Walter Cronkite

Anchor/ Reporter


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In his four-and-a-half-hour Archive interview, Walter Cronkite (1916-2009) recalls the moment that led President Lyndon Johnson to declare he'd lost the country's support of the Vietnam War, by losing Cronkite: "I very clearly said I will have a personal view of this after [the] commercial… I came back and said this is an unusual departure. I'm going to deliver an editorial in effect; I'm going to give you my personal view…. And with that, I said that I thought we should get out of Vietnam." Cronkite, "the most trusted man in America" served as anchorman and managing editor of the CBS Evening News from 1962 to 1981.  In his two-part Archive interview, Cronkite outlines his early experience in journalism, including positions with various radio stations and the United Press. On joining CBS in the early 1950s, Cronkite speaks of his radio days and his assignment for the six o'clock television evening news on CBS affiliate WOIC, in Washington, D.C.  He speaks in detail about the 1952 political conventions and how his anchoring of them (the first time the term was used) raised his profile to a national level. He looks back on other news stories he covered including the first televised tour of the White House (with President Truman) and the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. He recalls his appearance on the now-classic historical recreation series You Are There, for which he served as a "reporter" to famous past events. He describes taking over the anchoring duties of the CBS Evening News from Douglas Edwards and comments on using the signature sign-off "And that's the way it is." Among the many historical events that Cronkite discusses are: the Kennedy assassination, the moon landing, the Vietnam War, and Watergate. In the second part of his interview he recalls the mishaps of "live TV" while doing You Are There; his tenure as host of the Morning Show (and his replacement by Jack Paar); his work on the documentary series The Twentieth Century and Air Power; his interviews with Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy; his on-air commentary about the Vietnam War; and his stepping down from the CBS Evening News. Cronkite reveals how he felt following his final broadcast as anchor: "…when the cameras went off, I threw the script up in the air and said, 'school's out, school's out!'" Don Carleton conducted the two-part interview in New York, NY on April 28, 1998 and October 18, 1999.

"Man landing on the moon was the great story of our century, I believe.  The great single story of the [20th] century was man escaping his earthly environment and landing on a distant orb in that fashion."

Highlights
Walter Cronkite on how proud he was of the very first CBS Evening News broadcasts, done without a script and a very small staff
03:55
Walter Cronkite on coming up with his signature sign-off "and that's the way it is"
02:06
Walter Cronkite on announcing the assassination of President Kennedy; the emotional impact of that day
02:22
Walter Cronkite on "the great story of our century"; man landing on the moon
01:33
Walter Cronkite on the difficulties of neutrality in covering the Vietnam War; and the Nixon administration's attempts to weaken the press
02:54
Walter Cronkite on his belief that people should not get all their news from television
00:51
Walter Cronkite on his on-air editorial that he felt the country should get out of Vietnam; what this meant to the country and the Johnson administration
05:11
Walter Cronkite on his greatest achievement
00:26
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On his childhood, on his fascination seeing President Harding's obituary in the newspaper
On moving to Texas; on building a telegraph set and learning Morse code; on the Great Depression.
On going to the University of Texas; on working at the Houston Post; on interviewing Gertrude Stein; working for the Scripps-Howard Bureau
On his initial experience with the new medium of radio; on working in radio at KNOW

Chapter 2

On meeting the notorious criminal Raymond Hamilton while working on a radio story
On the process of filing stories in the 1930s; working as the news and sports director at KCMO in Kansas City
On getting fired from KCMO; going to United Press then WKY in Oklahoma City
On devising a system to call football games that failed, and lessons learned about live sports broadcasting

Chapter 3

On first appearing on a demo television at the Chicago World Fair (1933)
On joining CBS (ca 1950);  on being assigned the CBS radio eleven o'clock news
On being assigned the six o'clock television evening news on CBS affiliate WOIC in Washington, DC. On his disappointment in not getting assigned as a correspondent in Korea
On his relationship with Edward Murrow; on CBS's policy to not include  editorial opinion in news commentary.
On being offered a job at CBS by Edward R. Murrow, but ultimately turning it down after United Press made him a generous offer to stay

Chapter 4

On beginning his work as a correspondent for CBS television news. On first use of the term "anchorman". On coverage of the 1952 political conventions
On the challenges of covering a live event; the technology used on television at the 1952 political conventions. 
On his impression of changes with conventions between 1952 and 1980.
On the impact the 1952 convention had on his career. On raising his image as a major national figure and the impact of television on the country.
On the use of the Univac (computer used to predict election results); first televised tour of the White House with President Harry S. Truman.

