Walter Cronkite

Ben Rubin (right) watches as his digital art installation in honor of Walter Cronkite is projected across the side of the CMA building.

Photo Credit: Rebecca Howeth | Daily Texan Staff

The Communication Plaza will glow bright each night with the work of a former UT student, as the plaza was dedicated Thursday evening in honor of journalist Walter Cronkite.

The dedication of the Walter Cronkite Plaza took place yesterday in front of the Jesse H. Jones Communication Center. Cronkite served as anchorman for the CBS Evening News from 1962-1981, a period of major national controversies including the U.S. Civil Rights Movement, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and the Vietnam War. Cronkite began his education at UT in the fall of 1933, but left without earning his degree during the fall of 1935.

The dedication speech was accompanied by a digital art installation by media artist Ben Rubin entitled “And That’s the Way It Is,” named for an iconic catchphrase used by Cronkite at the end of many of his news broadcasts. The piece was commissioned for the College of Communication by Landmarks, the University’s public art program, and will use lighting to display images and text from Cronkite’s news broadcasts, along with current news coverage, across the south side of the Communication Building.

The piece will be displayed from dusk until midnight each night “indefinitely,” said Nicolas Hundley, spokesman for the College of Communications. Rubin answered audience questions about the piece prior to the ceremony.

The purpose of the work is to both honor Cronkite and foster research regarding the differences between past and present news coverage, Rubin said.

“It’s really just a way to accumulate a lot of data and analyze it,” he said. “You never know what we can do with it.”

Cronkite’s in-depth and informative coverage of these events brought him to national prominence, earning him the nickname of “the most trusted man in America,” said Don Carleton, executive director of the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History and a personal friend of Cronkite.

“[Cronkite’s] work earned him the respect of an entire generation of journalists,” he said.

Brian Jones, UT alumnus and anchor for CBS Sports Network, spoke at the event about his experience growing up watching Cronkite and the way the nation was able to gain important political clarification from his reporting.

“Cronkite represented certainty in an uncertain world,” he said. “We now strive to continue Cronkite’s traditions at CBS everyday.”

UT Provost Steven Leslie cited Cronkite’s education at UT and later success as a signifier to future students that anything is possible.

“His work represents what this University stands for,” he said. “He shows us that what starts here changes the world.”

Above Kingfish, a sculpture by Peter Reginato, construction workers install projectors for a new public art installation on the roof of the William Randolph Hearst building Tuesday afternoon. The art installation will be featured in a dedication to Walter Cronkite in front of the Jesse H. Jones Communication Complex.

Photo Credit: Shea Carley | Daily Texan Staff

In the 1930s, famed journalist Walter Cronkite walked the 40 Acres as a college student, fraternity member and Daily
Texan writer .

Cronkite went on to have an extraordinary career in journalism, serving as the anchor and managing editor of the CBS Evening News and winning numerous prestigious awards throughout his life. UT will dedicate the Walter Cronkite Plaza in front of the Jesse H. Jones Communication Complex in his memory on April 19.

Nick Hundley, director of communications for the College of Communication, said the dedication will feature a new public art installation by artist Ben Rubin, titled “And That’s the Way It Is,” in honor of Cronkite. Hundley said the College worked with Landmarks, the University’s public art program, to commission the art installation.

“And That’s the Way It Is” will project text drawn from Cronkite’s archived broadcasts as well as daily news, Hundley said, and will be visible to anyone walking by.

“The College of Communication is honoring the traditional values of journalism that Walter Cronkite epitomized — accuracy, courage, independence and integrity,” Hundley said.

Hundley said other departments on campus contributed to the project, including the School of Information and the Briscoe Center for American History, which compiled archived transcripts from its Walter Cronkite papers.

School of Journalism associate director Wanda Garner Cash said the dedication commemorates one of UT’s most distinguished former students.

