“A dentist’s son who began his career as a radio announcer in Kansas City, Mo., Walter Cronkite wasn’t glossily good-looking in the starched, blow-dried way of so many of his successors; if anything, he was closer to homely than handsome. But behind a crisp speaking style, he had a natural, unaffected demeanor that made him more inviting than other television reporters.
“When he took over from Douglas Edwards in 1962, Mr. Cronkite would announce the day’s events, and then, as anchors do now, turn to correspondents in the field. Those reporters — and in the early 1960s the CBS A-team included Mike Wallace, Howard K. Smith and Morley Safer — often read their reports sitting at desks in front of curtains in out-of-town studios, as stiff and unsmiling as hostages in a ransom tape.
“Mr. Cronkite, who sat at a desk next to a typewriter in what at least seemed like a bustling newsroom, would fiddle with his earpiece, move his chair and glance down at his notes; he looked like a kindly newspaper editor interrupted in the middle of a big news day, busy, of course, but never too busy to explain the latest developments to out-of-town visitors.
“He made history just by rising from that desk to check the wires. Every [John F.] Kennedy documentary includes the clips of Mr. Cronkite announcing that the president had been shot and removing his thick black glasses for a pause after stating that Kennedy was dead. Those live moments of television news are as embedded into the tragedy as John-John’s salute and the Zapruder film.
“No account of Lyndon B. Johnson‘s presidency leaves out the night in February 1968 when Mr. Cronkite concluded, on the air, that the Vietnam War could not be won. He had a toehold on the first manned lunar landing and a hand in the Begin-Sadat Middle East peace talks.” — from Alessandra Stanley‘s N.Y. Times eulogy, titled “Cronkite’s Signature: Approachable Authority.”