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5 Questions For… Walter Cronkite

Alissa Krinsky
TVNewser Contributor

Walter Cronkite.jpg Today, for the 24th year, legendary newsman Walter Cronkite will appear on PBS stations nationwide as host of From Vienna: The New Year’s Celebration 2008, featuring the Vienna Philharmonic.

Cronkite, 91, the longtime CBS Evening News anchor (1962-1981), was born in Missouri, and lived in Kansas City until he was ten, when his family moved to Houston, Texas. He attended the University of Texas and began his broadcasting career in radio, later becoming a war correspondent for United Press before joining CBS News in 1950.

Today, Walter Cronkite contributes Cronkite Commentaries for cable network Retirement Living TV and is involved in his namesake school, The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. His is also the “voice” of The CBS Evening News With Katie Couric, providing the program’s opening voiceover.

1. TVNewser: When it comes to covering ‘hard’ news, the television industry today is…
Cronkite: I feel that CBS and all of the other major networks are doing a good job covering this complicated world of ours in the too-short half-hour allotted to them (in the evening)…I think the traditional news sources are doing a good job covering ‘hard’ news. There are other sources — newspapers and television programs — and we all know who they are, that focus on ‘soft’ or ‘celebrity’ news. There is a place for them in our society as well, but we do not expect from them the high journalistic standards of news provided by our traditional newspapers and broadcast outlets.

TV Newser, continued: …and the existence today of round-the-clock news on cable, and the prevalence of program hosts expressing opinions is…
Cronkite: I believe having all the information that’s now available to us is a good thing. And I believe there is a place for most of those opinion and shout shows.

2. TVNewser: My greatest journalistic accomplishment…
Cronkite: …was the challenge for this untutored ‘scientist’ (who couldn’t figure out how a pulley worked in high school physics class) to succeed in covering space flights, and to report on the complexities of the space program.

3. TVNewser: My favorite memory of growing up in Texas:
Cronkite: When I was ten years old, we had just moved to Houston from Kansas City. My father defied and walked out on the well-established dentist with whom he was to go into practice when he unveiled to my father his deep-rooted racism. It was the first time I realized how much I admired my dad for having the courage of his principles and for standing up to those Texans who challenged his beliefs in equality.

4. TVNewser: The most poignant moment I encountered while covering World War Two:
Cronkite: There were too many poignant moments. They came almost daily, as we watched our bombers returning from their missions to Germany and counted the missing among them.

5. TVNewser: What the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism means to me:
Cronkite: I am proud of the professors we have been able to attract, who represent the best of the journalism profession. I am proud, too, of our academic program, which offers students a well-rounded liberal arts education, as well as the opportunity to learn every aspect of the profession, with state-of-the-art technology.

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