Chapter 5

On coverage of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II and the logistical challenge of that coverage
On the program "You Are There"; on getting the assignment for the "CBS Evening News", taking over from Douglas Edwards; on expanding the evening news from 15 to 30 minutes
On coming up with his signature sign-off "And that's the way it is"
On President John F. Kennedy's assassination coverage
On the Space Race; on the moon landing
On the coverage of the Vietnam War; Spiro Agnew's "conspiratorial campaign" against the press
On the coverage of the Middle East conflict; on his greatest achievement

Chapter 6

On the program "You Are There"; on the historical reconstruction of the Hindenburg disaster filling his studio with smoke
On You Are There, other productions. On the Hollywood Blacklist.
On the failure of the networks to stand up to the Hollywood Blacklist; on the influence of the sponsors; on Frank Stanton not standing up against the pressure, and how different this way from his later reputation
On the journalistic integrity of You Are There ; changing a Winston cigarette slogan on-air

Chapter 7

On The Morning Show and special guests; getting fired from The Morning Show and replaced by Jack Paar
On Dick Van Dyke taking over The Morning Show from Paar and Cronkite being re-hired as a presenter; getting fired a second time  from The Morning Show for allegedly insulting Van Dyke
On the programs Twentieth Century and Air Power
On a script he wrote for a program on the city of Houston for Twentieth Century

Chapter 8

On the question of whether he found it difficult to report the news when CBS itself was the news; as in the Quiz Show scandals, and Watergate
On interviewing Presidential candidate John F. Kennedy in 1960 about being Catholic
On the transition of the CBS Evening News anchor spot from Douglas Edwards to Walter Cronkite; on first hearing the term "anchorman"; on the 15 minute newscast becoming a half-hour newscast
On anchoring the first Telstar satellite transmission; Eisenhower gaffe on live television; on accepting the expansion to a 30-minute news broadcast in 1963
On the first 30-minute broadcast featuring an interview with President Kennedy on September 2, 1963Topic: Television & The Presidency (Kennedy)

Chapter 9

On Kennedy's revelatory announcement during his interview with Cronkite about the then-ruler of Vietnam, Diem and the need to stay in Vietnam.
On his on-air commentary on the Vietnam war following the Tet offensive, on how he felt the war was unwinnable
On stepping down from the CBS Evening News in 1981; on learning of Dan Rather replacing him as anchorman
On changes he's witnessed in the news medium; the deterioration of the quality of the news 
On the positive aspects of the news medium and its challenges in the future
On his mentors in the print medium; his admiration for Edward Murrow
On how he wants to be remembered
Shows

Air Power

View Show Page
Walter Cronkite on the origin of the CBS show Air Power; meant to rival NBS's Victory at Sea , and on why he thinks it was successful; his role in getting it on the air
05:50

CBS Evening News with Dan Rather

View Show Page
Walter Cronkite on his decision to step down as anchor of the CBS Evening News; and on Dan Rather replacing him
04:34

CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite

View Show Page
Walter Cronkite on the very first days of the CBS Evening News at 6pm, and how he went on with no script
07:44
Walter Cronkite on replacing Douglas Edwards on the CBS Evening News 
03:56
Walter Cronkite on coming up with his signature signoff "and that's the way it is"
02:06
Walter Cronkite on the pressures on the press by the White House over the Watergate story
04:06
Walter Cronkite on replacing the anchor of the CBS Evening News, Douglas Edwards
06:58
Walter Cronkite on the expansion of the news from 15 to 30 minutes (in 1963) and how that changed the nature of the genre
03:03
Walter Cronkite on his decision to step down as anchor of the CBS Evening News; and on Dan Rather replacing him
04:34

