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Subject Legendary CBS anchor Walter Cronkite dies at 92
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By FRAZIER MOORE, AP Television Writer Frazier Moore, Ap Television Writer 1 hr 33 mins ago

NEW YORK Walter Cronkite didn't just live the life of an anchorman. He invented and embodied it.

He fulfilled the ideal of an anchorman before viewers even knew what to expect from the position, or from TV news in general.

Of course, Cronkite wasn't the first reporter to sit behind a desk and feed headlines to a camera. Newscasters, news readers and other talking heads preceded him into the television frontier.

But something set Cronkite apart from other TV pioneers, something that became more evident over time. As a communicator, he was authoritative yet companionable. He was a man the public understood and believed. With printer's ink in his veins and a wire-service background, he was a seasoned newsman and no stranger to a microphone. But he was looking ahead for the breakthrough medium where he belonged. He found it in TV, where he was a perfect fit for this new journalistic adventure.

Joining CBS' Washington bureau in 1950, Cronkite (with a support staff of one) was handed the task of hosting a nightly TV newscast on the startup local station. By April 1962, he had handled a decade's-worth of high-profile network assignments. Then one Friday, he was told that, starting Monday, he was anchoring the network's prized evening newscast, until then known as "Douglas Edwards With the News." It would become "CBS News With Walter Cronkite."

Cronkite's 19-year stretch as the evening news anchor, and all the hour-upon-hour breaking news stories he anchored, frames a crucial era in the nation's history. It was also a pivotal era in TV news, which came of age on Cronkite's watch and, in no small part thanks to him, accustomed the public to count on TV to learn what's going on.

"And that's the way it is," Cronkite summed up in his bouncy cadence, signing off with a reassurance gratefully accepted by viewers in those often stormy, sometimes mind-blowing years.

On March 6, 1981, Cronkite retired from the anchor desk. He was 64, and a change of routine may have seemed like a good idea. Although it was not entirely his idea, since CBS was eager to get his heir apparent, Dan Rather, sworn in right away.

Cronkite's goodbye reflected an overabundance of modesty as well as misguided faith in his employer's pledge to keep him busy and productive after leaving the "Evening News" anchor desk.

"Those who have made anything of this departure, I'm afraid, have made too much," he told an enormous audience convened in some 18 million households.

Just three weeks later, President Ronald Reagan was the victim of an attempted assassination.

"I realized right away I'd made a mistake," Cronkite told me in 2001. "I shouldn't have gotten off that desk!

"Every big story, I think about it," he went on, at that moment referring to the latest big story: 9/11, just three months before.

But even "off that desk," Cronkite never disappeared from the airwaves or from the nation's consciousness. He retained his standing as a trusted source of information (and, when he felt obliged to voice them, opinions) for another quarter-century.

Even viewers too young to have seen him with any regularity have benefited from his example: a newsman who never betrayed the enormous trust the public long ago learned to place in him.

He remains the archetype for what, today, has come to be disparaged as the "voice of God anchor." But the criticism has mostly been borne by lesser TV personalities, far too many of them on broadcast and cable talk marathons.

But no one ever thought of Cronkite as God. He was Uncle Walter.

And he never lost the common touch that helped inspire his lasting nickname.

While interviewing Cronkite for a video in 2004, I tried, without bellowing too loud to be rude, to broach the fact that he had become hard of hearing.

"Hard of hearing!" Cronkite replied with a what-are-ya-gonna-do? chuckle. "I'm deaf as a post!"

I saw his grandly ordinary streak the first time I met him. That was 1993, when he had made a documentary series for a cable network through his independent production company. He wanted to talk about it.

In pinstriped jacket and slacks, seated in a wing chair in his handsome corner office, he looked every bit the elder statesman of TV journalism. And, I admit it, I felt thrown momentarily, confronting face-to-face someone so suited to the TV screen where I had followed him since childhood.

But there was no loftiness or star display. Cronkite made small talk. He discussed his program, which dealt with global defense for America. He even asked me some questions.

That would have been enough to make him seem like a regular guy. But then something happened on an even more telling level. As we shared conversation and morning coffee, Cronkite, in mid-sentence, rose from his chair and stepped across to his desk, where, from a drawer, he fetched a Bic pen. His coffee needed stirring and, with no spoon available, he knew a simple ball point pen would get the job done.

Then, satisfied with his coffee, he returned to his chair and gave the sweet roll he was having for breakfast a good dunking.

In the no-nonsense company of Cronkite, known as the most trusted man in America, I felt my trust in him go up another notch.
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