“Even though [Cronkite] has been out of journalism for a long time, his name still denotes strong commitment to the core journalism values we’re trying to inspire in our students,” she said.

Frank Serpas, Texas Student Media operations manager, said the technical equipment needed for the projection is still being installed before it’s revealed in a couple of weeks. Six projectors are installed on the roof of the building, he said, and construction teams had to drill into the roof to run power through it.

Communication Council President Patrick White said he feels the Cronkite dedication will serve as a source of pride for the College of Communication, as well as the rest of the University.

“It gives a sense of credibility to what we do in a very soft way,” he said. “Walter Cronkite is a name that is known nationally, and I think it lives up to the hopes and desires we have for our majors, especially journalism.”

Printed on Wednesday, April 4, 2012 as: Cronkite honored with plaza dedication

When Domino’s Pizza releases a new ad campaign that explains how much their pizza sucks, consumers fall to their knees in praise of the company. But when UT releases new ads, football fans almost throw their boots at the jumbotron in disgust. Now why would a stadium full of Longhorn lunatics be upset with a skillfully crafted commercial emphasizing the greatness of the University? Because Walter Cronkite’s voice is missing, that’s why!

Walter Cronkite, with his commanding and melodramatic voice, is as much a part of UT as the man who first mixed the color red with yellow. Cronkite was a writer for The Daily Texan, a radio and news personality and eventually became the “most trusted man in America.”

But to UT football fans, Cronkite is much more than that; he is the general that rallies the troops at the end of every third quarter. For comparison, Leonidas had to yell, “This is Sparta!” at the top of his lungs to spur a mere 300 Spartans into battle, but Cronkite needs only to gently advise Longhorns to “Get your horns up,” and 100,000 fans scream deafeningly.

We have grown to expect his commercial at the same time every home game. It has become a tradition — a DKR staple. Thus, the pulling of the Cronkite ad at the last home football game was upsetting to most and enraging for many.

Certainly students have led protests, embarking on an aggressive campaign to reinstate the ad and adopting the battle cry “We want Walter.”

Barbara Friend, a radio-television-film senior, created a Facebook group that currently has more than 1,500 members and it just happens to be named “We Want Walter.”

“[The commercial] has just embedded itself in the game-day tradition,” Friend acknowledges. “There is something about the energy of that ad that just lights up the crowd.”

Friend is pushing for the Cronkite spot to re-emerge during this Saturday’s game against UCLA. A “We Want Walter” petition is already online, and a hard-copy one is in the works. Even alumni and Student Government are voicing their support for the movement.

Many students curse and loathe the transition. Sure, the new ads have a picturesque background of campus and are voiced by UT alumna Barbara Smith Conrad. But they aren’t inspirational. They don’t send chills down my spine. In short, they ain’t no Cronkite.

Seeking support, I contacted Erin Purdy, associate director of communications at the Briscoe Center for American History. I figured if anyone were to be displeased by the new campaign shift it would be someone who works a good deal with the on-campus Cronkite exhibit, “Eyewitness to a Century.”

“We are certainly proud and honored to be the home of Cronkite’s legacy here on campus,” responded Purdy. “But we are also proud and honored to be affiliated with Barbara Smith Conrad.”

That wasn’t what I expected. I was hoping to hear faculty join the fans, but that wasn’t going to happen. I only received information about Conrad’s involvement with the University and The Briscoe Center, which produced an award-winning documentary about her life titled “When I Rise.”

After a little research, I, on behalf of all the filled stadium seats, started to regret the intense negativity toward the campaign shift.

To give a little history, Conrad was one of the first black students at UT and was cast as the lead role in a University play opposite a white lover, until the racist culture of 1950’s Texas pressured her removal. Conrad was betrayed and her theatrical and musical ambitions were suppressed. Yet after decades of disillusionment with UT, she is promoting the University that treated her with such disrespect.

