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Cronkite Hardcover – May 29, 2012
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“With the style and precision worthy of his subject, Douglas Brinkley’s biography of the late Walter Cronkite gives the icon his due. . . . A keen, fair-minded book.” (The San Francisco Chronicle)
“Walter Cronkite exemplified the glorious age of trusted journalism. In this deeply researched and brilliantly analytic biography, Douglas Brinkley captures his essence. He treats Cronkite as not just an icon, but as a real human with passions, loves, and occasional enmities. It’s a fascinating and valuable tale.” (Walter Isaacson)
“Douglas Brinkley’s absorbing and well-researched book recaptures the high solstice of American television journalism and the man who most exemplified that moment. It also illuminates, behind the scenes, a Walter Cronkite that millions of Americans thought they knew, but, as Brinkley’s book now shows us, didn’t.” (Michael Beschloss)
“Exhaustively researched and beautifully written, Cronkite is a classic. Douglas Brinkley has written his best book yet. This is a fascinating story that will be read for years to come.” (Debby Applegate)
“In this absorbing and sensitively-written biography, Douglas Brinkley has captured not only the life and momentous decades of a uniquely American legend, but also the heartbeat of a nation in its times of both triumph and tragedy.” (Ronald Steel)
“This sweeping narrative of Walter Cronkite’s life is irresistibly told, beautifully written, and deeply researched. Douglas Brinkley has produced one trustworthy biography after another, each one commanding widespread respect and admiration. And this is one of the very best.” (Doris Kearns Goodwin)
“The personal and professional life of Walter Cronkite is an American treasure - and we should all be grateful to Douglas Brinkley for telling it so well.” (Tom Brokaw)
“A sweeping and masterful biography.” (Newsweek)
“A superb biography. . . . If only we had Walter Cronkite today.” (Tina Brown, Newsweek)
“Cronkite’s career has vast scope, and cumulative effect of this book is illuminating, not only about the man himself but also about the way he filtered history for a nation.” (Janet Maslin, The New York Times)
“An ambitious and deeply researched biography. . . . Cronkite magically transports the reader to a bygone era. . . . Recounted here in detail, with scholarly grasp and smooth narrative flow, are the familiar milestones and more obscure regions of Cronkite’s life.” (The Boston Globe)
“Informed, wide-ranging, clear, accessible. . . . This richly detailed and impeccably researched biography brings you into a vivid life,. . . . A thorough, even-handed and illuminating work that goes beyond image and myth about the broadcast legend for a full, frank and fascinating portrait.” (Newsday)
“A tremendous read. . . . Brinkley’s book brings this man intimately to light, in all his petty maneuvers and all his grandeur. I gobbled up every page.” (Robert MacNeil, The Washington Post)
From the Back Cover
For decades, Walter Cronkite was known as "the most trusted man in America." Millions across the nation welcomed him into their homes, first as a print reporter for the United Press on the front lines of World War II, and later, in the emerging medium of television, as a host of numerous documentary programs and as anchor of the CBS Evening News, from 1962 until his retirement in 1981. Yet this very public figure, undoubtedly the twentieth century's most revered journalist, was a remarkably private man; few know the full story of his life. Drawing on unprecedented access to Cronkite's private papers as well as interviews with his family and friends, Douglas Brinkley now brings this American icon into focus as never before.
Brinkley traces Cronkite's story from his roots in Missouri and Texas through the Great Depression, during which he began his career, to World War II, when he gained notice reporting with Allied troops from North Africa, D-day, and the Battle of the Bulge. In 1950, Edward R. Murrow recruited him to work for CBS, where he covered presidential elections, the space program, Vietnam, and the first televised broadcasts of the Olympic Games, as both a reporter and later as an anchor for the evening news. Cronkite was also witness to—and the nation's voice for—many of the most profound moments in modern American history, including the Kennedy assassination, Apollos 11 and 13, Watergate, the Vietnam War, and the Iran hostage crisis.
Epic, intimate, and masterfully written, Cronkite is the much-anticipated biography of an extraordinary American life, told by one of our most brilliant and respected historians.
