Walter LeLand Cronkite, legendary television newscaster from the 1960-70s era, passed away Friday night at age 92. He had been suffering from cerebrovascular disease, his family said recently.
As anchor and managing editor of CBS Evening News, Cronkite was instrumental in establishing television as the dominant national news medium of that era in America. In the decades before a multiplicity of media outlets split audiences into small statistics, it is estimated that Cronkite's broadcasts reached an estimated 20 million people a night. When he signed off the programme with "And that's the way it is," it is no exaggeration to say that Americans believed him.
Cronkite was still regarded as "the most trusted man in America" years after leaving his CBS anchor chair.
An amazing story has it that president Lyndon B Johnson was watching CBS News in 1968 when Cronkite followed a report critical of the Vietnam War with a rare commentary at his end – he said the war unwinnable and that America should pull out. Johnson reportedly turned to an aide and said, "If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost Middle America."
For many observers this was a major reason Johnson decided to forego a second term -- and offered to negotiate with the North Vietnamese.
"It was the first time in American history a war had been declared over by an anchorman," David Halberstam wrote in the 1979 book "The Powers That Be."
An iconic personality, his face and baritone voice are indelibly linked in the minds of generations of Americans with the major events of his time: the assassinations of president John F Kennedy and his brother Robert and of the Rev Martin Luther King Jr, the national triumph represented by the first moon landing, the Watergate scandal, the return of American hostages after the Iranian Revolution and of course, innumerable political conventions.