CBS News

View Show Page
Walter Cronkite on the very first days of the CBS Evening News at 6pm, and how he went on with no script
07:44
Walter Cronkite on the 1952 political convention where the term "Anchorman" was first coined (by Sig Mickelson); the resentment from radio professionals toward the new television medium
03:40
Walter Cronkite on replacing Douglas Edwards on the CBS Evening News 
03:56
Walter Cronkite on coming up with his signature signoff "and that's the way it is"
02:06
Walter Cronkite on the pressures on the press by the White House over the Watergate story
04:06
Walter Cronkite on replacing the anchor of the CBS Evening News, Douglas Edwards
06:58
Walter Cronkite on the expansion of the news from 15 to 30 minutes (in 1963) and how that changed the nature of the genre
03:03
Walter Cronkite on his decision to step down as anchor of the CBS Evening News; and on Dan Rather replacing him
04:34

Douglas Edwards with the News

View Show Page
Walter Cronkite on replacing the anchor of the CBS Evening News, Douglas Edwards
06:58

Morning Show, The

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Walter Cronkite on the fight at CBS between the entertainment and news department over what kind of show The Morning Show should be; being replaced by comedian Jack Paar
07:59

Twentieth Century, The

View Show Page
Walter Cronkite on his contributions to the CBS program Twentieth Century ; in particular a show he wrote about Houston

You Are There

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Walter Cronkite on his docu-drama You Are There, and his opinion of that genre
01:15
Walter Cronkite on some of the bloopers that happened when filming live television for the program You Are There
10:31
Walter Cronkite on how the Hollywood Blacklist affected him and the news industry; specifically the writers on the dramatic program You Are There
06:02
Topics

Bloopers

View Topic
Walter Cronkite on some of the bloopers that happened when filming live television for the program You Are There involving a historical re-creation of the Hindenburg disaster
03:00
Walter Cronkite on an awkward moment during the first Telestar sattelite transmission while interviewing Dwight Eisenhower and Marshall Montgomery
03:01

Censorship / Standards & Practices

View Topic
Walter Cronkite on the question of whether he found it difficult to report the news during the Quiz Show scandals and the Watergate scandal; how Richard (Dick) Salant negotiated a compromise between the network and the White House
03:01

Dwight D. Eisenhower

View Topic
Walter Cronkite on covering the 1952 Presidential election of Dwight D. Eisenhower
02:40
Walter Cronkite on an awkward moment during the first Telestar sattelite transmission while interviewing Dwight Eisenhower and Marshall Montgomery
03:01

Fame and Celebrity

View Topic
Walter Cronkite on first being aware that newsmen could be recognized in public by their audience; anecdote about Eric Sevareid being recognized at the '52 political convention
02:00
Walter Cronkite on some of the fringe benefits of fame; anecdote about a jewelry store while filming in Houston
02:43

Harry S. Truman

View Topic
Walter Cronkite on conducting the first televised tour of the White House, with President Harry S. Truman, whom he calls "one of our better Presidents"
03:14
Walter Cronkite on his tour of the White House with President Harry S. Truman
00:49

Hollywood Blacklist

View Topic
Walter Cronkite on how the Hollywood Blacklist affected him and the news industry, specifically the writers on the dramatic program You Are There: Abe Polonsky, Walter Bernstein, and Charles Collingwood
08:43

Industry Crossroads

View Topic
Walter Cronkite on how the Hollywood Blacklist affected him and the news industry, specifically the writers on the dramatic program You Are There: Abe Polonsky, Walter Bernstein, and Charles Collingwood
08:43

JFK Assassination and Funeral

View Topic
Walter Cronkite on announcing the assassination of President Kennedy; the emotional impact of that day
02:23
Walter Cronkite on the chaos surrounding getting on-air to announce the assasination of President Kennedy
03:09

