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on November 29, 2000
I've always regarded Walter Cronkite simply a news-writer/wire service reporter/voice-over narrater/anchorman-presenter. I think he purposely reflects this same idea in his title, A REPORTER'S LIFE -- nothing more, nothing less. His memoir is written similiary in a frank, concise, matter-of-fact style, and is unpretentious (most mercifully). A blue-collar reporter; I was born, went to school here, got a job at the local paper there, went overseas and covered the war, did some radio work, went to TV, retired, and here's what I think of network news today... (That's all). Don't look for any insights or deep introspections. For instance; I was truly interested to know his thoughts, feelings, and dealings with Ed Murrow and The Boys, and how he won CBS news from them. Walt only devoted 2 short paragraphs bascially saying: They were editorialists, and I was more front page news. (That's it?) How about working with Eric Severide? A sentence here, another one there. (Yep, that's it).
The first half of the book is devoted to Walt growing up, working in newspapers, becoming a wire service reporter, and covering the war in Europe. This is some good stuff. Again, nothing intensive, but interesting. The second half of the book is about his television career with CBS. If you grew up watching Walt during this time, well -- there's not many surprises. He repeats how he choked up announcing JFK's death, calling the Vietnam War to be a lost cause, learning of LBJ's death with a phone call live on the air, watching Dan Rather getting slugged (woohoo!) at the Democratic Convention, etc. In the last chapter Walt gives his views on the state of network news and how it can be improved. To me, it was kind of sad. He doesn't fully appreciate or understand that it's dead. Yes, he gives some credit to the alternative news sources and how they're contributing to the demise of network news; but with all the 24 hour cable news channels, satellite TV, 2 channels of CSPAN; and the NY Times, Washington Post, BBC, foreign newspapers, and wire services on the Internet -- why would anyone want to suffer under the 3 network Ted Baxters we have now?
All in all, it is a light, entertaining, and enjoyable read. It's like sitting with a favorite, jovial uncle at the dinner table, while he recounts his life's adventures.
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In a fascinating and thought-provoking autobiography (1996), Walter Cronkite reflects on his career in journalism, from the earliest days in which he listened to radio on a crystal set, through his own participation in world events as a television journalist. Without the ego one usually associates with newscaster-celebrities, Cronkite gives the history of journalism--radio, newspapers, news syndicates, and television--by giving anecdotes from his own long career, always showing what he learned from his mistakes (which he is remarkably candid and often humorous in describing), and giving ample credit to the people who helped him. His thoughtful observations about the impact of television and its negative effects on voting participation, along with his predictions for the future of this country, offer a broader perspective and warning about our national vision.

Cronkite's sense of excitement about journalism is obvious from the earliest days of his career, when he used brief, coded teletype messages to invent play-by-play accounts of football games for his radio audience. By career's end, he was participating in world events, his interview with Anwar Sadat and its follow-up bringing Sadat to Israel in a precedent-setting meeting with Menachim Begin and an eventual peace treaty. As he takes the reader step-by-step through this career, he describes his goals as a young man, his earliest jobs at local newspapers and radio stations, his work with United Press, his press responsibilities overseas during World War II, his work in Russia, and his early foray into television, when other serious journalists were avoiding this medium.

The landmark TV coverage of the 1952 political conventions opened the eyes of the country to how the political system worked in reality. The Nixon and Kennedy interviews in 1960 (and Theodore White's book, The Making of the President), show the power of television to affect outcomes. He gives candid, personal insights into various Presidents, from Franklin Delano Roosevelt through George Bush Senior, including fascinating insights into Eisenhower (far more aware of issues than often thought), JFK (with whom he had mixed experiences), and Jimmy Carter (in his view, the most intelligent President).

It is Cronkite's candor and his ability to see himself as a facilitator of communication, rather than as an ego-driven reporter looking for the landmark "scoop," that makes this autobiography so compelling. When, in his conclusion, he modestly offers his own observations about the end of the twentieth century, based on his experience, the reader pays attention. Mincing no words, Cronkite describes the social, political, and economic evolutions taking place around the world and their potential as revolutions, warning, "They have man's dreams on their side. We don't want to be on the other side." Elegantly written, this is a landmark book in the history of journalism. n Mary Whipple
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on July 5, 2013
I began this book eager to read about "Uncle Walter," in his own words as he was so much a part of my life and probably influenced my decision to become a broadcast journalist. This book did not do it for me. I discovered that I was not interested in his modest Mid-western childhood, his romance with his high school sweetheart and his start as an ersatz radio sports reporter. If you're interested in such details, they are here. It's possible that I was disappointed in this book because it undermined my image of Cronkite as a true journalist whose medium just happened to be television. What I found was an overblown ego who took more credit for his own and his colleagues' success than I'd hoped. Chalk up one bubble burst. Maybe I was naive. What? A TV anchor with an overblown ego?
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on May 6, 2005
This is an engaging biography by the CBS journalist/broadcaster who was once called "the most trusted man in America." The book pretty much matches Cronkite's TV image; decent, fatherly, and surprisingly modest.

