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tv   Q A  CSPAN  June 3, 2012 11:00pm-12:00am EDT

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-- c-span digital library. >> this week on "q & a," author and historian douglas brinkley biography of long-time cbs news anchor walter cronkite, titled, caught "cronkite."
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cronkite clan." it. his son lives in new york. he liked it. there are mainly positive things about walter cronkite in the book. i felt good about it. she could not have been more a real plus. when allthey have kids. -- when they have kids. othey took on a full life and times of the father. >> he talked to a lot of people in the media business. was this exclusive to you? >> yes. >> he was always open for business. he never grew bitter or unapproachable. he got up every morning knowing who he was. dan rather will cut try to decide who he would be that day. rather did not have a clue. >> tom brokaw and walter cronkite formed a great
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relationship. we think of the two tv anchor people, brokaw and cronkite very some ominous. cronkite knew you had to have sharp elbows. he worked very hard. he was always authentic to his midwestern roots. he is from missouri and grew up in texas. he kept his clock in central time. it is a different animal altogether. cronkite was a little more like tom brokaw. >> dan rather was the second most quoted in terms of meetings. why did he talk to you so much? >> he was helpful because cronkite did not like him. he knew that cronkite did not like him.
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dan laid down a lot of interesting tracks for me. both have stories for disdain. it all stems back to edward r. murrow. he saw him as the last of the murrow boys. cronkite regretted stepping down as the cbs anchor man and turning it over to rather. the rather regime when cold shoulder to cronkite. there is not a warm way of keeping him on. cronkite floundered. he had a show called "universe" that not many people remember about science and oceanography. it was a good show but did not get ratings. cronkite was griping about rather. rather did not do anything to extend a role. cronkite became an old man in a way. it festered. there are many reasons why that relationship never worked. cronkite admired rather's
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journalism during the kennedy assassination. he knew what a good investigative reporter was, but he did not think he had the right personality to go into the public every day like he did. >> with tom brokaw, he said he never grew better. then i read one line you wrote when talking about the gulf war. he turned bitter. there are other references to how bitter he was about dan rather. why the difference between mr. brokaw? >> tom is a friend of walter cronkite. different generations. both incidently, brokaw and cronkite, really looked up to the soldiers of world war ii and troops in general.
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tom brokaw knows the social walter cronkite very well. they would go out to eat and the kentucky derby once. tom's wife meredith models how you survive with a husband traveling all the time. he knew the funny walter cronkite. there is the new regime. he thought he would be able to hang around cbs in the 1980's and 1990's and they did not have a role for him. brokaw said he always had to be the top dog. he is very darwinian. that comes across in my research. with walter cronkite, people only see him as the friendly man, which he was, but there is another side of him that wanted
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to be the best. he was obsessed with ratings. he is a fierce competitor that i have written about, and that includes presidents and generals. his desire to be the best was very pronounced. >> you talked to a nixon aide chuck colson. >> he was very nice. he was a very repentant pro- nixon person. he was embarrassed when i read to him transcripts of white house tapes about walter cronkite. he was the pit bull of richard nixon. colson was on to the idea that they had to bring down the power of the big three. they liked cronkite. nixon personally liked walter
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cronkite personally. it really spoke for the entire state. if you can get walter cronkite, it was the liberal media. it became quite a square off between cronkite and the nixon administration, particularly chuck colson. as i quote in the book, he was interested in bringing cronkite down. >> here's a piece of video from a 1997 video with cronkite. >> in the middle of an explanation, what was coming down from the floor when a producer would come in and say go to mike wallace. he has the delegation. the carolina delegation did not have anything to do with that story at the moment. he made a very good story but it did not fit with the flow of what we were doing. i was saying "later, later." as a consequence, it the poor guys on the floor was some senator would not able to hold onto a very long. did they think they have a really hot story. i am trying to keep the flow going. i was considered a lens hog. >> he was.
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he light camera time. he became known as an amazing reporter covering the war in world war ii. was it the nuremberg trials? he was in moscow. he eventually came to 1950 in
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washington d.c. he did not get to go to korea. that is where you made your name. he was shoved in a closet on camera. he started breaking through in a new medium of television. people not remember what he said. they would recognize you. we loved seeing you. you could have been on a game show or the morning show or the nightly news.
