Sandy Socolow, Walter Cronkite’s CBS News Producer, Dead at 86

He worked at the network for 32 years and was there when the legendary anchor coined his sign-off

Sanford “Sandy” Socolow, a CBS News producer who worked closely with Walter Cronkite, had died at the age of 86, the network said Sunday.

Socolow worked at CBS News for 32 years, four of them as Cronkite’s executive producer.

He was there when Cronkite took over as anchor of the CBS Evening News in April 1962, replacing Douglas Edwards on the newscast, which at that time ran 15 minutes. And he had a hand in the sign-off that became the anchor’s trademark.

“That first night up,” Socolow recounted in a 2008 interview with CNN, “he ended the show by saying, I’m paraphrasing, ‘That’s the news. Be sure to check your local newspapers tomorrow to get all the details on the headlines we are delivering to you.’”

But that didn’t fly with management.

“In the absence of anything else, he came up with ‘That’s the way it is’,” said the producer, who also recalled CBS News President Richard Salant not being happy with that, either.

“‘We’re not telling them that’s the way it is. We can’t do that in 15 minutes,’ Salant told Sokolow. ‘That’s not the way it is.’” But Cronkite prevailed.

Socolow was there in September 1962 when the “CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite” became the first network newscast to expand to a half-hour. The broadcast featured a lengthy interview with President John Kennedy filmed at his family compound in Hyannis Port, Mass. The president would be assassinated just 81 days later in Dallas.

Socolow worked with Cronkite during the tumultuous 60’s, covering the Civil Rights movement, the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, and the Vietnam War.

The “CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite” dominated the ratings throughout the 1970s, including during the Watergate crisis and the resignation of President Richard Nixon. Socolow served as CBS News’ Washington Bureau Chief from Watergate to President Jimmy Carter‘s term in office, where he endured the contentious relationship between the Nixon White House and CBS News.

Socolow is survived by his sons Jonathan and Michael, and daughter Elisabeth. As word of his death spread throughout the industry, his former colleagues shared their thoughts on Facebook.

Long-time CBS News London correspondent Tom Fenton wrote, “Sandy was one of the best and brightest newsmen of the golden age of CBS News. He was also a warm and generous person, a great boss and a delightful friend. He will be greatly missed by all of us who knew him.”