By Dan McDermott
Warren County Report
A version of this story first appeared on Google Plus.
Like most journalists, I was saddened to hear of the passing of CBS legend Andy Rooney.
To most young people, Andy was simply that cranky old guy who read a short essay at the end of the news magazine your parents watched every Sunday night.
But he was so much more.
First and foremost a writer, Andy was never comfortable in the medium that made him so famous. But he was transparent about that, before ‘transparency’ was cool.
Andy didn’t like being recognized and he never signed autographs—except in his books, of course.
I never met Andy but like millions of Americans I knew him from his writing and television work. I know what he represented to American mass communications at a key time of change.
Aside from the fact that he was classy, smart and a great writer, what really made Andy special to me was that he was one of the last of the people who were part of the beginning of television. He was part of that group of journalists and writers who had to figure out how to take their long-form radio programs and perform them under a camera and lights.
In a lot of ways, those of us in internet programming are going through the same transition.
Leo Laporte’s TWiT network started out as a group of former Tech TV hosts sitting around a few microphones and chatting about technology news.
People listened and the show became a hit. Then Leo added cameras and some lights and recently a million dollar studio. But it is still largely an audio show that happens to be available on video.
Many decades ago, when radio was king, a young writer for CBS named Andy Rooney went through the same technology shift. He spoke about it during a lengthy 1999 interview with Don Carleton for the Archive of American Television.
This was a period during which television was born. I wake up some mornings and I say I am old enough to have been in on the beginning of television…
At CBS, [Arthur] Godfrey was radio, an hour and a half of radio five days a week. And then CBS started fooling with television, and quite early on color television too.
But it was black and white [then] so they talked Godfrey into letting cameras into the radio studio. It was nothing. It was [a money] loss. They figured, ‘Well we might as well broadcast this radio show.’
Well gradually, of course, television crept in and the income from it rose and they put lights in the studio specifically designed for television and gradually the radio disappeared and the television came to the fore and the first thing you know it was Arthur Godfrey’s television show.
Enjoy a few minutes with the late, great Andy Rooney: