‘The Voice of God’

Uncivil national discourse. A beleaguered White House. Declining faith in public institutions.

During the tumult of the 1960s and 1970s, a nation of TV viewers turned their lonely eyes to a pillar of the mainstream media – CBS news anchorman Walter Cronkite – for context, understanding and reassurance.

The avuncular Cronkite was called “the most trusted man in America.” Sometimes he was referred to as “the voice of God.”

Today, in an era when inconvenient facts are cynically relabeled “fake news,” it’s hard to imagine such reverence for a member of the fourth estate. What was it about Cronkite — and the world then — that produced such high regard for a news anchor?

Over-the-air channel Decades will attempt to answer that question in a two-hour documentary, Eye on the World: The Rise of Walter Cronkite and the Evening News. The show debuts next Friday, November 3, at 8 pm ET, with an encore presentation Monday, November 6, at 8 pm ET.

“Walter was a historic figure who brought credibility, trust and understanding into our living rooms nightly,” said Neal Sabin, vice chairman of Weigel Broadcasting, Co., which co-owns Decades with CBS. “For so many, Walter was the face of TV news and the person we counted on each night to help make sense of national and world events.”

“Maybe we didn’t agree with the editorial page of the local newspaper, or the commentary that Eric Severeid did, but we all assumed the news was true,” said former CBS anchor Bob Schieffer.

Eye on the World traces Cronkite’s ascension and what changed in America after Cronkite’s retirement. Could there even be a Walter Cronkite-type figure now?

To address that question, Eye on the World interviews news veterans and experts such as Schieffer, Lesley Stahl, Todd Gitlin, Susan Zirinsky, Rita Braver, Tom Bettag, Linda Mason, Russ Bensley, Bill Kurtis, Robert Feder and Bill Wheatley.

To find your local Decades station, visit the channel’s Where to Watch page.

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About Larry Greenberg

A former local beat reporter and film critic, co-founder Lawrence Greenberg has more than 25 years’ experience as a writer and public relations executive.

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