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A Reporter's Life Paperback – October 28, 1997

3.9 out of 5 stars 79 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Cronkite's prose has the same stately cadences as that famous voice, reinforcing the grandfatherly persona that made him America's most trusted anchorman until his retirement in 1981. He also has a dry sense of humor, so his memoirs are dignified rather than pompous. Chapters on the early days of radio and television broadcasting are colorful; the more episodic later portions contain some good anecdotes, plus a frank account of Cronkite's dismay at the direction CBS News took under Van Gordon Sauter. Just the book you'd expect from Uncle Walter. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Written with wry, self-deprecating humor, Cronkite's memoir gives us the veteran TV newscaster at his most relaxed and ingratiating as he recounts dozens of his scoops: for example, tracking down and interviewing Takeo Yoshikawa, the Japanese spy who was strategic to the attack on Pearl Harbor, and Daniel Ellsberg when he was in hiding after stealing the Pentagon's secret Vietnam War plans (the Pentagon Papers). Tough-minded, Missouri-born Cronkite, who apprenticed on Houston papers, has been eyewitness to, or participant in, many of the century's momentous events. As United Press war correspondent, he covered D-Day, the Allied air war and the Nuremberg trial. He joined CBS as a Korean War correspondent, and as CBS Evening News anchor for almost two decades (he retired in 1981, pushed out, he says, by a new management more interested in infotainment than substance), he reported on the civil rights movement, NASA's first moon walk, the John Kennedy assassination, freedom struggles in South Africa. Peppered with personal encounters with presidents from FDR to Nixon, plus close-ups of Nazi Hermann Goring, Douglas MacArthur, Castro, Begin and many others, Cronkite's crisp narrative charts the metamorphosis of network television into the defining medium of American consciousness. He also lets loose brickbats on the contemporary scene, bemoaning the "ridiculously small" volume of television news and the superficial quality of political coverage ("The debates are a part of the unconscionable fraud that our political campaigns have become, and it is a wonder that the networks continue to cooperate in their presentation"). Photos not seen by PW. BOMC main selection. Available on cassette and CD from Random House Audio. (Dec.) FYI: On November 4, the date this review is appearing, Cronkite celebrates his 80th birthday.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; 1st Ballantine Books Ed edition (October 28, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 034541103X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345411037
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (79 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #737,671 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on November 29, 2000
Format: Paperback
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.
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Format: Hardcover
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.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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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Format: Hardcover
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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