Monday, April 16, 2012

And that's the way it was...

On this date 50 years ago, Walter Cronkite succeeded Doug Edwards as the anchor (a term coined for Cronkite) of the "CBS Evening News."

The newscast was only 15 minutes, which Uncle Walter found ridiculous. Even when it was expanded to 30 minutes in the fall of 1963, Cronkite still didn't think it was long enough. He later praised the hour-long length of what is now called the "PBS NewsHour."

His first producer was future "60 Minutes" creator Don Hewitt. Cronkite took the title of managing editor. He may have been the "anchor" of the program, but he was a feet-on-the-pavement reporter. Many of his newscasts would be hosted on the road -- in China, in Vietnam, in Paris, wherever news happened. After a few years, "The CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite" had knocked NBC's long-established "The Huntley-Brinkley Report" out of the No. 1 spot in the ratings.

He earned the distinction of being "The Most Trusted Man in America."

One of my earliest memories is watching his sign-off in March 1981. It was, in more ways than one, the end of an era. TV news became vapid, network news bureaus slashed both budgets and reporters, and anchors by and large lost their sophistication and urbanity. (Although Scott Pelley is doing a great job on CBS now, much better than the previous "anchor.")

Cronkite remains a hero and my favorite anchor, although I vehemently disagreed with some of his ideas, particularly about one-world government. He championed the space program, told us what we needed to know, occasionally (and it was occasionally) gave us his opinion, and did it all with an avuncular, engaging presence.

I remember him now, will remember him always, as the heart and soul of the "CBS Evening News."

And that's the way it is for Monday, April 16, 2012. This is Jake Mabe, Shopper-News, goodnight.

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