Colleagues: Cronkite 'consummate newsman'

July 17, 2009 at 11:02 PM
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WASHINGTON, July 17 (UPI) -- When Walter Cronkite ended his newscasts with "And that's the way it is," America believed him, colleagues said following Cronkite's death Friday at age 92.

Tributes to Cronkite depicted him as a journalist who saw himself as a reporter and as a public servant.

"He was the consummate newsman's newsman," Don Hewitt, the "60 Minutes" creator, told CNN. "He talked to everybody who could possibly know something more about a story than he did."

Whether reporting on the assassination of President John Kennedy, man's landing on the moon, Watergate, Middle East peace talks or the Vietnam War, Cronkite delivered the news clearly in a plainspoken fashion devoid of self-importance or pomposity, those who knew him best said.

Barbara Walters recalled Cronkite was affectionately known as "Uncle Walter."

"We didn't call anybody 'Uncle this' or 'Grandpa that,'" she told Fox News. "He had this unique position that he didn't abuse. There was this wisdom about him and this great voice, and we felt that we knew him, and he knew us."

Dan Rather, Cronkite's successor as "CBS Evening News" anchor, spoke of Cronkite's ability to connect with his audience.

"As a television news anchor, without question, he set the standard," Rather told MSNBC. "Walter had that ability to what we call in television get through the glass."

Rather remembered Cronkite as a broadcast news pioneer with seemingly insatiable curiosity and infectious enthusiasm for news.

Others recalled a tough boss with uncompromising standards who would also compliment correspondents, whom he backed with unfailing loyalty inside CBS.

"When he was anchor and you did a good job, Walter would call you and say, 'I thought you did a good job on that one, my friend," Bob Schieffer, the former reporter and anchor told CNN. "When you got a compliment from Walter Cronkite, it didn't get much better than that."

Katie Couric, the current "CBS Evening News" anchor, called Cronkite the "personification of decency and humanity."

"I was just struck by really how very humble he was until the end of his life," Couric told CNN.

More than a few recalled President Lyndon B. Johnson reported remark to aides during the Vietnam War, "If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost Middle America."

Friday night, President Barack Obama pointed to Cronkite's integrity "through wars and riots, marches and milestones, calming telling us what we need to know."

"But Walter was always more than just an anchor," Obama said in a statement. "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. 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."

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