Effective Monday, Walter Cronkite moved into the CBS-TV 15-minute evening news program, displacing Doug Edwards, who had commandeered the 7:15 spot for umpteen years (and who, not liking the maneuver one bit, tried vainly to get a release from his CBS contract).
Since these are “The Cronkite Years” at CBS, with his star very much in the ascendancy, CBS News, rightfully concerned at the way NBC’s Huntley & Brinkley stole the show (and the audiences) away from Columbia, figured i t was time for a spring sprucing in the hopes that Cronkite could do what Edwards couldn’t. (In fact CBS at the moment is so bullish on Cronkite that there’s been talk of pairing him up on future election coverage with Dave Schoenbrun, another CBS “favorite son,” as the network’s mustachioed duo to throw against NBC’s clean-shaven H & B). As a matter of fact the tandem is already in operation, with Schoenbrun covering the Washington beat.
What new dimension, freshness or newness Cronkite can bring to the 7:15 news report (6:45 in other parts of the country) remains a moot point. Thus far there’s been evidence of more extensive feature coverage, but since this is at the expense of hard news, the shift in emphasis could be questioned. Cronkite’s got a style and a clipped delivery of sorts that seems to-sit well with the CBS brass. On the more searching, reflective type of “introspectaculars,” such as the Canaveral space shoots and his three-part Eisenhower interviews, he displayed reportorial qualities and an insight that were wholly commendable.
But on these 15-minute “tell-it-all-and-tell-it-in-a-hurry” newscasts (at which Cronkite has been an old hand, with a longtime tenure on the Sunday night at 11 network news shows, for example, though never before on a daily basis) the switch from Edwards to Cronkite still poses the tantalyzing question as to whether CBS has really made any change. There’s a new monitor background decor for extra visual razzmatazz, but that’s beside the point. When Brinkley came on the scene, a new approach and a fresh personality had been added, as though NBC had broken with tradition. In its spring refurbishing to capture the news field, CBS has changed its model but unfortunately hasn’t created a new style or come up with a fresh design.