Top Customer Reviews
Brinkley, in his plodding, turgid prose, depicts Walter as a drunk, petty, over-ambitious person, willing to do anything the Black Rock suits wanted. His constant references to Walter and drinking are startling. I saw Walter with a glass in his hand many, many times in many different places all over the country and overseas. I never, ever thought for a moment that he drank too much.
No one who knew him would ever think he was petty. He was warm, friendly and generous. He was the most competitive person I ever knew and the most demanding boss I ever had. But that's what made him Walter Cronkite and that's what made CBS News in that era the best TV news organization ever. Don't confuse those qualities with excessive ambition.
Brinkley needs a good fact checker. This book is chock-full of so many errors that I have to seriously question his reputation as an eminent historian. There seems to be an error on nearly every page or two, all of them minor and of little significance, but they are factual errors nevertheless. He misidentifies people and mixes up job descriptions and historical facts so often that I just shook my head. This is really sloppy work.
A few examples:
- Brinkley fails to mention Harry Reasoner in his list of potential rivals for Cronkite to succeed Douglas Edwards as the Evening News anchor in 1962. More than a few people thought that Harry was the number one alternative.
- Brinkley says that Charles Kuralt started the fabulous "On The Road" series in 1967 to capitalize on his popularity as the first anchor of the "CBS Sunday News Magazine." I don't remember any program by that name. He probably means "Sunday Morning," but that program didn't go on the air until 1979.
- Brinkley correctly says Daniel Schorr was one of the CBS News correspondents reporting on the Watergate scandal but he says Dan was posted at the Pentagon at the time. Huh? Schorr was never the Pentagon correspondent.
Many, many little errors like that are maddening to anyone who was there during those years.
Brinkley does get into the under-reported saga of the bad blood between Cronkite and Dan Rather but his analysis is wrong. It makes Walter seem merely like a broken has-been, a bitter old man who instigated and perpetuated this very real feud. In truth, it was the moody, volatile Rather and his acolytes who purged CBS News of all things Cronkite, humiliating him, insulting him at every opportunity and turning their backs on this great period in the history of CBS News, something they never came close to matching. It should not be forgotten that Rather was stuck in third place for most of his tenure and no one ever called him "the most trusted man in America."
Brinkley seems to go out of his way to make Cronkite the villain, to make him look bad during those unpleasant years. As Walter might have said: "That's not the way it was."
Save your money and don't bother.
But beware: this is not the quality of book one ever would expect to have been produced by a professional historian and writer, especially one with Brinkley's reputation. It is jarring and disappointing to think that Brinkley; his publisher; his associates; and Cronkite's family and influential admirers would let this extraordinarily sloppy book be published in its current state. Brinkley and his publisher have made a terrible mistake by releasing this book prematurely. That respected reviewers lead the book-buying public to believe the book is ready for prime time is an insult to both Cronkite and the reader.
This book is the most poorly edited biography I ever have read. It smacks of having been thrown together to meet a deadline. Opinion routinely is stated as fact (eg, "Brokaw of NBC News, as always, cut to the core of Cronkite adeptly"). Writing is sloppy (eg, "No television correspondent had covered civil rights or went after Nixon with more doggedness."). Nonsensical assertions abound (eg, "Cronkite's death was a national embarrassment because of how badly TV journalism had fared in his absence.") Proofreading is haphazard (eg, "Silver Seas" instead of Silversea). Non-sequitors are littered throughout (eg, "With an extra-high regard for scientists and professors, he visited the far reaches of the planet, trying to learn about the historic world..."). Wording is sometimes nonsensical ("and a colorful look at Mars photographs taken by Viking spacecraft in the 1970s"). Extraneous information unnecessarily diverts the reader (eg, "To Amanpour, just back in New York from Afghanistan [where she filmed the documentary Generation Islam about the lives of young Muslims]. Cronkite's life wasn't about anchoring the CBS News..." )
The book screams for a final edit. Until and unless it gets one, I give it an F for publication quality.