Conrad’s story of enduring societal pressure is just as inspirational as fans’ negative backlash is embarrassing. UT’s history has too much to teach to focus on only one person, but so far the focus has been on whose ad will rally the most fans at a football game. So I request of my fellow students: Drop the hateful bashing of the new ads. Stop the ignorant name-calling of a narrator whom most of us know nothing about.

Mrs. Conrad, we are honored to have you as our official spokeswoman, as you teach us with powerful lessons. However, UT football games need their general, and Cronkite’s 30 seconds have become a tradition.

“We Want Walter” offers a simple solution on its webpage: “Less fan cam, more Cronkite.”

I agree. Why not honor them both by broadcasting Conrad to the world while bringing Cronkite back just once every football game?

<em>Nestenius is an engineering sophomore.<em>

<strong> Bring back Cronkite </strong>

As the third quarter of Saturday’s Texas-Wyoming game wrapped up, necks under the “Godzillatron” craned toward the screen in anticipation but were left waiting and wondering, where is Walter Cronkite’s “Get Your Horns Up” TV spot?

By the fourth quarter, hours in the Texas heat preceded by a day of “studying”/drinking had taken their toll on students. Time and time again, I’ve seen that commercial give the crowds of Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium a much-needed boost to the final whistle. Mr. Cronkite’s distinct voice replaces thoughts of tired feet and long walks back to West Campus (or farther) with a sweeping sense of school pride. There’s proof in numerous videos of the crowd’s reaction to the commercial. The commercial is electrifying, even from the small screen of my laptop.

I think it is popular because his message is simple: We don’t care if you’re pursuing a degree here at UT; if you hold your horns high, you’re a Longhorn.

It’s a rally cry that effortlessly unites crowds of more than 100,000 people, and it’s become somewhat of a tradition. I know it was deeply missed by many on Saturday, and it would be a shame if it is continually left out of game-time programming. So, at the UCLA game in two weeks, let’s get our horns up and our Cronkite back.

— Barbara Friend
Radio-television-film senior

<strong> Research organic products </strong>

I was happy to see the Sept. 10 article in The Daily Texan, “Not all ‘organic’ products necessarily healthy for you,” as the word “organic” is certainly both overused and misused. However, although the article starts out cautious, it eventually operates under the assumption that the pesticides in and on foods are present in high enough levels and in the right form to cause ill effects in people that ingest them.

My understanding is that the jury is still out regarding both the effects and the differences in the nutritional value of organic vs. industry foods based on fertilizer composition, but a reference to a scientific study here or there would have been appreciated.

The reason to bother with the organic processed option is that college students will opt for processed food regardless of the health benefits or lack thereof. By giving them an organic option, you are limiting the exposures to these possibly hazardous materials and financially supporting organic farmers, whose produce I assume will be used to make the products, not Cargill’s or Montesanto’s. If you’re trying to get college kids not to microwave all their food, that’s a whole other article.

My advice is this: Research one organic product a week and investigate the issues that are important to you. If you have four brands of organic milk to choose from, Google them. What are the living conditions for Horizon cows? How far does that Promised Land milk have to travel to get to H-E-B? If Stonyfield Farms doesn’t treat its cows with rBST, does it give them antibiotics? This may sound tedious, but consider how many hours of your life you’ve spent looking at lolcats (or Hipster Kitty, as the case may be).

— Lin Huffman
Cell and molecular biology graduate student

Since the beginning of the broadcast news era, generations of Americans have gathered in front of their television sets, their ears and eyes tuned in to the distinctive voice and screen presence of Walter Cronkite as he presented them with nearly every major news story from the last half of the 20th century. From his emotional delivery of the news of former President John F. Kennedy’s assassination to his live, on-screen astonishment when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, Cronkite bore witness to pivotal historical events, sharing these experiences with Americans everywhere. It is safe to say that most citizens are at least familiar with “the most trusted man in America” — they’ve invited him into their living rooms for decades.