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the intellectual substance went away when people recognize you as a visual. cronkite recognized that and always claimed the air time. that was the top dog. sometimes he would filibuster throughout live events. he also learned to be quiet. if you watch him during the space events, he paused. he also had a theatrical sense. he would say "golly gee" or something as serious person would see. he started talking to what he thought the hearts and minds of the american people, the average american, was thinking. he kept at a great bond with people.
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even when you ran that clip, his voice is very soothing. he made a bit of a self- deprecating joke. he admitted his own flaw, that he was an air hog. it was hard to find people that did not personally like him. >> here is a clip. [video clip] >> when my contract was up, i had an offer to go elsewhere and talk about it to my superior. they asked me if you would be one of the two successors to walter cronkite. they ask me if i was prepared to double anchor. you bet. their vision thought the succession to walter cronkite might be dan rather and roger mudd in washington. i was told a day or two after
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that that they had talked to roger about it and he had declined to do that. not with any hostility but he just said no. it was said to me that his belief was he was entitled to be the successor and expected to be the successor and wanted to do it alone. >> what did you learn from roger mudd? >> the question was who was going to replace walter cronkite in 1981. he was beloved. back then, it was retirement age at 65. walter cronkite decided to go out at the top of his game. he wanted to enjoy life.
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there was a big fight going on. do you pick roger mudd or dan rather? cronkite sided with picking rather because of this foreign experience. he believes in the foreign correspondents. roger mudd had a family and did not go to vietnam. he rejected serving in vietnam as a reporter. he made his name doing largely civil-rights and capital washington reports. cronkite said he regretted it later. i write movingly after talking to roger mudd about mudd and cronkite's up and down relationship. the head honcho at cbs, after cronkite did a lack luster performance in san francisco, pulled cronkite from doing the atlantic city democratic convention of lyndon b. johnson. there was a duo to compete with brinkley. cronkite thought mudd was tried
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to take his spot. their relationship had a lot of ups and downs. it was very moving at the end of their lives. mudd was working at the history channel. his hearing was failing. at the end, cronkite almost tearfully said "you are a good man." they healed that relationship. >> he was born and raised in
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missouri. it was the hub of the pony express. his father was a dentist. he came from a family of dentists, german and dutch ancestry. in his early years, 1916-1927, he worked in the trolley system. it becomes a hallmark of his life. he is obsessed with transportation. it is one of his many interests. why he is a reporter is his curiosity about how things work. he sold "liberty" magazine. they loaded up in the car in 1927 and they moved to houston to the montrose neighborhood. in 1927, texas was a dust bowl. houston because of the port and no banks closed their. it was a pretty good move by the
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cronkites. it was a jim crow city. they encountered a lot of racism. his father is into practice did not work out. he was at a dental college. he had some personnel problems. his father started drinking heavily. eventually they got a divorce. walter is the only child raised by his mother in houston. his father moved back to missouri. cronkite got an early interest in journalism and high school. they started have in journalism classes. today that does shot people. in the 1930's, it was unusual. cronkite started competing. it was all about the five ws of journalism, who, what, when, where, and why. he wrote for school newspapers.
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due to a girlfriend staying in houston, he enrolled in the university of texas at austin. he got deeply involved with the school paper. he wanted to be an engineer for a while, hoping he could get rich. he realized he had no acumen for serious engineering work so he drifted into journalism because it paid. he got jobs working with the wire services and famously later the u.p. he began his journalism in earnest back in kansas city, missouri. in texas, all his papers are at ut and he claimed it as his alma mater in though he dropped out. he started doing u.p. stories in the mid 1930's. they would have him go around. he helped open a station in el paso. he did sports announcing.
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he was just like reagan in the cubs. perhaps do ad lib. a lot of odd work. in overton, texas, he got national notoriety because over 230 students were blown up in a tragedy.
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he is all the charred bodies of children. he ran to a pay phone and call in to cbs radio and got his voice heard for the first time. he tried other jobs. he even worked for an airline for a while. he got drawn back to u.p. after getting all these clippings, he goes to new york after world war one begins. he was color blind so he could not go into the military. he could not fly planes. he tried to. east have uniform he would wear. he was put on assignment in europe. he embedded with the eighth air force with our bomber pilots that would do the missions. he goes from that and works as cbs after the war in stays with cbs all the way up until his death.
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he was getting some sort of check from cbs. >> when i read tim brokaw he is not bitter, you wrote cronkite exaggerated his pacifism to emphasize is quaker-like aversion to war. now he hopes to join the army
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air corps. those are two different messages. >> the army air corps had no guns. there were not allowed to carry a weapon. he was openhanded. he could go into enemy territory and never carry a weapon. however, he was in an airplane on a bombing mission over germany and had to take over the gun and fire it around. cronkite is not someone you'd ever glamorizes world war ii heroics. he would often say i was a coward. his love of liberation, he understood the dutch people were starving. he was never somebody who glamorized war or thought he was going to be and ernie pyle. his best friends developed during this time, andy rooney. they worked together for a long time. rooney was acerbic. walter was always very humorous
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and generous with people. they were completely different. >> where did your idea to get this book start? >> we always watched the vietnam war on television. we were a cronkite family. there is a picture of me anchoring in six grade rhymes say my favorite person as walter cronkite i was at a book festival. i had to drive from new orleans to that region. i had read this book "the powers that be." he is what my favorite writers
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of history. i liked what he did. he's a hero to me. he mentioned that the most influential was walter cronkite. i never thought of that. edward r. murrow was considered in radioed the best. i realize the television had taken over. then i checked with my agent in new york. there's no one doing a big cronkite book. all of his papers had just been donated to the university of texas at the president obama center. he was a great depression pack rat. he saved everything. it is a great archive for me. i go around ani talked to people. i remember the kennedy assassination. did they were in dallas. or this. we were consumers of watching walter cronkite telling us about the assassination. in the cold war, he was our eye witness to his history. it was interesting how people got their information, there are many places that only got one network, like cbs. people grow up with walter cronkite. he was sustainable because people did not get tired of him. you pay your ticket. you see one movie. you go home.
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you might catch a movie a year later. walter cronkite was every day. you had to be comfortable. his cadence and ability, he did not irritate people. he would talk clearly to people and decisively. wille 1960's and 1970's people lost trust with government and they were angry with nixon and johnson, there is a lot of chaos. people trusted cronkite. >> most of your interviews were in 2011. you had been as late as march of this year. what was the total amount of time spent on the book? how were you able to keep it open? >> i have my ways with
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harpercollins. it is easier should print a book now than ever before. when i get into a book and my curiosity goes, i was trying to get interviews with a lot of big people. they have busy schedules. others i had to keep peppering. >> who? >> i got to talk to everyone i went after. i never got to diane sawyer. barbara walters and ted turner i interviewed. john glenn, and he is the gold standard as far as i'm concerned. he did see i spent a lot of time talking to people collecting stories. my challenge was to keep it pared down. everyone had a couple of great cronkite stories.
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he had a long career. he lived into his 90's. he knew everybody. he was with all presidents. he was an usher at the democratic and republican conventions of 1928. he defied convention coverage. he was the political maestro. there were so many people to talk to. i got it just in the nick of time. there were others that have died since i started interviewing. they're all in their 80s and 90s. getting to people like jimmy buffett or mickey hart you were great friends, i really wanted to get in an interview as many people as i could of families and friends and adversaries. >> when did he die? >> 2009. >> when you began your book tour, the first review i saw, i am going to read the headline
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and first paragraph. >> he dents his halo. an unconscionable shading of a story. how much has changed in america's new story. this is by a man named howard kurtz. let me read the first paragraph. unbeknownst to the billions to tune and religiously to the cbs news, walter cronkite cut a deal with pan am to fly his family to vacation spots around the world. what did you think of the headline in the first paragraph? >> when people call your book masterful, you say "thank you howard kurtz."
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what he did was tell you how the new standards change. cronkite could pretty much do what he wanted. it was a boy's club. it was difficult to break it up. when he was in world war ii, it was all about the propaganda machine, we're going to win the war together. cronkite was slow to change to that. he stayed with what ever the boys' club was.
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he was friends with pan am and the top executive. i deserve a little r and r. it was a mistake. all the points he mentioned are in the book. i consider them our mistakes. i am trying to write a real biography. i think the line was what he had a halo. how many people in life had a low? when you do a full biography, may you will see the high and lows. cronkite was not meanspirited. he endures as a great journalist. look at john f. kennedy. could he have done things he did in his personal life and?
