Archive for the ‘Genre: News’ Category

Remembering Pioneering Television Executive Julian Goodman

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012

The Archive of American Television is sad to report that former NBC executive Julian Goodman, died Monday, July 2nd, at the age of 90. In 1998, the Archive interviewed him for nearly three-and-a-half hours at his home in Jupiter, FL. During that interview Goodman discussed his years as president of NBC. In addition, he talked about his start at NBC News, when he was a news writer for David Brinkley in 1945.  Mr. Goodman also detailed the network’s coverage of important news events including President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, the Civil Rights Movement, and the Vietnam War.

Here are some excerpts from the interview:

On producing the second of the 1960 Nixon-Kennedy debates

We had always sought to get the presidential candidates to debate.  And the Convention of 1960, as soon as the candidates had been selected, Bob Sarnoff and Bob Kintner and Bill McAndrew and I sat in a hotel room in Chicago and composed a telegram to the two candidates, urging them to do this.  I guess the other networks were doing the same thing at the same time.  I know that the candidates themselves had probably been thinking about it long before we were, probably. So, reluctantly, they agreed upon the debates.  And they certainly were historic and they certainly were influential in the outcome of the election.  The debates have changed a great deal since then, if indeed they have been debates.  But the ones we had then  were the real thing.  They may have changed the course of history because they were on television.  People got a chance to see the candidates and a chance to choose for themselves which man they wanted to lead them.  Yet it’s difficult that the mechanics and the cosmetics of the situation have blurred over the years who was the best man for the job. Because the final vote was less than half a million.  Television did play a very important part in making the decision, or allowing the American people to make the decision for themselves.

On covering the President John F. Kennedy’s Assassination and Funeral (including the capturing of John-John’s famous salute)

Someone leaned over to me and whispered, “I’ve heard on WNEW Kennedy has been shot.”   I got up without excusing myself and went to the headquarters, BOC, Broadcast Operations Center, of NBC.  It was on the 5th floor, one floor down. And that’s where everything took place when we had an emergency.  It was a room about the size of a current sports utility vehicle.  We crowded at least 6 or 8 people into it.  We were separated by a glass partition.  And William Ryan, a correspondent, very good one, for NBC News, walked in about that time and I said, “Go and get on-camera.” And he said, “What’ll I say?”  I had a UP flash in my hand that said,” Flash, Dallas – President Kennedy has been shot.”  And he said, “what’ll I say?  I can’t go on with that.”   I said read it forwards.  And then read it backwards.  And then read it halfway and then read the other half.  And by that time you’ll have more to say.  And he read it.  He did a really very good job.  And a young man in the front part of this Broadcast Operations Center turned around and said to me rather petulantly, “When are we going back to local programming?”  And I said, “son, why don’t you go home?  We’re not ever going back to local programming.”

While we didn’t have a correspondent on the air from Dallas at that time, we followed the story from that moment on, until the following Monday night, after the Kennedy funeral.  Without ever leaving the air. Without commercials. There were many people afterward were asking me, quite a number of times, how long did it take you to decide not to do any commercials?  How big was the fight about not doing commercials?  There was never even any discussion of it.  Kintner just said, we’ll drop the commercials.  That’s all there was to it. But,  to the best of my knowledge, I didn’t sleep during those days, from that time Friday until the following Monday.   I flew to Washington at one point, when Kennedy was in-State at the Rotunda, It was midnight. There was some discussion, somebody said, “there’s nothing going on.  Shall we go off the air?”   Edwin Newman was at the Capital Rotunda.  I said, “No. Stay on the air all night, but don’t have anybody talk.  Just show the people passing the casket.”  It was a very effective way of doing it.

