Tuesday, May 03, 2005


I have to confess something here and now: I've been tuning into the CBS Evening News. Long ago, I quit watching the MSM's evening newscasts, for obvious reasons. One time I tuned in just to wave goodbye to Rather, but that was it.

Why, you ask? Two words: Bob Schieffer. He's been on TV longer than I've been alive and I can't ever remember thinking he presented his reports in a biased manner. Bias is easy to pick up on if you're looking for it. Like all of us, he's biased, we all are, but he's professional enough to keep his opinions out of the process. Journalists are now lagging a couple notches below lawyers with regard to respect, but Schieffer is above his peers by a country mile. Schieffer's from Texas, so he's aware how far a country mile is.

Bias, or lack of it, isn't why I mention Schieffer; his ability to tell a good story is, however. Since he was a moderator of one of the Presidential Debates last year, Schieffer has been on all sorts of TV shows, and whenever I run across one of them, I have to stop and watch the whole thing, mainly because he's telling another one of his great stories.

When Schieffer's recalling a story from back-in-the-day, no one's more enthusiastic about the story than Schieffer. A friend of mine, when beginning a story, a joke usually, will say, "If you've heard this before, don't stop me, I wanna hear it again." I'm positive Bob thinks the same way. He enjoys telling these stories and no one's better at it.

Schieffer's recollections from that dreadful day in Dallas are the best. Back then, he says, reporters were told to always answer the phone, because the next big story could be on the other end. On that day, Bob answered the phone and, sure enough, the biggest story of his life just happened to be on the other end: Oswald's mother. She needed a ride to Dallas to be with her son, Lee. Bob shot down to the "agency," today they're called dealerships, to pick up a car to fetch Mrs Oswald. The news organization in Dallas had a deal with the local dealer, agency, to provide transportation for reporters in exchange for a write-up on the quality of the car, which were almost always glowing.

When Schieffer goes on with this story about Oswald's mother, you get the sense she's simply an awful woman. While telling the story, he's able bring you with him to Dallas when he gets to the Police Department, and convinces everyone there that he's supposed to be there. When, in fact, the last person they want inside is a reporter. But Schieffer blends in and gets away with this for a few hours, until one FBI guy finally looks his way and asks Bob the question he didn't want to hear: "Who are you?"

Not long after the question was asked, Schieffer found himself outside on the pavement. His life would never be the same again, either. Nor would ours, since our President was dead. I was 7 years old. Schieffer gets ribbed for the Oswald story because he's told it a million times, but if I found myself at a cocktail party and had his ear, I would ask him if he minded telling the story again.

This evening I bumped into Schieffer on "The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch," and they were showing clips of Bob reading from a bootlegged copy of the Star Report. A scoop at the time. It was very funny because he was reading straight from the text and editing between his brain and his mouth, since a lot of the report was describing Clinton and Monica in rather racy terms. So, Bob continued to edit on the fly and was clearly uncomfortable, red-faced, as he trotted around certain descriptive terms. At one point, he came upon the term "oral sex," but thinking he shouldn't use that exact term, it came out "sex-in-kind." How precious is that?

Later in tonight's show, Donny showed a clip of Bob signing off for the last time on his weekend newscast. He was doing fine until he mentioned his wife having to wait for him to come home on the weekend after the newscast, it brought him to tears, not because he was leaving the newcast, but that he had to be away from his wife and she was always there waiting for him to come home. You could just sense that he's hitched his wagon to one terrific gal, and one, if he had a choice, he wouldn't be far from.

There are many who tell good stories, but few good storytellers. Bob is one hell of a good storyteller. He's both a reporter and a storyteller, and he has my respect.

If anyone can save CBS, it's Bob Schieffer. But I think they'll have to deliver his pay with a Brink's Truck....trust me, if I'm watching CBS again, he's worth it.

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