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it was blurred a little more. you had a little group of people controlling washington. it was not the internet era. >> i came to realize that the man that once dominated television was more complicated and occasionally more unethical and the legend that surrounds them. >> i would not use the word "unethical" but he was a child of the left. he was a fan of progressive democrats. he camouflaged that because there were many people in the depression. he was always worried about losing his job. he tried to be centered. he liked getting mail from both the right and left. he was able to stay so long as mr. center. as i write about, he always had a bit of a liberal agenda.
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they came there in different ways, not necessarily in headline news. in 1962 when the cbs news went from 15 minutes to 30 minutes, the back end of cbs news started covering civil rights. you can look at it and see the revolution, the great society, a kennedy. it was given play on the evening news. cronkite was not just the anchor, he was the managing editor. he knew how to manage all the reporters. he always back to deep, investigative journalism. that was his forte. people at cbs was tilted to be toward [unintelligible] >> here is your quote. the horror of nixon's continuation of the war tries cronkite to be a left-leaning editorializer. how did he get away with such an over the top commentary.
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i must connect that to chuck colson. they went after cbs. >> cronkite did cbs radio. they forget that because his nightly news was such a ritual. he also did radio reports. the cbs radio, the script writing -- the reports were much more left tilting. one thing they noticed was that cronkite had a mr. center feel, but if you listen to him in the afternoon, his radio reports, johnson listened to cronkite and he said that they would see that cronkite was on their side. colson honed in on that. he was not a fool but he cannot sell that to the american people. they did not want to hear about
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it. he gave them the news. they did not feel like picking on him. he cannot get traction, and the nixon white house, when they were aiming at cronkite. cronkite would give a speech on the defender against the nixon white house. all the reporters would cheer. cronkite would work with the print reporters all the time in the wire service guys. all the other reporters like walter cronkite. he almost became a saint. >> in 2009, here is frank mankiewicz.
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>> he had come back from vietnam. he immediately called me and ask to see robert kennedy. the two of them met. he began by saying you have to run for president. the war is going to end. he said how unlivable it was. we have to give this back at night. the vietnamese may not like it but they will like us less. kennedy said i will run for president if you run for the senate in new york. cronkite labs. i do not live in new york. i live in connecticut. i am not a democrat. i am an independent. i knew he had those feelings about the war. [end video clip]
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>> what would happen the marker rubio win and said you had to run? >> he would not survive because of the blogosphere. he would be seen as a partisan figure. that happen because vietnam tore our country apart in a way afghanistan is not. cronkite was very much pro war. he thought it was a piece that he did about our marines. walter would not change. he said that our troops could do no wrong. he toured vietnam. he came to believe that the
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johnson administration had been lying. other reporters felt that way, too. there was no quick victory. cronkite cast in his chit. they did a special report. walter cronkite said this reporter says it is a stalemate. everything went off. what frank mankiewicz said on your program is that cronkite was so obsessed with getting out of vietnam that he went and asked robert kennedy to run against lyndon b. johnson who was the presumed guy running, because kennedy was against the
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war in vietnam. that tells you how passionate cronkite got against the vietnam war. he was friends with lyndon b. johnson. they were friends back in texas. johnson had only the cbs affiliate in austin. frank stanton, his boss, was one of the closest friends of lyndon johnson. it is seen as the turning moment, it the cronkite moment when he denounced it. it could have gone either way. he started becoming a hero of liberals. >> we had demonstrations in this time. this can along in 68. what proof is there that walter cronkite had that big of an impact on changing things when the war did not end to 73?
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>> i do not think he had that big of an impact. i think it was symbolic. he gave a boost of adrenaline to the new left or to the anti-war movement. it encouraged the dove to say on the attack. it has been over hyped that influence lyndon johnson's decision to not seek reelection. johnson had health problems. this was from the press secretary of lyndon johnson that lbj apparently said if i lost cronkite, i lost the country. that is very hard to document that he precisely said that. he realized that he is losing the mainstream media. he thought of himself as the cbs
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guy. he was treating the anti-war sentiment and not the decision to drop out. i do not think cronkite turned lyndon johnson. >> this is a little long but i'm going to read it. i had a reverence for him and for everything he stood for. after a couple of stiff whiskeys, i asked him if anyone could do what he did back in vietnam after tax. to my disappointment, he gently told me no, there are multitudinous of voices and channels out there today. she was disappointed that he could not do that today. why do people in the media do those kinds of things in the first place? >> cronkite liked her reporting because she did foreign correspondence.
