Cronkite died Friday at the age of 92.
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Howard Kurtz sat down with some of Cronkite's former colleagues on Reliable Sources Sunday to discuss what Cronkite meant to journalism.
Don Hewitt, creator of CBS's 60 Minutes and former executive producer of CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite, has dealt with many of the biggest stars in journalism. He said he never had to massage Cronkite's ego. "He never got full of himself. America was full of Walter Cronkite. Walter was very modest about himself and maybe the best news guy I ever worked with."
Susan Zirinsky, currently the executive producer of CBS's 48 Hours, was 19 when she joined CBS News.
"I was in college and obviously most people are dating. I was going to garages around Washington thinking we could find 'Deep Throat.' I was staking out the attorney general of the United States. Quite frankly I didn't care about dating because I was on 'team Walter' somewhere. How great was that?"
By 1974, Zirinsky had worked her way up to a researcher, and when President Nixon retired on August 8th of that year, Zirinsky picked Cronkite's script out of the trash can in order to "have history in my hands."
"I felt like Walter took us through moments of history and this was part of history."
CBS Chief Washington Correspondent Bob Schieffer joined in the discussion before heading off to host his own CBS show Face the Nation.
He spoke about what set his CBS colleague apart: "Number one, he just loved the news. Number two, he let nothing get in the way of the news. With Walter, the news always came first. The CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite was about news. It was not about Walter Cronkite. People understood that. He came through to people. The other part, Howie, and the part that I think was most important, Walter was just the same off camera as he was on camera," Schieffer said.
Schieffer said Cronkite was as competitive as anyone in terms of getting the story first.
“He loved a scoop and loved no scoop better than when it was his scoop. He thought broadcasting was about getting the news...With him it was just finding out what happened. That was what drove Walter Cronkite. It wasn't ideology or some sort of an agenda. He just wanted to find out and find out before other people. He was the most curious person I have ever known. If Walter saw a car wreck, it would be the first car wreck he had ever seen in his life, he'd want to know all about it. He'd want to check it out. He was amazing."
Bernard Shaw worked for and with Cronkite as a CBS Correspondent in the early to mid 1970s before becoming a CNN anchor, but their relationship dates back to the early 1960s.
"He was very, very tough, but that was part of the CBS culture. Reporters coming into the bureau, rookies, we had a responsibility and we had standards to live up to and to uphold. Cronkite and I go back to when I was in the Marine Corps, 1961 in Hawaii, and I called his hotel 34 times and he returned my call. We had a lobby meeting. He could only spare 20 minutes because he and Betsy [Cronkite's wife] had a formal [event] that night. Twenty minutes elapsed to 40 minutes. We were friends ever since."
Kurtz asked the panel of Cronkite's former colleagues if they were ever intimidated working for him.
Connie Chung, former co-anchor of the CBS Evening News from 1993-1995, said intimidation was sometimes a factor when filing reports for Cronkite.
"When he had the title of managing editor of the CBS Evening News, and he took that very seriously and we took it seriously because he literally looked at our reports and edited them, and he would call us and, you know, find - ask us questions about our report to make sure that they - that the reports were accurate...Afterwards there was one key thing that Walter always did. If he liked your report, he called you up and said 'that was a great report, you did a good job.' No matter where you were in the world, he would find the time, pick up the phone, and give you an 'atta boy.'"
Kurtz, who interviewed Cronkite in 2003, offered his own insight into the difference between the Cronkite era and the current media culture.
"One of the reason Cronkite loomed so large is most people don't trust the media these days. A lot of self-inflicted wounds in the news business, and Cronkite reigned in an era when journalists could be trusted, still that sense of journalists got it right, tried to get it right. Things are different today."