Koppel on "America's Anchor"

CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite, news, nesman, journalist, broadcast journalist, CBS Evening News CBS

Some observations on the man and his reputation now from former ABC "Nightline" anchor Ted Koppel:

I heard this story from a CBS producer who claims to have witnessed it.

Walter and Betsy, his wife of many years, had just taken their seats aboard a commercial airliner. The flight attendant came over and asked Walter what his name was. "Cronkite," he said with that little smile of his that was also meant to convey: "Look, you're going to feel a little silly in a moment when it hits you."

"Cronkite," the flight attendant repeated. "Can you spell that for me?"

Walter turned to Betsy and grumped: "You're just loving this, aren't you?" (Betsy probably put the flight attendant up to it in the first place!)

The fact is that there was a time when nobody in this country didn't know who Walter Cronkite was.

He was our national town crier, the 20th century equivalent of the fellow in medieval times who walked the streets and yelled: "Seven o'clock and all's well."

Or, who explained what had gone wrong if all wasn't well.

What's more, you had the feeling that absent television or radio, Walter would've been perfectly happy distributing the news door-to-door.

Walter Cronkite was the man for whom the term "anchor" was created. Really.

It was during the run-up to the political conventions in 1952, and (there's some debate over who gets the credit) someone on the production team decided that there had to be a title to describe the fellow sitting at the desk; pulling it all together, holding it all in place.

And isn't that, after all, what Walter did all those years? Pulled it all together . . . held it all in place.

Walter Cronkite, America's anchor.

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