By: Dave Astor
When King Features Syndicate signed Walter Cronkite in 2003, it knew he might write his weekly opinion column for only a year.
That turned out to be the case. As New York Daily News columnist Lloyd Grove reported today, Cronkite’s last piece will be sent Aug. 11 to his 180-plus newspapers. Cronkite told Grove it was hard to fit a column into a schedule already packed with giving speeches, working on documentaries, and traveling. Cronkite also wanted more time to spend with his family, go boating, and play tennis.
King Managing Editor Glenn Mott told E&P it was a pleasure to work with Cronkite. “He is a consummate professional,” said Mott. “He never missed a deadline. He did his own research, wrote every word, and the copy was very clean. That made the column inordinately time-consuming for him. He cared passionately about it.”
Cronkite’s hard work and reputation gave him an unusually large client list for a column so new — especially given the tough economy and the number of other opinion voices available. “It was one of the most successful launches in recent syndication memory,” said Mott, who edited Cronkite’s column at King along with Chris Richcreek.
The former CBS anchor’s voice was liberal, with his column including criticism of President Bush and the Iraq war. King will fill some of Cronkite’s newspaper slots with the just-signed Stanley Crouch, a Daily News columnist with politics to the right of Cronkite’s. But Mott said both writers have “strong opinions,” offer “trenchant analysis,” and “are capable of surprising you.”
Mott had approached Cronkite about doing a column after seeing a piece he wrote in The New York Times. “He hit the ground running,” said the King editor. “He had a definite idea about what he wanted to communicate. … We feel so fortunate to have had him for a year.”
In a statement, Cronkite said: “The experience working with King Features Syndicate and the response from readers has been most rewarding. I ventured into writing the column with great pleasure in returning to print journalism and I am saddened by the necessity to now withdraw from all those papers who published my commentary and their subscribers who read it.”