The coverage was a voluntary instantaneous work of art by everybody involved in it at NBC.  From the time it started until the time it finished.  In the course other coverage, particularly of the funeral cortege, and in Washington, there was a moment when there occurred a shot that I’ve always regarded as the greatest shot I’ve ever seen on television.  It was caused by, directed by, set up by Charles Jones, who was one of our directors in Washington, he was working for the pool, and he set up a camera at a low point, so he could get the upward shot of the people coming out of the church, when Mrs. Kennedy came out. When young John-John came out and saluted, I still think it’s the best single, most impressive, most dramatic television shot in the history of television.

On the infamous 1968 NBC “Heidi” incident where a Jets v. Raiders game was pre-empted

It was November 17th, 1968.   I was at my house in Larchmont, New York.  The NBC Press Department was at a meeting with the press in Miami.  At a cocktail party. I was watching the television and there was a football game on.  The football game went off and Heidi came on and I said, “What?”  But I thought no more of that. Until the phone began to ring. And until neighbors began to appear at our door.  What had happened was, that Heidi, a children’s program sponsored by Hallmark, was scheduled to go on the air at I believe 6 p.m.  Somebody who later admitted it to me, but whom I won’t name, had left a memorandum with Broadcast Operations Control.  A man name Dick Cline, touched the fatal button and when 6 o’clock came – the memo said ‘Under no circumstances will the football game run past 6 o’clock.  Heidi must go on at 6.  We have committed to the advertiser.” Well, I didn’t know that it had happened.  I don’t know any other people who knew it had happened.  But at 6 o’clock, certainly, the game seemed to be under control at that time.  But two more touchdowns were scored, the whole outcome of the game was reversed. We had bomb threats the next day.  And people still remember it to this day.

On his most important achievements at NBC

The coupling of David Brinkley with Chet Huntley was the most important decision that I made. If that’s the only one I have to make. Something we haven’t mentioned: When I was at  NBC News, Kintner and McAndrew and I were coming out of the White House after a meeting with Pierre Salinger.  We had just lost the NCAA Finals.  The NCAA contract, the yearly contract for football, college football on television to ABC.  And instead of talking about what Pierre Salinger wanted us to talk about, when we got back to the hotel room at the Mayflower Kintner said, what are we going to do about football?  And I gave him a plan.  Which eventually we developed and which is working pretty well even today.  That plan was to take the American Football League, which was then at ABC, getting $150,000 per game for what they did, and let us offer them a 10-year contract. Give them more money than they were worth to allow them to pay their football players so they could become competitive with the NFL.  We got a 5-year contract.  We paid them $800,000 per game per week as against ABC’s $150,000.  Sonny Werblin, owner of the New York Jets, hired Joe Namath to be the quarterback, with the money we gave him.  Some of the owners put the money in their pocket.  Others made their teams competitive.  As a result, Pete Rozelle created the Super Bowl.  The American Football League is now competitive with the NFL.  That was probably the most important decision.  Aside from picking David Brinkley.

On the public’s perception of news integrity

The public’s acceptance of news integrity since I started, has gone up and down like a chart of the Dow Jones Industrials.  Namely though, it has, like the Dow Jones Industrials, ended “up”. I think the public, although it hates some things it hears and sees on television, likes having it there and would be very sorry not to have it.  That’s what I tried to fight all the time I was an executive in television.  And that is, the eagerness that politicians have to hamstring us, to harass us, to keep us from doing what we would like to do. And that is to be fair.  To be equitable.  To be even-handed.  To be thorough with all the news that we cover.  I’ve made in speeches,  a reference to the fact that as each new day begins, the pages of a newspaper are totally blank.  The screen on television is blank.  And all day long, there are people fighting to change and shape and arrange in order, to their benefit, what goes on there.  It is the purpose and the challenge of the newsperson responsible to make sure that what goes on is fair and not just what others want us to say.

On how he would like to be remembered

As everybody would like to be remembered.  Well and favorably.  He did a good job.  He did the best he could.

