"It is my sad duty to tell you that our friend and colleague Walter Cronkite has died."
That is how CBS News anchor Katie Couric announced the death of her predecessor. The American television station CBS was Cronkite's home for nearly half a century.
Ironically and a bit symbolically, it was Couric, the first solo female anchor of a national television network, who broke the news. Though an outstanding television personality in her own right, in all probability this will be the most important moment in Couric's undistinguished career as anchor, certainly when compared to Cronkite's.
Walter Cronkite died Friday at his Manhattan home with his family by his side, following a long illness, CBS vice president Linda Mason said. Marlene Adler, Cronkite's chief of staff, said he died of cerebrovascular disease. He was 92.
Cronkite covered the Democratic Party's national convention in 1952, when he became the first reporter to earn the title of anchor. About ten years would pass before Cronkite - with his deep voice, his serious demeanor and his distinguished background of 20 years of journalism - was appointed permanent anchor of the CBS Evening News, a position he held for nineteen years.
Cronkite is permanently etched in the memory of the American television audience as someone whose job was not just to report the news, but to present reality to the viewers and help them understand the historic images that were being broadcast before their very eyes from that flickering box.
Cronkite would end his newscasts with the phrase: "And that's the way it is." This became a trademark for this larger-than-life television journalist, a kind of seal of approval and undisputed trustworthiness for a whole generation of Americans. If Cronkite said "That's the way it is," it meant that things really did happen that way. This was before the era of spin and before the era of public cynicism toward the institution of journalism; before the era of the sophisticated, skeptical viewer aware of media manipulation. Decades have passed since, years of innocence lost.
Walter Cronkite also covered the assassination of president Kennedy, the first American landing on the moon, race riots and Vietnam war protests, as well as Watergate, and the attempted assassination of president Reagan. He was the subject of emulation and set the standard by which news anchors that came after him were judged - all over the world, not just in the United States. It is not for nothing that U.S. President Barack Obama yesterday called him "one of the most trusted men in America."
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