- June 20, 2017
- 9:00 am - 10:00 am
- Upcountry History Museum, Greenville SC
View Map | Cost: Free
Coffee & Discussion, Walter Cronkite
During the June Festival each morning at 9am from Tuesday June 20 – Saturday June 24, we gather at the Upcountry History Museum to pick the brain of each of the historical performers. No costumes, no script, just a chance to have some personal time and dialog with the performers – over free coffee.
Each morning features a different performer/historical figure. Often the other performers and Chautauqua staff also join in the fun. And if you come to multiple Discussions, you begin to see how the cast of characters relate to each other.
With over thirty years as a professional educator and even more as a professional magician, Larry Bounds brings his skills together from the classroom and the stage to recreate historical characters for the Chautauqua audience. His earned a BA in Theatre and a Masters in Education from The Univ. of Tennessee, and has performed in Chautauqua programs presenting Einstein, Churchill, Houdini, Disney, and others since 2002. He is a teacher of Advanced Placement and Honors English for Greenville County Schools at Wade Hampton High anda has taught classes in broadcast journalism. In addition to teaching, Larry has performed since the 1970s as a professional magician appearing for eight years with Ripley’s Believe It or Not! and three years in a Kentucky theme park. He also managed magic shops in Atlanta and has taught courses in magic for two universities.
In our digital age, we are awash in information. News is relayed as it happens, unedited, sometimes carelessly misreported, and often misunderstood. Media sources have sprung up like mushrooms after a heavy rain, and the one-time guidelines of objective journalism have been supplanted by corporate profit motives that present “news” with a spin specifically planned to enhance viewership by catering to prejudices and expectations of select target audiences who will tune in to be reassured they are correct, even when they are not.
Against this kaleidoscopic shifting of alternative realities stands the steady, sturdy, dependable and friendly, even fatherly presence of Walter Leland Cronkite, Jr. – a reporter, broadcaster, and producer of news stories that form the touchstone of responsible, ethical news reporting. From the 1920s into the 21st century, Walter Cronkite worked to report the news. For twenty years Cronkite stood center stage in the world of television network news, making his the number one watched evening news broadcast at a time when there were only three major American TV networks. He was christened “the most trusted man in America.” And when following a trip to Vietnam he voiced an opinion (which he seldom did) that the war in Vietnam was an unwinnable stalemate, President Lyndon Johnson said, “If we’ve lost Cronkite, we’ve lost middle America.” Many historians have even suggested that Johnson’s following decision not to run for a second full term as president was in part due to Cronkite’s comment.
So how did a man from Missouri and Texas, plain spoken, thoughtful, and with a twinkle in his eye become the voice of truth to all America and an icon of journalistic integrity?
Cronkite described himself simply as a newsman. He had worked towards that position since childhood. He delivered newspapers in the ’20s. He ran stories from reporters to editors and back as a copy boy in the early ’30s. At the age of 19 he left his college journalism courses behind to become a full-time newspaper reporter himself.
This was the Golden Age of Radio, and Cronkite shortly found himself on the air. He had learned to write a story accurately and succinctly as a newspaperman, now he learned how to tell it. He learned how to stretch or shorten stories to make them meet the limitations of air time yet still have importance to the listener.
By the time WWII began, Cronkite was an experienced journalist now at the top of his printed news craft as a reporter in the field for the United Press (UP) news service. He was first in reporting the Allied invasion of North Africa. He flew over the Normandy beachhead just hours after the D-Day invasion. He joined Patton’s Third Army to report on Patton’s relief of Bastogne in the Battle of the Bulge. Cronkite attended the Nuremberg Trials and reported the cases against Nazi war criminals. He spent three years after the war as the UP correspondent in Moscow.
The CBS network hired Cronkite in 1950 as he was working as a radio correspondent in Washington, D. C., and over the next decade his radio and TV reporting earned his place as successor to the legendary CBS newsman Edward. R Murrow.
Shortly after taking the reins as the anchor of the CBS Evening News, he got the program’s format extended from the traditional 15 minutes to 30 minutes, and the show was renamed the “CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite.” At the end of that first broadcast he closed with the catch phrase, “and that’s the way it is” followed by the date.