Cronkite recalls his boyhood in Missouri (he was born in 1916) and Texas, his early reportorial days, and his long career with CBS radio and television. Cronkite also takes a long look at U.S. history during the post-war period, including the end of World War II, the Cold War, Civil Rights, Vietnam, etc. He also devotes strong attention (and opinions) to America's Presidents in that era. Most would consider Cronkite politically centrist, but some conservatives (including TV's mythical Archie Bunker) despised his pro-UN, and eventual anti-Vietnam view. Readers get a feel for what it's like to have access to the high and mighty, as well as the sense that politicians see reporters as people to be used for their ends. Cronkite also reveals such personal issues as his family life, and his love for race cars and speed.

This is an informative and engaging read, yet a bit shallow for one who moved in the constellations of power. Perhaps that comes from the author's status as America's anchorman, a task requiring one to strive to be calm, level and centered.
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on May 19, 2006
To live the life of Walter Cronkite is to live a thousand years. For nearly half a decade Walter Cronkite served as the voice of reason to millions of Americans who looked to his print, radio, and television reports for information and reassurance. This autobiography covers the life of Walter Cronkite from his early life as a lowly radio announcer to his ultimate stand at the pinnacle of journalism.

As usual, Cronkite's wit is second-to-none and comes through clearly in his prose. Still, he never pulls punches and minces no words regarding the multitude of famous and powerful men and women he met along the way. His engrained honesty and objectivity is a refreshing look to when journalism was an honest art, plagued not by corporate sponsorship.

Cronkite's work not only serves as an interesting look at "Cronkite, the man," but is a work of modern American history, written by the man who lived and reported it all. For a readable, enjoyable look at Cronkite's America, "A Reporter's Life" is one of the best.
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on February 12, 2016
I have been looking for this recording for years - it's amazing to hear Walter's stories in his own voice. I rented this from my local library almost 20 years ago and hadn't seen it available anywhere since.
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on September 30, 2014
cronkite really places the listener into the life of a child who started out as a paper boy, to getting a job at a local paper, covering world warII, and many other aspects of his life to his crowning achievement as news anchor for cbs. The thing that really adds to this book for me is the reading by cronkite himself.
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on July 16, 2014
Don't buy the biographies when you can get this book straight from Cronkite! It's a charming book and loaded with at least a half century of history from one who was there! I didn't want to put it down.I liked it so much that I have given it to friends who are interested in the history of the times.....and in learning some interesting things about his life.
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on February 21, 2013
Informative and interesting "documentary" style book of a fascinating commentator and memborable "personality". A good bookclub selection. A window on an important era of journalism.
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This book contains the memoirs of Walter Cronkite, pioneering television journalist. Cronkite begins by describing his childhood briefly, noting that even as a youngster, he was pulled to journalism. He credits a volunteer journalism teacher in his high school for introducing him to the rigors of print journalism, but once started, he was hooked. It was this teacher who taught him the prime importance of getting the facts correct, a value that he would hold primary throughout his career. As a high school student, Cronkite competed in statewide journalistic writing tournaments, and won. After high school, he enrolled in college for a while, but decided that pulling in an income was more important than getting a degree (this was during the Great Depression), a decision which he later came to regret. On a lark, he landed a radio news announcer job in Oklahoma City. Later, he worked for UPI, where he honed his collating and rewriting skills under pressure of constant deadlines. The experience from all of these jobs was to prove invaluable later when he landed a job announcing the news on CBS television. Cronkite was not only one of the first early TV news broadcasters, but the word `news anchorman' was even invented just to describe what he did (or so he claims).

In this book, Cronkite reminisces not only about his career, but also about the big news stories of day. He discusses how television came to play a strong role in politics, starting with the 1952 party conventions, which were the first to be televised. He enumerates the presidents he has known, from Hoover through George Bush, senior, and he compares the effectiveness of each, as well as their relations with the media. He analyzes the forces behind the fateful American build-up in Vietnam, and the eventual pull-out. He also relates how he inadvertedly became involved in negotiating peace between Egypt and Israel. All in all, his tales are fascinating. I usually find political discussion hideously tiresome, but Cronkite manages to make even politics interesting.
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