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when he left cbs, they gutted foreign correspondents. that was his prize. she is suggesting that there used to be that journalists could do something for humanity. it goes back to edward r. murrow, of this notion that we have to lose your objectivity in order to talk about a genocide or talk about a reporter. good journalism can shift public policy. i think there is still a hope. edward r. murrow may be long dead. his shadow is all over foreign
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correspondents. they want to get in there and go after the bad guy. >> lets run a clip of edward r. murrow for those who have never seen him. this is from the show that was not exactly taught journalism. >> good evening. the name of the program is a "person to person." >> key is nice. >> he is eight months and two days. >> is he wearing makeup?
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>> he is retired. >> when he found out that a baby was coming, you said if it is a boy he can play moses in the ten commandments. >> this is peter vincent douglas. >> how do you like the hair cut? >> that is something. [video clip] you mentioned that dan rather wanted to be the new edward r. murrow. >> he did not come from much. he had gone into radio. he had him in europe. they started doing a live radio broadcast from europe. it was quite dramatic being in a foreign house in iowa. you are hearing him saying that
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the fire trucks are going up. it was mass communications going into the living room. edward r. murrow became gigantic with this world war ii coverage. americans lived the war through edward r. murrow. he was a good talent scout. they all strove for that. murrow had a in an appeal to reporters. they were part of a sacred tribe that was going to right the world. he saw the bodies of the holocaust. in the '50s, he went after mccarthy on his program. he became disdained by the right and be loved by the left. you are showing his uncomfortableness with television. his heyday was in radio. he did do a great documentary special. this was not made for
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television. it was not his forum. it is interesting how early you're seeing them doing celebrity journalism. cronkite was susceptible to that too. he did later denouncing of entertainment of the news. >> go back to where she says that he gently tell me no, he did not think so.
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there are multitudinous of voices. it is selling like that is a bad thing. >> that is what it is. i think there are reporters that think their megaphone will be big enough that they can do a story. look anderson cooper's coverage of the bp oil spill. he can change the news by getting people to focus on it. i think that is what she meant. the break up came in 1962. when murrow went after him, he focused on military aviation and pro-missiles. he was for america. he became the voice of space. everybody liked space. everyone was pulling for at john glenn and apollo 11. how the space program unified americans was very key.
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>> any kennedy story generated excellent ratings. walter wanted to ride on the kennedy coattails. how much of this was a ratings ploy? >> lots. what happened was the birth of television news and how it affects all of our lives.
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eisenhower was not great ratings. he may have been one of our best presidents but he did not do best ratings. even his farewell address, he was not telegenic. kennedy was telegenic. cronkite taught a course before the 52 convention on how to be telegenic. his press conferences were dynamite. then that mystique that came up, [unintelligible] kennedys do well. it was not as kennedy's for the nightly news, but they have all these other new shows. if you can get an eyewitness, cronkite covered americans interest in yachting and sailing. cronkite does a miraculous job of broadcasting the kennedy assassination to the american people.
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american's associate cronkite with the kennedys. >> at last count, i think barack obama has appeared on 60 minutes 11 times. i do not think anyone else has appeared that many times. their ratings are good. are they giving him a platform? >> 60 minutes is all about ratings. all television is about ratings. >> how much of this is news
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judgment and how much is ratings? >> i have never heard -- he did it in its 80's. he thought this was good. walter cronkite did great work with the discovery channel later and pbs. he liked the diversification leader. he liked the cable world. he was worried about consumers. he thought there should be a class on how not just to teach writing journalism but how you navigate the new world journalism of the internet and cable. how do you find factual information? >> you write about the cbs news of lost years ago. he came here 1994 and talks about a changing moment. [video clip] >> we were taking a walk of
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michigan avenue. we are going to dinner on the near north side. walter said "i have just been approached by a couple of agents and they want me to sign up with them. what do you think?" i said i think you better sign up because we will what you for other engagements. i would rather not negotiate with you directly. i would rather have your agent to negotiate with my agent and we will have a better relationship. he signed up. i did not know that he was going to be in a $4 million category. i knew he was going to become a famous public hero. [end video clip] >> what impact did the agent thing have on television? >> it was gigantic. he was recognized as one of the most recognizable people in the united states.
