Saturday, April 10, 2021
Miles from the Mainstream
D. R. ZUKERMAN, proprietor

LPR's Roger Mudd Story

March 19, 2021 --

The following anecdote is prompted by the death of Roger Mudd legendary broadcast journalist at CBS News, then at NBC News and PBS.

After I left CBS News (as researcher network radio side) I stopped by the CBS News headquarters at 524 West 57th Street to visit a close friend from CBS News, Bob Blum.

Walking by cubicles near his, I noticed hand-made signs referring to something  involving Bob, who was the writer of Walter Cronkite's 5-minute network radio commentary.

When I got to Bob's cubicle, I had to ask him about the posted comments. He told me that he had written a radio commentary for Roger (subbing for Connkite on radio, as well as tv) about the CBS News decision to drop "instant analysis" after the famous speech attacking tv news by Agnew.  For comments about the policy change, Bob left a question for Paley, writing the piece as if it were about any policy change at a corporation. Bob got reaction from other CBSers, including news presidenet Richard S. Salant, and put his analysis of the end of instant analysis to bed.

Roger taped the piece to be sent over the network.  

Thirty minutes before it went out,  Richard Salant killed the commentary.

Bob told me he had to scurry to put something together in thirty minutes -- which he managed to do. (I forget if someone then filled in for Roger who by that time wold have been busy with the evening news -- maybe Hughes Rudd.)

Some months before, I went to the [MORE] gathering in Washington, one May weekend, and got to know Richard Pollak,  (Pollack) the editor and a few other people. So here I am, in Bob's cubicle, months later, thinking that this is a perfect story for [MORE] -- a journalism review.  I did ask Bob if I could do a piece about his adventure -- not wanting to get him into difficulty at CBS News.

He said go ahead. And I did. I got in touch with Stanton's office and one morning, a chauffeur appeared at my apartment building with copies of Stanton speeches about broadcasting tv news. I called Rather for comment, He would talk to me, but off the record. I agreed. I remember to this day one thing he said to me. "David, remember, CBS is a corporation, and those who forget this, do so at their peril."

I went back to 524. Salant's door was open, and he was happy to chat with he, He pointed to the open door and told me had has asked any staffer who eanted to talk to him to come to his office, but nobody came.  Then I went to the evening news studio.  I caught up with Roger as he was leaving -- I think it was -- I remember that he was about to stride through a studio -- and BEFORE i could say a word, he said, "No thanks," and walked away.  

I recall also reaching John Chancellor for comment and, if I remember right, he was very surprised (I hesitate after some 47 years to say he was "shocked') that CBS News would kill the commentary.

I wrote an article for [MORE].  It didn't mention Rather. It did, as I recall, mention that Roger wouldn't talk to me.  Of course, it mentioned Bob (who didn't suffer for the story)   The story was the lead for that issue of [MORE], edited by Richard P -- who put words in my "mouth" that I never used, never even heard of.  Well, just one word.  "Mindset."  I was 33 or 34 at the time, never heard of the word, not in high school, not in college.  I would have used "attitude."   But, I went along with the changes.

I got to thinking that Roger, in a way, was more honest with me, than Dan.  I also what Dan told me, when he got the job as Walter's successor.

Bob, after the piece appeared, told me that the staffers were busy xeroxing and passing around the story. One industry journal summarized it.

Me? I got a note from Sandy Socolow.  "David, better you should not come around here anymore.."