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Saturday, November 4, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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With verve, renowned journalist Cronkite turns 90

New York Daily News

Walter Cronkite turns 90 today, and the renowned broadcaster has lost none of his lust for the news business.

"I would like to think that I'm still quite capable of covering a story," he said.

After anchoring the "CBS Evening News" for nearly 20 years, his famous voice can now be heard introducing one of his successors, Katie Couric.

Asked for his reaction when CBS News executives invited him to do the introduction, he replied: "I would like to be doing the whole broadcast."

Still, he said, "I was honored to be asked and I must say rather surprised."

Cronkite helped build CBS News' foundation through his work during a particularly transformative time in U.S. history. He was there to interpret for attentive audiences (undistracted by today's dizzying array of news sources) major world events such as the Cuban missile crisis, Vietnam, the Watergate scandal, the Apollo 11 moon landing and the assassination of President Kennedy.

And while the image lingers of the tearful newsman telling a stunned nation that Kennedy was dead, Cronkite is proudest of his coverage of the civil-rights movement, the peace talks between Egypt's Anwar Sadat and Israel's Menachem Begin in the 1970s and the space program.

"The [moon landing] ... perhaps will be the greatest story of many centuries," he said.

TV news has changed greatly since Cronkite and Huntley-Brinkley ruled the evening-news roost. But Cronkite said the anchor's job hasn't changed much.

"The purpose of the news program is to deliver the news," he said. "I think the three networks still do an excellent job of delivering the news, and some of the other [cable] networks as well."

So which broadcast does "Uncle Walter" watch?

"I bounce around a little bit," he said. "I think all the three major networks do a good job. I'm particularly fond of Jim Lehrer's report on public radio."

And Couric?

"I think Katie's doing very well," he said. "I would like to see just a little bit more hard news on the broadcast."

He tries not to ruminate too much on the past. "I don't dare look at myself too carefully," he said.

He does have one recent regret: "I unfortunately have not been to Iraq," he said. "It's the first war since [World War II] that I have not covered."

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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