Bill Steigerwald

Like most of my draft-dodging generation, during the 1960s I heard Walter Cronkite’s authoritative voice more often than I heard the voices of my own parents.

I even ate dinner hundreds of times with the sainted TV journalist who anchored the CBS evening news from 1962 until 1981 and died last week at age 92.

I grew up on a nightly diet of TV news and commentary that was written, produced and spun by “the most trusted man in America” and his gang of liberal CBS reporters and commentators.

I had no choice but to eat so many family dinners with iconic Uncle Walter. My father the stockbroker was a pioneering news junkie, print and electronic; he wanted to watch/listen/critique the CBS evening news while we ate dinner, so we did.

In case you are too old to remember, the bloody 1960s and 1970s -- aka the Age of Cronkite -- was when the Cold War was often red-hot and the civil rights movement, the race to the Moon and the war in Vietnam were being fought, won or lost on the TV right in our living rooms.

The Cronkite Age was also a technologically backward, highly biased time for the TV news-consuming public.

VCRs, satellite dishes and TiVos were decades away. TV choice for consumers hadn’t been legalized yet in ‘60s America, where cable channels didn’t exist and the Big Three networks had the exclusive right by law to split the obscene profits to be made in commercial television.

Libertarians, Communists and other denizens of the left-right political fringes virtually did not fit inside commercial or public TV’s skimpy ideological spectrum, which with rare exceptions ran the gamut from liberal Democrat all the way to liberal Republican.

Ordinary mainstream conservative viewers like my dad were woefully underserved by broadcast TV in those overly regulated days. They had a whopping 3.5 left-liberal “choices” to tune into – CBS, NBC, ABC and PBS.

My dad, God bless his crazy opinionated departed soul, didn’t get a conservative Fox News Channel to call his own until the last 12 years of his life. But in the early 1960s, he was no passive, unquestioning recipient of liberal news and opinion.

He never considered Walter Cronkite and his leftish sidekicks Eric “The Red” Severeid or Daniel Schorr to be objective or fair-and-balanced journalists. As he monitored their news show during dinner, he’d rail intermittently about their real or imaginary liberal Democrat biases.


Bill Steigerwald

Bill Steigerwald, born and raised in Pittsburgh, is a former L.A. Times copy editor and free-lancer who also worked as a docudrama researcher for CBS-TV in Hollywood before becoming a reporter for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and a columnist Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Bill Steigerwald recently retired from daily newspaper journalism..