Remembering Roger Mudd

The news alert caught my attention and got me thinking about a time that has come and gone.

Roger Mudd died. He was 93.

In the realm of TV news stars, Roger Mudd, as Maxwell Smart might say, “missed it by that much.” Let me say this though, Roger Mudd was as good as they got. Maybe better.

In his reporting career at CBS, Roger Mudd reported the big stories. The civil rights movement. The assassination of President Kennedy. The Vietnam War. The Pentagon Papers. The break in at Watergate. The resignation of President Nixon.

He also was in Los Angeles when Senator Robert Kennedy was assassinated in 1968. He was actually in the room.

Perhaps his biggest interview was with another Kennedy. Senator Edward Kennedy. Mudd asked Ted why he wanted to be president. The Senator was not prepared for the question.

Senator Kennedy said, “Well, I’m, uh, were I to make the announcement to run, the reasons that I would run is because I have a great belief in this country… We’re facing complex issues and problems in this nation at this time, but we have faced similar challenges at other times… And I would basically feel that it’s imperative for this country to move forward, that it can’t stand still, for otherwise it moves backward.”

his interview marked the beginning of the end of Ted Kennedy’s campaign for president.

Roger Mudd was on track for the next level of reporting. Anchorman. After Walter Cronkite retired from the CBS Evening News in 1980, the TV news industry changed.

Roger Mudd had been the heir apparent for the job. Instead, it went to Dan Rather. Roger Mudd jumped ship.

He went to NBC to co-anchored NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw. It didn’t work. Roger left and went to PBS for a time. Then, to the History Channel.

Roger Mudd wrote a book about his time in TV news. “The Place to Be: Washington, CBS and the Glory Days of Television News.”

That CBS Washington Bureau was the place to be. Think about it. Eric Sevareid. Daniel Schorr. Dan Rather. Leslie Stahl. Bob Schieffer. That’s a lot of talent and ego in one room!

Many believed Roger Mudd should have been the one to replace Walter Cronkite. At the time, he did too.

Roger Mudd came to realize that his strength was in reporting, not anchoring. He called anchors “hood ornaments for the companies.” Hahaha and ouch!

Dan Rather. Peter Jennings.Tom Brokaw. For a time, they were the “hood ornaments” for CBS, ABC and NBC. Very fine ones, too.

The PBS NewsHour anchor Judy Woodruff remembered Roger Mudd by saying he was “a man who left his mark on journalism.”

He did that. In college, I remember my journalism professors talked about Murrow, Cronkite and Mudd.

I’m think Roger Mudd probably hated what TV news has become. I just hope he found some peace in knowing he never made it as a “hood ornament” himself. Just a helluva good reporter.

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