National Press Club

Panel Offers Reminiscences of Cronkite, Hewitt

September 18, 2009 | By Marc A. Wojno | marcawojno@aol.com

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Walter Cronkite, the anchor of the CBS Evening News, and Don Hewitt, the creator and executive producer of “60 Minutes,” were remembered and feted Wednesday at a Club panel by four giants of television news: moderator Marvin Kalb, Dan Rather, Bob Schieffer and Daniel Schorr.

The panel shared fond, personal stories about working with Cronkite and Hewitt, who died this summer, to an audience of more than 200.Cronkite was the first recipient of the NPC's lifetime achievement award, the Fourth Estate Award.

The panel remembered Cronkite, dubbed “The most trusted man in America” as a man who had an enormous capacity to be nice to people yet was forceful and to the point when it came to reporting the news. They also spoke of Hewitt as a man who was always open to new ideas and creative concepts in reporting the news on television, often pushing his team to do the impossible.

On Hewitt’s brash style of doing the impossible, the panel recalled the time when he tried to organize a live, on-air panel with the Joints Chiefs of Staff and the secretary of defense, adding that the chiefs “need to wear their uniforms.”

An audience member who worked with Hewitt recalled a time in the early 1960s when the famed producer conspired to hide a competing network’s mobile van so that CBS could be the first to cover the s tory.

Later in the program, the discussion shifted to how broadcast journalism has evolved since Cronkite stepped down as anchor of the CBS Evening News in 1981. When Kalb asked if Cronkite would succeed working in the television news business today, Rather answered without hesitation, “Yes. Walter would’ve made it big today. The question is would he have been given the break by the television executives?”

On the other hand, Schorr, disagreed, saying that although Cronkite would have maintained his strict journalistic ethics, he would not have succeeded because the television news business today is dependent on how you look as much as how you report the news.

Schieffer remembered Cronkite as a man who was always curious and who loved covering special events, such as the moon landing. He admired Cronkite for the way he covered presidential elections, working around the clock without slowing down. “He was an iron man,” Schieffer said.

A DVD of the complete panel discussion, sponsored by the NPC History Committee, is available for purchase through the Club’s Archives. For more information, contact the Club’s Archives at 202-662-7598. Additional interviews with Cronkite from the Club’s 2006 documentary are also available for purchase through the Club’s Archives.