Friday, July 17, 2009
CBS fails to salute Walter Cronkite
If you want to hear Don Hewitt, Mike Wallace, and other CBS icons discuss the career and lasting impact of Walter Cronkite, who died today at age 92, you are going to have go turn to CNN or some cable news outlet.
Cronkite put CBS on the map, but the network of Katie Couric, does not have the decency to put on a special on Cronkite's life (which would nearly all be taken from its video vault). Instead, the tarnished Tiffany network is showing a rerun of "Numbers," which followed reruns of "Flashpoint," and "Ghost Whisperer."
The snub is a final insult to Cronkite, who provided far more to CBS than it ever did to him. To refresh the memory, Cronkite was at the height of his skills in 1981 when CBS officials decided it was time to push him aside to keep Dan Rather from jumping to ABC. It was a hasty move that also pushed CBS stalwart Roger Mudd, who had long been considered to be Cronkite's heir apparent, to NBC.
To get Cronkite to step aside, something he never wanted to do, CBS offered him all kinds of promises, including regular specials and being included every four years in the network's coverage of the national political conventions.
Nearly every promise was broken. Cronkite was rarely used by the network, except on occasional retrospectives, and numerous books covering the inner workings of CBS detail how Rather did not want Cronkite anywhere near the CBS Evening News or convention coverage.
So it comes as no surprise that on the day of Cronkite's death, there is no special on his life.
CBS just aired a commercial saying that it will have a special for Cronkite Sunday at 6 p.m., a time already held by the CBS News program 60 Minutes. The network was willing to throw out all scheduled programming for Michael Jackson, devote an hour to Farrah Fawcett on the night she died, but Walter Cronkite's passing can wait.
After all, what did he ever do for CBS?