As the anchor of the CBS Evening News
during the Vietnam War in the 1960s, Walter Cronkite brought the conflict into the living rooms of millions of Americans. Cronkite's popularity during that time is credited to his straightforward, objective reporting style, and he earned a reputation as the most trusted man in America. Only rarely did Cronkite let his emotions seep into his reports, as occurred during his coverage of the assassination of John F. Kennedy in November 1963.
As the United States became mired in the Vietnam War during the mid-1960s, Cronkite's strong belief that a journalist needed to be an objective reporter was repeatedly tested. After returning from a visit to Vietnam during the Tet Offensive in February 1968, Cronkite broke his own rule about objective reporting by weighing in with his own personal commentary on the state of the war during the CBS Evening News broadcast on February 27. Cronkite's assertion that the war would likely end in a stalemate is believed to have had a powerful impact on U.S. public opinion of the Vietnam conflict. Some historians think that Cronkite's report that night contributed to President Lyndon B. Johnson's decision a month later not to run for reelection.
Read the excerpts from the transcript of Cronkite's broadcast, then answer the following questions:
1. Do you feel that Cronkite's report was fair and balanced, or was it an example of bias in the media? Explain your answer.
2. How much influence do you think Cronkite's reports had on the American public and on President Johnson?
3. Was Cronkite justified in voicing his personal view of the war, or was it a violation of journalistic ethics? Explain your answer.
4. Do you feel that there is any reporter in the 21st century who can have as powerful an impact as Cronkite did during the Vietnam War? Why or why not?