Walter Cronkite: Witness to History -- PBS - Wednesday, July 26, 2006 - 9:00 p.m. (EDT)
One way TV news definitely suffers today is in the quality of broadcast signoffs. In the 1960s, we had "And THAT'S the way it is," on CBS at the same time we had "Good night David. Good night Chet" on NBC. And today's signoffs? Never mind. The CBS signoff was uttered nightly by the man widely known at the time as "the most trusted man in America," Walter Cronkite (imagine ANY media professional today earning that title). After about 20 years in the anchor chair, Cronkite retired from the daily grind in 1981 and passed the mantel on to Dan Rather. Now, 25 years later, PBS's American Masters series salutes Uncle Walter with this 90-minute special. While it is worth recalling Cronkite's shocked but professional reporting of the news that President Kennedy had in fact died of his bullet wounds in Dallas, and the dignified way in which he reported from the floor of the 1964 Democratic National Convention even after being ignominiously yanked from the anchor booth over fear of competition from the Huntley-Brinkley team, it would not be fair to say that Cronkite's broadcasting was without political overtones. President Lyndon Johnson, in fact, is said to have lamented that he had lost the support of the American public on Vietnam after Cronkite openly criticized the war following a visit to Southeast Asia during the Tet Offensive of 1968. That Cronkite was able to retain and even embellish his reputation for trust after such a public rebuke of the President says much for the regard in which he was held. Watch and remember (or learn).