Voice of TV news falls silent

Walter Cronkite. AP

Walter Cronkite, who pioneered and then mastered the role of television news anchorman with such plain-spoken grace that he was called the most trusted man in America, died on Friday at his home in New York. He was 92.

The cause was complications of dementia, said Chip Cronkite, his son. Cronkite was born on November 4, 1916, in St Joseph, Montanna.

From 1962 to 1981, Cronkite was a nightly presence in American homes and always a reassuring one, guiding viewers through national triumphs and tragedies alike, from moonwalks to war, in an era when network news was central to many people’s lives. He became something of a national institution, with an unflappable delivery, a distinctively avuncular voice and a daily benediction: “And that’s the way it is.” He was Uncle Walter to many —respected, liked and listened to. With his trimmed moustache and calm manner, he even bore a resemblance to another trusted American fixture, another Walter — Walt Disney.

He saw himself as an old-fashioned newsman — his title was managing editor of the “CBS Evening News” — and so did his audience.

As anchorman and reporter, Cronkite described wars, natural disasters, nuclear explosions, social upheavals and space flights, from Alan Shepard’s 15-minute ride to lunar landings. On July 20, 1969, when the Eagle touched down on the moon, Cronkite exclaimed, “Oh, boy!” On the day President John F Kennedy was assassinated, Cronkite briefly lost his composure in announcing that the president had been pronounced dead at the Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas. Taking off his black-framed glasses and blinking back tears, he registered the emotions of millions.

Cronkite sometimes pushed beyond the usual two-minute limit to news items. On October 27, 1972, his 14-minute report on Watergate, followed by an eight-minute segment four days later, “put the Watergate story clearly and substantially before millions of Americans” for the first time.

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