But now, nearly a year after Cronkite’s death, the series of photos, reels and artifacts shown at the Lyndon B. Johnson Library exhibit, “Cronkite: Eyewitness to a Century,” not only illustrate a descriptive biography on Cronkite, but also shed a humanistic light on him, reminding viewers that while Cronkite’s list of achievements runs miles long, he was also a family man with ambitious dreams and a proud American who believed in democracy through journalism.

At the start of the exhibit, viewers are greeted with the most familiar image of the journalist — one on the television screen. With his unmistakable baritone voice booming, his grandfatherly figure gracing the life-size burnt orange television and a sense of nostalgia in the air, one could not help but feel at ease.

From a yellowed copy of The Daily Texan to the worn-in captain’s hat Walter Cronkite favored wearing while at the wheel of the America’s Cup defender, a 12-meter yacht named “Courageous,” viewers travel chronologically through his history.

Along the way, viewers discover that Cronkite was a meticulous man who had an eye for details. From a colorful drawing of a royal procession line, to a stopwatch Cronkite used to time his news story before going on air at CBS News, to an ink-filled notepad he used during his reporting in Vietnam, these personal artifacts reiterate the sense of seriousness and dedication Cronkite had for journalism.

The encased row of gleaming Emmy awards and the Presidential Medal of Freedom that President Carter honored Cronkite with in 1981 only partially commemorate Cronkite’s remarkable contribution to journalism and American history. It is the series of ongoing news reels of Cronkite’s reporting that genuinely highlight how grand it was for Cronkite to be at the center of it all.

Erin Purdy, associate director for communications for the Center for American History, said the foundation of the collection is from Cronkite himself. Almost every paper, artifact and photo came from Cronkite’s own collection, which was donated to the University’s Dolph Briscoe Center for American History before Cronkite passed away July 17, 2009.

Purdy said Cronkite was told about the exhibit a few months before his passing and that he was very pleased to hear the exhibit was happening.

Cronkite saved virtually everything from press badges to the typewriter he used while serving in the military, according to Prudy. The rest of the materials were donated by others, including correspondents, viewers, presidents and celebrities. Morley Safer, a close friend and colleague of Cronkite’s at CBS News, donated a good portion of Cronkite’s papers. His family donated more personal items to the collection, including Cronkite’s desk.

Though the exhibit is extensive, it is only the tip of the iceberg. “The collection is huge,” she said. “It was a painstaking process to choose.”

The process of assembling the exhibit began with Don Carleton, executive director of the Briscoe Center and the chief curator of the exhibit who also worked with Cronkite in writing the memoir “Conversations with Cronkite,” drawing up an outline with what he thought were the most important aspects of Cronkite’s life.

Carleton knew Cronkite was fascinated with space. “It was something that [was] meaningful to [Cronkite] personally,” Purdy said. Even after he retired, Cronkite applied to be one of the first civilians to experience space travel.

“There was no way to page through all the items,” Purdy said. “It would take years.” The team knew they were interested in focusing on certain stories such as the Vietnam era, Kennedy’s assassination and Cronkite’s relation with his alma mater.

The video segments that are played on television screens throughout the exhibit were then chosen based on how well they illustrated these stories.

“We could not tell the stories about Vietnam or Kennedy without [Cronkite’s] own broadcasting,” Purdy said.

Some materials were difficult to turn down as the team wanted to display every detail. For instance, before Cronkite dropped out of the University his junior year in 1935, he ran for vice president of Student Government. The team wanted to include an index-sized flyer Cronkite used for campaigning to highlight Cronkite’s leadership at the University, but chose not to because there wasn’t enough room.

“We were just trying to tell the best story we could,” Purdy said.

WHAT: Cronkite: Eyewitness to a Century
WHERE: The LBJ Library and Museum
WHEN: May 15, 2010 – January 3, 2011
TICKETS/ADMISSION: Free Admission and Parking
TIMES: Open Daily 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. (closed Christmas Day)