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they started negotiating contracts. walter cronkite's anger was when barbara walters became the million dollar a year later and he was getting $600, 000 a year. when he left, he was getting paid a million for being on retainer. the kids need to negotiate his contract. a million today sounds small. look at what katie couric's contract was. people get paid hefty salaries. cronkite was the most well paid. money was not always as motivation. it was more if he got so used to be on television he did not complete if he was not on. >> what was the story of mike wallace and dan rather?
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>> mike wallace is a whole other case. he was the toughest interviewer cbs ever had. it is a style of how you interview people. wallace and cronkite had their differences, but they became close in later years. it is called the battle of the bathroom at cbs. it is a long story. rather did "memo gate" about george w. bush in the national guard. there was some sentiment by mike wallace that rather should have just quit and taken the knife. edward r. murrow always said in journalism, be ready to clean your desk out in half an hour. if you make one big mistake he will be gone. rather kept fighting for his job and eventually suing and keeping the open wound.
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other producers got fired in it. wallace that you should be the people behind the scenes alone and be man enough to quit and just take the blame. people would have looked up to rather more. he confronted rather in a bathroom at cbs. there was fury in his voice. >> you also say that cronkite did not call rather for lunch but remains hateful toward him until his death. >> yes. >> what surprised you in this book? what would you say the new things you learned? >> i was starting to touch on this and i did not finish the thought. that was the connection between john glenn and walter cronkite. douglas edwards was the head of
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cbs news in 62 because cronkite just did a great job with john glenn in early 62. he then becomes the anchor man. in that connection between cronkite and john glenn and nasa in general. the power that 30 minutes of news meant.
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in 50 minutes you cannot do those backhand stories. >> who went first? >> walter cronkite was the first 30 minute news broadcast. brinkley try to catch up. that changed a lot of things. it became the culture of the anchor getting the big interview. he was livid that cronkite bigfoot him and got to do the big kennedy interview when he was covering kennedy as a correspondent all the time. there became a celebrity status to these journalists. the part about cronkite that interests me is how he liked talking to everybody. his real genius was even though
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he lived in new york and operated in social circles, but he loved talking to cabdrivers and gardeners. he never said no to anybody. that is where his genius was. he never lost touch with the average american people. >> how did you do this? gives us some insight into how you write 800 pages in a very short time and do the research? some people write for 12 years. >> i put a lot of that material because i wanted a cast of characters for people and voluminous and notes. i am an academic. notes are part of my training.
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>> would you buy time to write? >> that is all they do. i teach at rice in austin. my three kids go to school. i have a big library of all my books. this book was easy because all his papers are just down the road. the hard part is traveling to do research. i have been around. i am able to reach people and get the interviews with her. then there is an intense curiosity, a great hard work. i am not a good national writer. a recent book i wrote, i was worried that left to my own devices i can get repetitive and long winded. i really wanted to pare this down. it is not much considered all the material i had including
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letters he wrote his wife from europe during the entire wwii including the nuremberg trials. >> you read about his romance. we do not have time to talk about sandy, why was he so important? >> sandy was the official friends. he was an executive producer. he ran the cbs news. cronkite had great relationships with producers, gordon manning, but sandy was last of this group. he was a fierce cronkite loyalist and not only told me great stories but pointed me in directions of a former scriptwriter or camera man.
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what did the camera people think when they went with cronkite? what was it like on the bicentennial? he knew all of the inside dirt at cbs and walter well. he even told me that he was not sure, but the fidgeting of the glasses when kennedy got shot, it seemed like an actors move almost. he was a wonderful source. he dealt with cronkite as the real guy. i want to know the man not just the icon. >> the name of the book is just "cronkite." our author, douglas brinkley, we thank you. >> thank you. [captioning performed by national captioning institute] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2012] >> for a dvd copy call 1-877- 662-7726. for a free transcript or to give us your comments, visit us at at


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