Sunday, November 6, 2016

V 6 N. 81 Track Guy in the Newsroom and Walter Cronkite

This week when there were some newflashes reminding us of the 100th anniversary of Walter Cronkite's birth, I remembered this picture of Walter I put on my first blog  U. of Oklahoma Track and Field Blog
When I was visiting my alma mater The University of Oklahoma, I saw this picture of Walter interviewing an OU Sooner prior to the Oklahoma Texas football battle in 1937.  Cronkite must have recently graduated from the U. of Texas and was on assignment up in Norman, as that appears to be the old Owen Field west grandstand.  In those good ole days the track was still in the stadium.  Of course in a few years Walter would be covering much more important battles in the European Theater of WWII and many gruelling presidential campaigns, and it was his announcement  of President Kennedy's death that is most remembered.  But since this is a track and field blog, and there is no record of Walter running track, I thought it would be inappropriate to mention this picture without also remembering an earlier post about a newsman who did run track.  That was Howard K. Smith, not as well known as Walter Cronkite but still a fixture in the American press at the same time as Cronkite.  We did have an earlier recognition of Smith and it can be found at.

Walter Cronkite in Owen Field , Norman Oklahoma, 1937

Howard K. Smith  on Once Upon a Time in the Vest
Click on Howard K Smith and the piece will open.  However you must scroll well down into the article to see the section about Smith.

Howard K. Smith, a 14.5 hurdler at Tulane in 1936

Thanks to Sheppard Miers my former teammate at Oklahoma I was made aware of the following story about Cronkhite which recounts that Cronkhite was the first play by play announer for OU football.  Please forgive us for straying so far off the track and cross country course for this one, but it is just an interesting story that some of you might like.
Walter Cronkite was a 'Five Ws' man
JOHN ROHDE Published: July 19, 2009 12:00 AM CDT

Working for WKY radio in 1937, a 20-year-old Walter Cronkite, center, interviews Oklahoma football player Beryl Clark, left. Cronkite died Friday at age 92. (Photo courtesy University of Oklahoma)Working for WKY radio in 1937, a 20-year-old Walter Cronkite, center, interviews Oklahoma football player Beryl Clark, left. Cronkite died Friday at age 92. (Photo courtesy University of Oklahoma)

Editor’s note: This story originally appeared in The Oklahoman on Aug. 29, 2002
In the eyes of Walter Cronkite, journalism has slowly decayed into a featurized state.
Cronkite is a "Five Ws” man. He wants the who, what, when, where and why — and he wants them pronto.
"I’m so tired of stories starting, ‘Maud Jones was walking her dog down Broadway.’ You’ve got to go over to the back page somewhere to finally find out the damn dog was run over by a truck,” Cronkite said. "Get the thing told, for heaven’s sake. Everybody doesn’t have to be an O Henry.”
So, here it goes:
Hall of fame broadcaster Walter Leland Cronkite Jr. was the first play-by-play radio announcer for Oklahoma football, making his debut Sept. 25, 1937, when the Sooners lost to Tulsa 19-7 at Skelly Stadium.
Cronkite described his debut as a disaster, but said the experience taught him a valuable lesson in preparation.
He left WKY radio within a year and eventually became "The most trusted man in America” as anchor for the CBS Evening News.
And that’s the way it was...
That voice

It’s been 21 years since Cronkite signed off from the anchor desk, but that familiar voice on the other end of the telephone immediately rekindled memories of the CBS Evening News.
Cronkite is 85 years old and still carries a quick wit.

