US TV news legend Cronkite dies

July 18, 2009 12:00 am

, WASHINGTON, July 18 – US TV news legend Walter Cronkite, dubbed "the most trusted man in America" for his calm and honest delivery during a tumultuous period in US history, died Friday in New York at the age of 92, said the CBS network, where he spent most of his career.

President Barack Obama said the United States "has lost an icon."

"For decades, Walter Cronkite was the most trusted voice in America," said Obama in a White House statement.

"His rich baritone reached millions of living rooms every night, and in an industry of icons, Walter set the standard by which all others have been judged."

Cronkite "was there through wars and riots, marches and milestones, calmly telling us what we needed to know. And through it all, he never lost the integrity he gained growing up in the heartland."

"But Walter was always more than just an anchor. He was someone we could trust to guide us through the most important issues of the day; a voice of certainty in an uncertain world," said Obama.

"He was family. He invited us to believe in him, and he never let us down.

"This country has lost an icon and a dear friend, and he will be truly missed," Obama said.

Cronkite presented the CBS Evening News from 1962 to 1981. During that time he delivered the news on civil rights unrest, the assassination of president John F. Kennedy, the Vietnam war, the moon landing, the Cold War, and the Watergate scandal that toppled president Richard Nixon.

Cronkite’s period as a news anchor coincided with a time that television reigned supreme as the dominant media in the United States, and three broadcast networks — CBS, NBC and ABC — ruled the airwaves.

"It is impossible to imagine CBS News, journalism or indeed America without Walter Cronkite," CBS News and Sports President Sean McManus said in a statement.

"More than just the best and most trusted anchor in history, he guided America through our crises, tragedies and also our victories and greatest moments," McManus said.

Don Hewitt, a long-time CBS News staffer who for years was Cronkite’s producer, said that the late newsman set the "gold standard" for broadcast news.

Hewitt was the producer when Cronkite anchored broadcast of the first landing on the moon in 1969.

It was "one of the singular moments in television," said Hewitt, speaking on CNN. "I think deep down he wished it was … he, who was landing on the moon."

Katie Couric, who currently anchors the CBS Evening News, said she was impressed with "the glee he exhibited when … he was anchoring a space launch."

Couric told CNN that Cronkite "had sort of an adolescent enthusiasm, it’s been said, about the space program, this unbridled joy in terms of reporting that story, and a huge interest in science as well."

The late newsman "was the personification of integrity and decency and humanity," said Couric. "He really connected with the audience."

Brian Williams, the evening anchor on rival NBC News, told MSNBC that "Cronkite used to address the nation; other people delivered the news."

The esteem that Americans had for Cronkite was highlighted in a 1972 opinion poll that found him more trusted than any politician, religious leader or sports hero.

"No one quarrelled with it. The moniker stuck to him forever," said Williams, who described Cronkite as "the first modern-day anchor."

"There will never be a newsman again, ever, who will have that clout," said another long-time broadcaster, Larry King, 75, on CNN.

"It’s too diffuse now, there are too many channels, too many areas, too many … broadcasters," said King, referring to the non-stop 24-hour news cycle.

Cronkite "could change public opinion, no one broadcaster could do that. No one could touch it. Cronkite came back from Vietnam and he changed it," King said.

The former CBS anchor died in his New York home surrounded by relatives, CBS said, without giving the cause of death.

The Washington Post, quoting relatives, reported that for years Cronkite had been suffering from cerebrovascular disease.


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