that Frank Stanton had sent that to WRBL congratulating them on the 20 years with the Tiffany Network. It was dated 1949 if memory serves. Needless to say I had it framed and it hung in my office until I left for the Bay area.

    As a kid growing up with Channel 3 and CBS Evening News, I was blown away when I was selected to be the ND. Way too many real journalists had graced that place to just chuck the history. That included you and your devotion to making WRBL Tiffany as well.

    You’ll have to get Phil to look on the walls and see if it is still there. Along with the can of film of you interviewing Governor and Presidential candidate Jimmy Carter. I grabbed that too.

    Bob

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