Speaking from inside his home at Martha’s Vineyard, Cronkite struggled to hear questions over the yard work being done to his lawn.
"Do you hear that?” Cronkite shouted into his phone. "With the equipment this guy’s using, he could have saved those nine Pennsylvania miners in about 10 minutes.”
Cronkite continued to joke as if he were covering breaking news.
After another intrusive stretch of noise, Cronkite deadpanned: "It’s a miracle. They’re bringing the first miner out now.”
Cronkite then pondered how to alleviate the problem. "I could change telephones,” he said, "but that would mean getting up.”
After a loud bang, Cronkite said, "My God, he’s coming through the door.”
Finally, as the mower left the grounds, there was one final roar. "Well, I think that was one of ours that just flew overhead,” Cronkite said. "Now, where were we?”
Cronkite was addressing the state of journalism. With the onslaught of cable television, is there an oversaturation of news?
"I think there’s an oversaturation of scandal and feature stories today on television,” Cronkite said. "I think newspapers are doing a better job, but television has slipped terribly in the importance of the broadcast. Most of the people, according to polls, are still getting their news from television, which means most of them are inadequately informed.”
Cronkite said he misses his days at CBS.
"Oh, yes. Sure,” he said. "I miss particularly the managing editor role on the Evening News. Appearing (as anchor) was not that important. Helping set the day’s agenda and deciding what we used and editing it, that was a journalistic high point. I liked reporting as well. Just doing the news — the live performance — wasn’t important. Working on the desk was.”
Voice of the Sooners
Cronkite was a measly 20 years old when WKY manager Gayle Grubb hired him to do the first live broadcast of an OU football game.
Cronkite had been a campus reporter for Scripps-Howard News Service and did sports scores on radio while attending the University of Texas in 1933-1935.
He gradually dropped out of school to pursue journalism.
After a stint as a cub reporter with The Houston Press, Cronkite was hired as an announcer for KCMO in Kansas City, Mo., where he did simulated play-by-play off Western Union sports bulletins.
But at WKY, Cronkite was hired to do live play-by-play.
"I had never done live football,” Cronkite said. "I had done wire reports on football and, of course, that’s a vastly different thing. It takes a lot of imagination doing that. I didn’t need many facts and just used my imagination.”
Upon his arrival at WKY, and in an effort to better describe the action, Cronkite invented an electronic board that would provide information directly in front of him. Cronkite hired a couple of spotters to identify players.
"The spotters would punch up who was carrying the ball and who made the tackle, and the light would flash,” Cronkite said. "The spotters turned out to be impossible, and I was looking at the board and not the game. My design of the board was far too fancy. It got out of whack. So it was a disaster.”
Grubb was on hand for Cronkite’s debacle.
"He was standing behind me in the radio booth and muttering defecations — several fits of profanity — and getting louder and louder as the game went on,” Cronkite said. "When the game was over he said, ’Stay here. I want to talk to you.’ ”
Grubb and Cronkite sat on the last row of the bleacher seats next to the radio booth and stayed until the stadium was nearly empty.
Grubb: "Well, what did you think of that?”
Cronkite: "It was terrible.”
Grubb: "What are you going to do about it?”
Cronkite: "First, I’m throwing out this automatic board...”
Grubb: "You mean if you’re going to be going on with this.”
WKY radio was owned by The Daily Oklahoman and Times. Grubb and Cronkite were called in for a 6:30 Monday morning meeting with The Oklahoman’s Edward K. Gaylord. "Grubb was certain we both were going to be fired,” Cronkite said. "Then Mr. Gaylord said, ‘Well, I thought that was pretty darn good.’
"I thought Grubb was going to faint, and I thought I must have misheard Mr. Gaylord. He said: ‘Yeah, I got some good comments. Just keep on doing the good work.’ ”
Before the next game, Cronkite and color commentator Perry Ward ("A great gentlemen,” Cronkite said) memorized names, numbers and hometowns of players on both teams.
"I was going to have it all in my head. I was not going to have to look at any board,” Cronkite said.
In preparation, Cronkite and Ward tested each other throughout the week.
"We’d shout out numbers,” Cronkite said. "I’d shout, ‘Oklahoma, No. 22,’ and he’d tell me who that was. He’d shout, ‘Nebraska, No. 15,’ and I’d tell him who that was. We really drilled and rehearsed this thing.”
The overall improvement was immediate.
"The rest of the season went marvelously — very well,” Cronkite said.
After the season, Cronkite was assigned to the WKY news staff. Within months, he accepted a job as public relations manager for Braniff Airways. A year later, he joined United Press International to cover the war.
After informing Americans through three wars, the assassination of John F. Kennedy, numerous political conventions and the space race, Cronkite stepped aside when CBS imposed a mandatory retirement age of 65 for its employees. Cronkite’s final broadcast was March 5, 1981, and Dan Rather replaced him.
Since then, no news anchor has come close to Cronkite’s popularity. During the Richard Nixon years, the Ladies’ Home Journal polled its readers on which newsman they most trusted.
Cronkite won with 40 percent. "None” was second with 30 percent. Rather finished at 4 percent.
Although Cronkite attended UT only briefly, he was there long enough to learn he was required to hate OU.
"Oh, yeah,” he said with a chuckle.

This one last bit of Cronkite history coming from another born and bred Oklahoman, Stephen Fisher now permanent resident of Dar Es Salaam , Tanzania. A bit of worldly wisdom he heard attributed to Cronkite.

Never trust a fart 
Never pass up a drink 

Never ignore an erection 

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