The entire interview can be viewed at

Will and Katie: Couric Celebrates the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

This year Queen Elizabeth II celebrates her Diamond Jubilee, marking her 60-year reign as Great Britain’s monarch. ABC News is marking the occasion tonight with a two-hour edition of 20/20 entitled “The Real Queen: By Her Own Royal Family.”  Katie Couric interviews the Queen’s grandsons, Prince William and Prince Harry about their grandmother:

Couric met the Queen last week and described the experience to colleague Diane Sawyer:

The special airs at 9pm ET, and Good Morning America is also airing from London this week to join in the jubilation.

Check out Katie Couric’s Archive interview to see her discuss some of the other major interviews she’s conducted over the years.

Gwen Ifill on NBC, PBS, and VPs

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

You can regularly catch her on Washington Week and PBS Newshour, and she’s been known to moderate a Vice-Presidential Debate or two. Journalist Gwen Ifill has been reporting on The Hill for years now, and not just for TV news – she spent years in print journalism working for The Washington Post and The New York Times before coming to television.

In her 2011 interview, Ifill talks of moderating one of the Sarah Palin-Joe Biden Vice Presidential debates:

Watch Gwen Ifill’s full interview here.

About this interview:

In her hour-long Archive Interview, Gwen Ifill discusses her early love of writing and reading and how that carried her into a career in journalism. She knew at the age of nine-years-old that she wanted to be a journalist and later majored in Communications at Simmons College to help make her dream a reality. She describes working in print journalism for many years, covering politics for The Baltimore Evening Sun, Presidential Elections for The Washington Post, and Clinton’s election and the White House for The New York Times. She recalls her first appearance on television and shares how mentor Tim Russert convinced her to get into television full-time. Ifill details stories she covered at NBC News, and outlines her transition from NBC to PBS. She speaks of becoming the first female, African-American moderator of Washington Week and talks of her work on NewsHour with Jim Lehrer (aka PBS NewsHour). She discusses her experiences moderating Edwards/Cheney and Palin/Biden Vice-Presidential debates and expresses her thoughts on the Saturday Night Live sketch with Queen Latifah that parodies the Palin/Biden debate. Ifill offers tips on how to be a good moderator and gives her views on the future of television news. Karen Herman conducted the interview on October 20, 2011 in Washington, D.C.

Lessons in Lighting Design from Imero Fiorentino

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

Even if you haven’t heard of Imero Fiorentino, chances are you’re familiar with his work. He was the lighting designer on may of ABC’s earliest programs, including U.S. Steel Hour, Omnibus, Paul Whiteman’s Goodyear Revue, and Tales of Tomorrow. He lit the scene for Telstar I’s first live transatlantic transmission on July 10, 1962, and he designed the lighting for the World Showcase Pavilions at Disney’s Epcot Center.

Perhaps the most famous broadcasts with which Fiorentino was involved: he lit the second, third and fourth Kennedy-Nixon debates after Nixon looked so undesirable in the first debate:

Learn more about the craft of lighting design by watching Imero Fiorentino’s full interview.

Katie Couric on her career at CNN, CBS, and more

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

Katie Couric interview screenshotIn her newly released 2010 interview, journalist Katie Couric describes her career in front of the camera as correspondent, reporter, co-host & anchor of some of television’s most respected programs. She tells of her first on-camera debut at CNN, her role as co-host of NBC’s Today, and how she hoped to revamp the traditional format of CBS Evening News while serving as television’s first, female, fulltime anchor.
Watch Katie Couric’s interview in its entirety here.

The Archive is saddened to learn of the passing of Katie Couric’s father, John, whom she credits with her love of words and writing.  She speaks lovingly about her father in the excerpt below:

About this interview:
In her Archive interview, Katie Couric discusses her path from desk assistant at ABC News to desk anchor at CBS News. She details her love of writing and how she became interested in journalism while in college, and shares the tales of her not-so-glamorous debuts as an on-camera reporter for CNN in Washington, D.C. and as an anchor for the WTBJ local news in Miami. Despite these setbacks, Couric recounts how she persisted and proceeded to anchor the news at WRC in Washington, D.C., to work at the NBC News Washington Bureau, and subsequently, to co-host Today. She speaks of her experience on Today and on transitioning to CBS Evening News, and describes what it means to her to be the first solo female news anchor. The interview was conducted by Karen Herman in New York on June 18, 2010.

