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RIP Walter Cronkite

CBS is reporting that its former news anchor Walter Cronkite has died at 92. The face of CBS News from 1962 to 1981, Cronkite was one of the most famous and beloved television journalists in the history of the medium, reporting on everything from John F. Kennedy's assassination to the moon landing to Watergate and the Iranian hostage crisis during his tenure there. His kind, avuncular demeanor earned him the nickname "Uncle Walter," and he was long cited in viewer opinion polls as "the most trusted man in America."

Cronkite got his start in newspapers before moving into radio broadcasting. In 1937, he joined the United Press and soon found himself in the thick of World War II, where he was one of the few embedded reporters to accompany soldiers on bombing raids. Afterward he covered the Nuremberg trials and worked the UP's Moscow desk before being recruited by Edward R. Murrow to work in the growing medium of television at CBS. In 1952, the network first coined the term "anchor" to describe Cronkite's role in covering the Democratic and Republican conventions. After that, he hosted the history shows You Are There and The Twentieth Century before taking over for Douglas Edwards in the CBS Evening News chair in 1962; when it expanded to 30 minutes in 1963, Cronkite achieved another landmark, becoming the face of America's first half-hour nightly news program.

Known for his trademark "And that's the way it is" sign-off, Cronkite always kept a sober, even keel in his reporting, training himself to speak slowly so viewers could better understand him, and famously keeping his composure even while reporting difficult stories like the death of the President. (He was so respected across partisan lines that, when Cronkite opined during the Tet Offensive that he believed the Vietnam War to be unwinnable, Lyndon Johnson reportedly said, "If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost Middle America.") He left the CBS chair as gracefully as he commanded it, retiring in 1981 with the admonition, "Old anchormen, you see, don't fade away. They just keep coming back for more." Indeed, Cronkite kept working until his death, providing special reports for CBS, CNN, and NPR, doing extensive voiceover work for everything from Disney attractions to Apollo 13, writing a syndicated opinion column, and participating in numerous political causes, including campaigning for free airtime for politicians and speaking out against the Iraq War. He will be missed.

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