The Way It Is
Growing up a television junkie (I’m talking broadcast, we didn’t get cable until I was in high school), I found that limited programming made for a greater shared experience by us, the viewing audience. There were only so many Saturday morning cartoons to goof about at the cafeteria table; there was only one Fonz.
Even so, television offered us choices. But there was a time when even if you had the choice to change the channel, you still turned on CBS News to watch Walter Cronkite.
I’m young enough (barely) to not actually remember watching Cronkite anchor the nightly news. But as I grew interested in journalism, I found his presence was still felt by those in the business; his viewers still touched by how he covered the major events in their lives. I may have learned about the day President Kennedy was assassinated or when man landed on the moon in history class, but I see those events in my mind as reported by Walter Cronkite. Those images will forever flicker across the television screen as each anniversary passes.
The most trusted man in America is no longer with us, but I would say that 92 years is a darn good run. I think the melancholy I feel is that it truly is the end of an era. I looked up to Walter Cronkite and John Chancellor as what journalism could and should be. I was lucky enough to start my career at a time when those who worked above me had the same vision.
For every name and face you see bringing you the news, there are hundreds of others who help get them into your living room and onto your computer or iPhone. While it was exciting to work the days when Peter Jennings came to Washington, DC to anchor the ABC News broadcast, I got more excited when a producer gave me a phone number to call or handed me video to review.
These were the people who took the time to help a kid in the trenches climb her way upward. Without them and countless others, I believe I would not be the journalist I am today. They are not known to most of you, but you have seen their work – trust me. There are just a few I would like to stop and remember.
Rebecca Lipkin, Leroy Sievers, Leo Meidlinger. My colleagues, mentors and friends. All gone too soon.
Rebecca passed away Sunday after fighting a brave battle against breast cancer. Always honest, always spirited, her poignant video diaries can be seen on YouTube should you want to meet the woman so many of us are lucky to have known.
It’s been almost a year since Leroy Sievers died of colon cancer. I knew Leroy when he worked at “Nightline.” He also bravely shared his experiences battling brain tumors and cancer in the hope that it would inform and bring solace to others who may be touched by something similar. His story was part of a Ted Koppel documentary, and Leroy created a forum on National Public Radio and at NPR.org called “My Cancer.” His work continues: as of January, the forum is now called “Our Cancer.”
And Leo. He didn’t have time to do such things, but there was not one person who walked through the doors of ABC News that did not know Leo. He was old school and we, especially the younger folk, loved him for it. To know Leo, all you have to do is turn on some Otis Redding, set yourself up with a double Cutty Sark, and laugh until there is no more air in your lungs.
Leo reminded me a lot of another one of those nameless, faceless guys found behind the camera. But to me, he loomed larger than life: my Uncle Ed.
Had it not been for Ed Dyas, I would not have known that this love I had for pictures and words could actually be channeled into a career. He worked at NBC News, and when I was no more than eight years old, he took my family on a tour of the studios at 30 Rock in New York City. I never realized before then that behind all those tubes and wires in that box, there were people who put those shows together. I got to sit on the Today Show news set and we bumped into anchorman John Chancellor in one of the control rooms. I was hooked.
Uncle Ed was my first mentor and my champion. We always talked shop – and Eric Clapton. There’s no need to count the years he’s been gone because I still think of him every day.
I would love to hear his sermon about the state of the news biz today, with all these cable and Internet outlets. And I wonder what he would think of this adventure I now find myself on. My Aunt and cousins tell me he would be proud, and I admit that still makes me misty-eyed. I think it’s because I realize how lucky I am that I found something I love to do and that I still believe in.
I am grateful to all those who helped me along the way. They are gone but certainly not forgotten.
And yes, that’s the way it is…