John F. Kennedy

View Topic
Walter Cronkite on upsetting John and Bobby Kennedy during an interview when he brought up the Catholic issue during the Presidential campaingn
03:45

Lyndon B. Johnson

View Topic
Walter Cronkite on his on-air editorial that he felt the country should get out of Vietnam; what this meant to the country and the Johnson administration
05:11

Moon Landing

View Topic
Walter Cronkite on "the great story of our century"; man landing on the moon
01:33

Queen Elizabeth Coronation

View Topic
Walter Cronkite on covering the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in London in 1953, and how it came about that CBS aired the coronation first of all the networks
05:38

Quiz Show Scandals

View Topic
Walter Cronkite on the question of whether he found it difficult to report the news when CBS itself was the news; as in the Quiz Show Scandals
01:13

Richard M. Nixon

View Topic
Walter Cronkite on the pressures on the press by the White House over the Watergate story
04:00
Walter Cronkite on the question of whether he found it difficult to report the news during the Watergate scandal; how Richard (Dick) Salant negotiated a compromise between the network and the White House
01:48

TV's Golden Age (1940s & '50s)

View Topic
Walter Cronkite on how the news went live in 1950 with no script
04:05
Walter Cronkite on replacing Douglas Edwards on the CBS Evening News, at that time the news broadcast was only 15 minutes long
03:56
Walter Cronkite on some of the bloopers that happened when filming live television for the program You Are There involving a historical re-creation of the Hindenburg disaster
06:15

Technological Innovation

View Topic
Walter Cronkite on seeing a television for the first time at the 1933 World's Fair
01:51
Walter Cronkite on the challenges and technological innovations behind covering a live political event
06:03
Walter Cronkite on the use of the Univac to predict election results in the 1952 Presidential election
02:40
Walter Cronkite on covering the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in London in 1953, and the technical challenges that presented, including fighter pilots, and the Canadian Royal Air Force
05:38
Walter Cronkite on the advent of the Teleprompter on the 50s program You Are There
02:07

Television Industry

View Topic
Walter Cronkite on how the Hollywood Blacklist affected him and the news industry, specifically the writers on the dramatic program You Are There: Abe Polonsky, Walter Bernstein, and Charles Collingwood
08:43
Walter Cronkite on the circumstances of being replaced by Jack Paar on The Morning Show; and what it taught him about how the television industry works 
06:05
Walter Cronkite on getting fired a second time from The Morning Show; allegedly for insulting new host Dick Van Dyke on-air
06:09

Television and the Presidency

View Topic
Walter Cronkite on the 1952 political convention where the term "Anchorman" was first coined; the resentment from radio professionals toward the new television medium
03:40
Walter Cronkite on covering the first nationally televised political convention in 1952; describes the chaotic, exciting scene and the challenges to broadcast this as-it-happened
04:02
Walter Cronkite on the changes in political coverage of the Presidential conventions between 1952 and the 1980s
02:26

Vietnam War

View Topic
Walter Cronkite on difficulties of maintaining neutrality while covering the Vietnam War and the "conspiratorial campaign" Spiro Agnew and the Nixon administration waged on the press
02:54
Walter Cronkite on being furious with Pierre Salinger who had leaked to the press that President Kennedy was to make an important announcement about Vietnam on the CBS Evening News
03:34
Walter Cronkite on his on-air editorial that he felt the country should get out of Vietnam; what this meant to the country and the Johnson administration
05:11

We Celebrated

View Topic
Walter Cronkite on covering the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in London in 1953, and the technical challenges that presented
05:38
Walter Cronkite on "the great story of our century"; man landing on the moon
01:33

We Considered

View Topic
Walter Cronkite on the pressures on the press by the White House over the Watergate story, specifically one broadcast of the CBS Evening News
04:00
Walter Cronkite on his on-air editorial that he felt the country should get out of Vietnam; what this meant to the country and the Johnson administration
05:11

We Cried

View Topic
Walter Cronkite on announcing the assassination of President Kennedy; the emotional impact of that day
02:23
Professions