Remembering TV News Legend Joseph Wershba

Monday, May 16th, 2011

Legendary news producer Joseph Wershba passed away on Saturday, May 14th at the age of 90. Wershba, who decided to become a journalist at a very early age, began his broadcast career in radio, and transitioned to television at CBS News, where he worked on See It Now (where he was part of the core team to expose McCarthyism), CBS Reports and 60 Minutes.

Here are a few excerpts from his 6-hour career-spanning Archive of American Television interview conducted by Jeff Kisseloff in 1997:

Joseph Wershba on the genesis of See it Now
It was what we had on the first broadcast.  Open with something that nobody had ever seen before, which was two oceans live in the same time frame; the Brooklyn Navy Yard where Eddie Scott was, and the Golden Gate Bridge and the San Francisco Bay, which was live. Murrow said, “Ed, will you give me the uh, the Brooklyn Navy Yard?”  And he said, “coming right up!  There it is.” Murrow said, “well, this is the first time we’ve ever seen two oceans live.”  You know, small potatoes today, but very big.  It was like the landing on the Moon.  The coaxial cable had just been opened for many of us to go by cable to the west coast.  Before that, it wouldn’t have been done.  And Murrow’s introductory line, “this is an old team on a new job.” Meaning, CBS, his colleagues and Fred Friendly using uh, and entirely new mode of communication, and we hoped to use it and not abuse it, which referred to his own feelings about what the news was about.

Joseph Wershba on preparing See It Now’s historic program on Senator Joseph McCarthy
We looked at the program, it was cut.  Ed [Murrow] went around the room, What do you think? The editors were all for it, scared.  The cameramen worried about their jobs and things like that.  My position was, it all depends on what you’re going to say at the end of this broadcast.  Because, if you just run what we have looked at, the people who think McCarthy is a great man, will think he is doing the Lord’s work.  And the people who are fearful of him and hate him will think he’s more fearful and more hateful than they ever knew.  What are you going to say?  And, instead of telling me to go mind my business, he said, “Well what I’ll say is that, if none of us ever read a book that was different, if none of us ever joined an organization that somebody thought should be outlawed, if none of us ever had friends who, who were suspect of something or other, we’d all be, all be just the kind of people that Joe McCarthy wants.  The whole country’d be that way.” But he said it even more, I don’t have it down word for word.  He said it powerfully, he’d been thinking about it all along.  And I said, “Well Mr. Murrow, it’s been a privilege to have known you.”….I felt that this was the greatest thing that I’d, in my personal life, had ever come across.  We’re standing at Armageddon, ready for war, and we could easily have been destroyed.  Just McCarthy coming back, ripping us apart.

Joseph Wershba on the legacy of CBS News president Fred Friendly
I don’t like what’s happened in recent years in an attempt to downgrade Fred’s contribution.  I will say to my last breath that without Fred we wouldn’t have had the impact that we had on See It Now.  That Fred helped give Murrow the means whereby Murrow could make the mark that he wanted to.

Joseph Wershba on his work as a producer on 60 Minutes
See It Now was the mother lode, it was the fount of all these magazine shows.  The first one to come along which I’m proud to say I also worked on. I spent twenty years with 60 Minutes, I was one of the founding producers.  That’s a title that is a showbiz title, but it meant a reporter who went out, got all the details, came back, conferred with the correspondent who was doing four other stories at the same time, wrote up the  outline, placed the questions, told them what answers he can expect, and if they got a different answer, how to approach the next question.  That’s what a producer does.

