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“If I’ve Lost Cronkite…”: Myth and Memory of Walter Cronkite, Lyndon Johnson, and the Vietnam War
Unformatted Document Text:  “If I’ve Lost Cronkite…” mid-60s, “media reports contradicted the Pentagon’s view of how the war was progressing. The 1968 Tet offensive was the turning point.” The second paragraph is called “Cronkite’s Call.” It states, “CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite visited South Vietnam in February 1968 and, in a rare broadcast editorial after he returned, said that the United States could not win the war. Public support for the war eroded after Tet, and the United States eventually withdrew. For years afterward, many in the military blamed the news media for the U.S. failure.” The remainder of the text describes how, following Vietnam, controls were imposed on reporters covering conflicts ranging from pool reporting to “embedding reporters.” In this case, the “Cronkite moment” is positioned as an example of war reporting that occurred in a time when there were fewer restrictions on the press. Cronkite’s decision to declare the Vietnam War a “stalemate” has become an important part of his memory. In most accounts, including his own, it represents a rare occasion when Cronkite shed the role of objective reporter, but he only did so because he felt he had a duty to report the truth as he saw it. Campbell argues that by February 1968, Cronkite’s “‘mired in stalemate’ assessment was neither notable nor extraordinary” because other news outlets, especially newspapers, had been offering “pessimistic assessments about the war long before Cronkite’s special report.” 86 But as the top-rated television newscaster, Cronkite reached a larger national audience than his print colleagues. 87 He was also known for his objectivity, so his decision to editorialize was noteworthy because it was so uncommon. 88 The story is about more than a journalist taking a stand. It represents the culmination of mounting press and public speculation about the administration’s positive take on the war, which seemed to be contradicted by the mounting costs and growing casualties. Because collective memory is reductive, this one report becomes “the” moment that is remembered. And, over time, the report is credited with more influence primarily because of its staying power in our collective memory. From this 22

Authors: Burns, Lisa.
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“If I’ve Lost Cronkite…”
mid-60s, “media reports contradicted the Pentagon’s view of how the war was progressing. The 
1968 Tet offensive was the turning point.” The second paragraph is called “Cronkite’s Call.” It 
states, “CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite visited South Vietnam in February 1968 and, in a 
rare broadcast editorial after he returned, said that the United States could not win the war. 
Public support for the war eroded after Tet, and the United States eventually withdrew. For years 
afterward, many in the military blamed the news media for the U.S. failure.” The remainder of 
the text describes how, following Vietnam, controls were imposed on reporters covering 
conflicts ranging from pool reporting to “embedding reporters.” In this case, the “Cronkite 
moment” is positioned as an example of war reporting that occurred in a time when there were 
fewer restrictions on the press.      
Cronkite’s decision to declare the Vietnam War a “stalemate” has become an important 
part of his memory. In most accounts, including his own, it represents a rare occasion when 
Cronkite shed the role of objective reporter, but he only did so because he felt he had a duty to 
report the truth as he saw it. Campbell argues that by February 1968, Cronkite’s “‘mired in 
stalemate’ assessment was neither notable nor extraordinary” because other news outlets, 
especially newspapers, had been offering “pessimistic assessments about the war long before 
Cronkite’s special report.”
 But as the top-rated television newscaster, Cronkite reached a larger 
national audience than his print colleagues.
 He was also known for his objectivity, so his 
decision to editorialize was noteworthy because it was so uncommon.
 The story is about more 
than a journalist taking a stand. It represents the culmination of mounting press and public 
speculation about the administration’s positive take on the war, which seemed to be contradicted 
by the mounting costs and growing casualties. Because collective memory is reductive, this one 
report becomes “the” moment that is remembered. And, over time, the report is credited with 
more influence primarily because of its staying power in our collective memory. From this 
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