Anchor

View Profession
Walter Cronkite on the 1952 political convention where the term "Anchorman" was first coined; the resentment from radio professionals toward the new television medium
03:40
Walter Cronkite on the challenges and technological innovations behind covering a live political event
06:03
Walter Cronkite on coming up with his signature signoff "and that's the way it is"
02:06
Walter Cronkite on covering "the great story of our century"; man landing on the moon
02:34
Walter Cronkite on the question of whether he found it difficult to report the news when CBS itself was the news; as in the Quiz Show Scandals, and Watergate
03:01
Walter Cronkite on the definition, as he was told, of the term "anchorman" as coined by Paul Levitan
01:33
Walter Cronkite on why it was important to him to also have the title "managing editor" on the CBS Evening News
01:14
Walter Cronkite on being furious with Pierre Salinger who had leaked to the press that President Kennedy was to make an important announcement about Vietnam on the CBS Evening News
03:34
Walter Cronkite on his on-air editorial that he felt the country should get out of Vietnam; what this meant to the country and the Johnson administration; the authority his role as anchorman had
05:11

Journalists & News Producers

View Profession
Walter Cronkite on some early lessons about journalism from his days writing for radio
01:17
Walter Cronkite on the changes in journalistic integrity; says the press is "more responsible" now than in the 30s when he was a newspaper reporter; tells anecdote of getting facts wrong in one case
05:04
Walter Cronkite on how they called a play-by-play telegraph football game in his radio days, and how one time the wires went down and he had to make up his own version of the game
05:08
Walter Cronkite on learning a valuable lesson- never broadcast anything you haven't fully researched
06:26
Walter Cronkite on doing the news broadcast in 1950 with no script
07:44
Walter Cronkite on the subtle differences in TV journalism between editorials, commentary, and analysis
02:05
Walter Cronkite on covering the coronation of Queen Elizabeth I in London in 1953, and the technical challenges that presented
05:38
Walter Cronkite on the pressures on the press by the White House over the Watergate story
04:06
Walter Cronkite on how important Producers are to the News genre, but often overlooked
01:02
Genres

Commercials

View Genre
Walter Cronkite on trying to correct grammatical ad copy; he antagonized Winston cigarettes and never did another commercial
02:36

News and Documentary

View Genre
Walter Cronkite on learning a valuable lesson- never broadcast anything you haven't fully researched
06:26
Walter Cronkite on how "intimate" television was in the early days of news broadcasting
04:05
Walter Cronkite on the subtle differences in TV journalism between editorials, commentary, and analysis
02:05
Walter Cronkite on the 1952 political convention where the term "Anchorman" was first coined; the resentment from radio professionals toward the new television medium
03:40
Walter Cronkite on the challenges of covering a live political event, and various technologies used in the '52 convention coverage
10:05
Walter Cronkite on difficulties of maintaining neutrality while covering the Vietnam War and the "conspiratorial campaign" Spiro Agnew and the Nixon administration waged on the press
02:54
Walter Cronkite on the question of whether he found it difficult to report the news when CBS itself was the news; as in the Quiz Show Scandals, and Watergate
03:01
Walter Cronkite on the expansion of the news from 15 to 30 minutes (in 1963) and how that changed the nature of the genre
04:51
Walter Cronkite on what he observes to be a deterioration of the quality of news programs and why
03:30
People

Spiro T. Agnew

View Person Page
Walter Cronkite on the "conspiratorial campaign" Spiro Agnew and the Nixon administration waged on the press during the Vietnam war
01:06

Menachem Begin

View Person Page
Walter Cronkite on clearing up the confusion over whether Anwar Sadat was really willing to talk to Menachem Begin; setting up the scenerio for the Camp David talks
02:31

Walter Bernstein

View Interview Page
Walter Cronkite on how the Hollywood Blacklist affected the news industry; specifically the writers on the dramatic program You Are There
06:02

Charles Collingwood

View Person Page
Walter Cronkite on how the Hollywood Blacklist affected the news industry; specifically the writers on the dramatic program You Are There
06:02

