"I think the concern today is that the ownership of the networks, it does not have the background of clear-cut responsibility in broadcasting that the pioneers had. [I]t's not the fault of anybody in particular, except they've come along in the second and third generation when that responsibility has not been pounded into them as it was with the pioneers," Cronkite said on PBS's "Frontline" in 1999. "[T]heir thinking is, 'How do you maximize profit.' You do it by entertainment, primarily. News is hanging in there still but, unfortunately, as a profit center."
Cronkite retired from CBS in 1981, and that year he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Jimmy Carter.
Despite stepping down as anchorman, Cronkite remained a well-regarded presence in the news business until late in his life. The journalist hosted special broadcasts including "Why in the World?" for the Public Broadcasting System and CBS' Universe.
In 1996, Cronkite published a memoir, "A Reporter's Life," which detailed his career starting as a young wire reporter until his days at CBS News. The book is now seen as a valuable learning tool for young reporters.
In 2004, he wrapped up a yearlong stint writing a newspaper column for King Features Syndicate. Reflecting on his decades-long tenure as CBS' anchorman, he said the work was rewarding but "not entirely satisfactory" because the time limitations of network news rarely allowed in-depth reporting of stories.
Cronkite was almost universally known and broadly admired. In a Roper poll in 1975, 93 percent of Americans correctly identified his profession; that's almost everyone.
In a Harris poll in 1981, 50 percent identified him as their favorite news anchor, out of seven listed by name; the next closest [John Chancellor] was at 12 percent.
In the same poll, anywhere from 81 to 86 percent rated him positively as "somebody you can really trust," as "really caring" about humankind, for balanced reporting overall, and specifically for his coverage of elections and the space program.
Although Cronkite was never hailed as a lofty intellectual, he was highly respected for his trust in the public to glean its own opinions from accurate, objective reporting. For years, Cronkite expressed this philosophy following every CBS evening broadcast with his closing words that became his trademark, "And that's the way it is."
And at the end of his career in 1985, 84 percent in a Roper poll said he'd done an excellent or good job as CBS' longstanding anchor.
Cronkite wrote a total of seven books, and won numerous awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1981 and Library of Congress "Living Legend" award in 2000. He was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 1985. In 1984, Arizona State University named its journalism school after the former anchor.
Cronkite's wife of 65 years, Betsy, died in 2005. He is survived by their three children and several grandchildren.
ABC News' Gary Langer contributed to this report.