This position as the face and voice of CBS news is how most of us who remember Cronkite today remember him. We picture him in his shirt sleeves delivering the shocking news of Kennedy’s assassination. We see him in protective helmet and vest with our troops on the ground in Vietnam. We hear the sound of Cronkite’s, “Oh boy,” at a loss for words, overcome as the rest of the world was by mankind’s landing on the moon. We remember Cronkite’s determined efforts to raise the public’s awareness of the seriousness of the Watergate Scandal in spite of President Nixon’s direct attacks on him. (Cronkite won an Emmy for that reporting.) And we remember the night of his final CBS Evening News broadcast, of his final, “And that’s the way it is…”
For fifty years he reported the news, almost 20 of those years as the nations most respected news anchor, and he went on from there to produced educational media and documentaries, to lend his distinctive voice as narrator to public service projects, and to even put in an appearance on the top rated comedy show “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” where he visited Mary’s Minneapolis newsroom as himself.
For all his fame, Walter Cronkite was always modestly just one of us, one of the people. Those who knew him best report that the Cronkite on the screen was the same common man, friend, neighbor, off scene. Perhaps it was this genuineness backed by adherence to his strict objective, journalistic code that made him America’s most trusted voice.
- 1916 – born Nov. 4, in St. Joseph, Missouri
- 1925 – newsboy for The Kansas City Star.
- 1927 – family moves to Houston, Texas, Walter becomes copy boy for Houston Post
- 1935 – newspaper reporter for the Houston Press.
- 1936 – becomes broadcast journalist for KCMO radio
- 1940 – marries Betsy Maxwell
- 1942/1945 – as a war correspondent he reports the north Africa landings of WW II and covers the Battle of the Bulge with Gen. George S. Patton’s Third Army
- 1950 – hired by CBS radio
- 1953/1957 – hosts “You Are There” a program that re-enacts history in a news format
- 1962/1981 – anchors the CBS Evening News
- 1981 – awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom
- “In seeking truth you have to get both sides of a story.”
- “Our job is only to hold up the mirror – to tell and show the public what has happened.”
- There is no such thing as a little freedom. Either you are all free, or you are not free.”
- “I can’t imagine a person becoming a success who doesn’t give this game of life everything he’s got.”
- “Putting it as strongly as I can, the failure to give free airtime for our political campaigns endangers our democracy.”
- “We are not educated well enough to perform the necessary act of intelligently selecting our leaders.”
- “Objective journalism and an opinion column are about as similar as the Bible and Playboy magazine.”
- “The battle for the airwaves cannot be limited to only those who have the bank accounts to pay for the battle and win it.”
- “I am dumbfounded that there hasn’t been a crackdown with the libel and slander laws on some of these would-be writers and reporters on the Internet.”
- “America’s health care system is neither healthy, caring, nor a system.”
- “From Dallas, Texas, the flash apparently official: President Kennedy died at 1 p.m. Central Standard Time, 2:00 Eastern Standard Time, some 38 minutes ago.”
- “And that’s the way it is.”
- American Legends: The Life of Walter Cronkite. Charles River Editors, San Bernadino, CA. 2015. This is a 34-page, digitally published, brief overview of Cronkite’s life.
- Brinkley, Douglas. Cronkite. Harper Collins, New York. 2012. Hailed as the definitive biography of Cronkite – over 800 pages.
- Cloud, Stanley and Lynne Olson. The Murrow Boys / Pioneers on the Front Lines of Broadcast Journalism. Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston. 1996.
- Cronkite, Walter. A Reporter’s Life / Walter Cronkite. Alfred A. Knopf, New York. 1996. Cronkite’s autobiography. Readers will hear Cronkite’s voice come through as he tells his own story, his way. (Also available in audio format read by Cronkite.)
- Cronkite, Walter and Don Carleton. Conversations with Cronkite. Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX. 2010. This material was collected during the completion of Conkite’s autobiography and supplements it well.
- Gates, Gary Paul. Air Time / The Inside Story of CBS News. Harper & Row, New York. 1978. A fascinating look at the lives and behind the scenes stories of CBS’s top reporters.
- James, Doug. Walter Cronkite / His Life and Times. J M Press, Brentwood, TN. 1991. An homage to Cronkite revised from the author’s doctoral dissertation with interviews of several Cronkite contemporaries.
- Mickelson, Sig. The Decade That Shaped Television News. Praeger, Westport, CT. 1998. The author was the first president of CBS News and explains the rise of TV news as a cultural force.