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A REPORTER'S LIFE by Walter Cronkite

A REPORTER'S LIFE

By Walter Cronkite

Pub Date: Dec. 16th, 1996
ISBN: 0-394-57869-1
Publisher: Knopf

 Personal and professional memories (though never intimate- -that's not his style) from a man not much given to ``self- oriented, navel-examining profundities,'' revealing a scrupulous, genial, generous spirit possessing a passionate, informed concern for the future of journalism. Cronkite recalls, reflects, opines, and offers some superlative stories to illustrate the way it was. He writes affectionately of his childhood and avuncularly of the young self in whom he locates the roots of the man he became. WW II was formative: He files United Press dispatches from Europe when ``communications weren't difficult, they were nonexistent.'' Russia came next, and proved dreary and duplicitous; having a visceral aversion to regimentation, he chafed under the Soviet bureaucracy. His improvisational bent served him well in the early years of TV news: Cronkite, who once broadcast imaginary football games, extemporized easily from only a list of the day's stories. Recounting the low-tech escapades of that era, he's as frisky as he is thoughtful later, for instance when characterizing the presidents he's known (Carter had the best brain; Nixon, ``the outstanding phoenix of our time,'' actually ``seemed imbalanced'' at moments), and when searchingly reviewing the Vietnam debacle from misguided genesis to sorry legacies (``a generation of officers later, there still lurks the belief that the media lost the war''). Cronkite consistently praises the CBS of his tenure for courage but hands Black Rock a black eye for its thrall to the bottom line: That news should ``pay off'' like other investments is a ``travesty,'' he asserts, positing a public responsibility to support quality journalism. The ``narrow intellectual crawl space'' that is television news is ever more compressed; ``Will the journalism center hold?'' Cronkite bears out our trust in him as he bears wise witness to our collective adventures of the past half-century; he endears himself anew when he good-humoredly shares his own. (16 pages b&w photos) (Book-of-the-Month Club main selection; author tour)