See his CBS News obituary here.

Happy 93rd Birthday to Mike Wallace!

Monday, May 9th, 2011

Happy birthday to Archive interviewee Mike Wallace, born May 9, 1918. The Archive interviewed the TV news legend in 1998. Here’s an excerpt where he discusses his transition from entertainment television to hard news (which culminated in his decades-long run on 60 Minutes).

See his full Archive of American Television interview here.

Katie Couric discusses her legacy at CBS Evening News

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

Katie Couric sat for her Archive of American Television Interview in 2010, and talked about her long career in television journalism, including her tenure as a host on NBC’s Today show.

While Connie Chung, Barbara Walters, and others had co-hosted the nightly evening news, Couric became the country’s first solo, permanent, female nightly news anchor when she joined CBS’s Evening News in 2006. Today she announced she would be stepping down from that post.

In this interview excerpt, she discusses her legacy as an anchor, why the show was groundbreaking for television news, what it meant for her as a woman, and why she is proud of the job she did there.

“I wanted people to see a female newscaster on the evening news and say “That’s normal. This isn’t a first. This is acceptable.” Women are more than half of the population and newscasters and on-air reporters– they should look like America.”
- Katie Couric, from her June 18, 2010 interview.

James Wall, Longtime CBS Stage Manager, Has Died

Friday, October 29th, 2010

James Wall served as a stage manager for CBS for nearly 50 years and appeared on camera as teacher “Mr. Baxter” on Captain Kangaroo.  It was Wall’s idea that Captain Kangaroo should feature an African-American regular, and after serving as the show’s stage manager for six years, he was given the on-screen role starting in 1968.  Wall was semi-retired for the last two decades, but frequently came back to CBS as a fill-in stage manager— a job he continued to do until 2009.

James Wall’s Archive interview was conducted on October 21, 1999.

Interview description:

James Wall was interviewed for four-and-a-half hours in New York, NY. Wall candidly discussed his experiences as an African-American actor and stage manager in early television. He worked on entertainment programs, sports and news programs including The CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite. Mr. Wall also spoke of his work on Captain Kangaroo, first as stage manager, and later as “Mr. Baxter,” a teacher on the program. The interview was conducted by Michael Rosen.

Wall was given a tribute on the CBS Evening News, link.

50 Years Ago America Watched “The Great Debates” with candidates Kennedy and Nixon

Friday, September 24th, 2010

“The Great Debates”— a series of discussions with then-Vice President Richard M. Nixon and Massachusetts Senator John F. Kennedy— aired network-wide on September 26, October 7, October 13, and October 21, 1960.  Variety called the first debate a “dud,” but history has said otherwise, labeling it landmark in Kennedy’s eventual Presidential victory.  According to Presidential Debates: Forty Years of High-Risk TV by Alan Schroeder, the first debate “attract[ed] the largest audience that had ever assembled for a political event.  An estimated seventy million Americans watched on TV, while several million more listened on radio.”  The debates have become notable for the reaction of the TV versus radio audience.  As stated in David Bianculli’s Dictionary of Teleliteracy: “Nixon’s gaunt, stubbly, and sweaty appearance, especially the first night, is generally said to have cost him the debate and perhaps the election: radio listeners ranked Nixon ahead of Kennedy, but Kennedy’s ease in front of the cameras reflected a more comforting and commanding image, and TV viewers declared him the winner instead.”

“When that [first] debate was over, I realized that we didn’t have to wait for an election day. We just elected a president. It all happened on television.” — Don Hewitt (Producer/Director)

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the “Great Debates,” the Archive of American Television offers a special curated collection of Archive interviewees at Emmytvlegends’ Kennedy-Nixon Debates— watch an excerpt from the first debate and Archive interview excerpts from debates’ producer-director Don Hewitt, first debate moderator Howard K. Smith, CBS News President Sig Mickelson, and others.