Dick Van Dyke

View Interview Page
Walter Cronkite on getting fired a second time from The Morning Show ; allegedly for insulting new host Dick Van Dyke on-air
06:09

Douglas Edwards

View Person Page
Walter Cronkite on replacing Douglas Edwards on the CBS Evening News 
03:56
Walter Cronkite on the graciousness of Douglas Edwards when he took over Edward's role as anchor of the CBS Evening News
01:52

Raymond Hamilton

View Person Page
Walter Cronkite on inadvertently meeting the notorious criminal Raymond Hamilton while working with a colleague at the Houston Press
02:26

Robert F. Kennedy

View Person Page
Walter Cronkite on upsetting John and Bobby Kennedy during an interview when he brought up the Catholic issue during the Presidential campaingn
03:45

John F. Kennedy

View Person Page
Walter Cronkite on announcing the assasination of President Kennedy; the emotional impact of that day
02:23
Walter Cronkite on upsetting John and Bobby Kennedy during an interview when he brought up the Catholic issue during the Presidential campaingn
03:45

Sidney Lumet

View Interview Page
Walter Cronkite on director Sidney Lumet who worked with him on You Are There, a dramatic historical show
02:16

Sig Mickelson

View Interview Page
Walter Cronkite on the 1952 political convention where the term "Anchorman" was first coined (by Sig Mickelson); the resentment from radio professionals toward the new television medium
03:40

Edward R. Murrow

View Person Page
Walter Cronkite on the "acute journalistic capabilities" of Edward R. Murrow
02:01
Walter Cronkite on being offered a job at CBS by Edward R. Murrow, but ultimately turning it down after United Press made him a generous offer to stay
05:54
Walter Cronkite on how the Hollywood Blacklist affected the news industry; Ed Murrow went along with the network
06:02
Walter Cronkite on his admiration for broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow
00:26

Jack Paar

View Person Page
Walter Cronkite on the circumstances of being replaced by Jack Paar on The Morning Show ; and a letter from Jack's mother about the incident
06:05

Abraham Polonsky

View Interview Page
Walter Cronkite on how the Hollywood Blacklist affected the news industry; specifically the writers on the dramatic program You Are There
06:02

Dan Rather

View Interview Page
Walter Cronkite on his decision to step down as anchor of the CBS Evening News; and on Dan Rather replacing him
04:34

Ronald Reagan

View Person Page
Walter Cronkite on a funny story when he was reporting football games and the wire went down, so he had to "make up" the rest of the game; later Ronald Reagan may have appropriated the story 
02:06

Anwar Sadat

View Person Page
Walter Cronkite on clearing up the confusion over whether Anwar Sadat was really willing to talk to Begin; setting up the scenerio for the Camp David talks
02:31

Richard S. Salant

View Person Page
Walter Cronkite on coming up with his signature signoff "and that's the way it is"; Dick Salant, President of CBS didn't like it
02:06
Walter Cronkite on the pressures on the press by the White House over the Watergate story, and how Dick Salant negotiated the compromise
04:06
Walter Cronkite on the question of whether he found it difficult to report the news during the Watergate scandal; how Richard (Dick) Salant negotiated a compromise between the network and the White House
01:48
Walter Cronkite on the expansion of the news from 15 to 30 minutes (in 1963) as influenced by Dick Salant, and how that changed the nature of the genre
04:51

Pierre Salinger

View Person Page
Walter Cronkite on being furious with Pierre Salinger who had leaked to the press that President Kennedy was to make an important announcement about Vietnam on the CBS Evening News
03:34

Eric Sevareid

View Person Page
Walter Cronkite on the resentment from radio professionals toward the new television medium, Eric Sevareid's anxiety about "collar-ad guys" taking over the news
03:40
Walter Cronkite on first being aware that newsmen could be recognized in public by their audience; anecdote about Eric Sevareid being recognized at the '52 political convention
02:00

Frank Stanton

View Interview Page
Walter Cronkite on how the Hollywood Blacklist affected the news industry; and his dissappointment in learning that Frank Stanton did not do enough to protect his writers
04:02

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