Thursday, September 14, 2006

When Reporters Knew How to Write


"I remember watching the CBS Morning News one day thirty-two years ago and hearing Hughes Rudd refer to something that had happened during what the Pentagon had described as a 'routine B-52 raid.' At the end of the item, Rudd looked up and said, 'There is nothing routine about a B-52 raid. From a mile away it looks like the end of the world; if you happen to be any closer than a mile away, it is the end of the world.' I knew even then that I would never, ever forget that moment nor how perfectly it illustrated the power of effective use of our language." -- "Reiser," Sept. 16, 2005, on Banned for Life.

Hughes Rudd was born on this day in 1921.

Rudd was best known as the anchorman of the CBS Morning News (1973-77; co-anchor with Sally Quinn, 1973-4). Prior to that, Rudd served as a foreign correspondent for CBS News, including stints in Berlin, Bonn and Moscow, during the 1950s and 60s. Regarding his TV presence, columnist Brooks Peterson recalled, "In addition to being a superlative journalist, Rudd had another quality that especially endeared him to legions of hollow-eyed non-morning-persons: Rumpled, a little grouchy, and defiantly un-chipper, he looked and sounded every bit as crabby about having to be up at such an hour as the rest of us."

A talented storyteller, Rudd's 1966 book, My Escape from the CIA (And Other Improbable Events), was praised by none other than Thomas Pynchon, who wrote: "Without copping out behind idle metaphors or irrelevant plot devices, Mr. Rudd has succeeded in telling, with all his reporter's love of accuracy, and mastery of detail, and irony, and grace, and sometimes terrifying precision, exactly what the hell having to be an American, now, during the years of total war, epidemic anxiety and mass communications whose promise has been corrupted, is really about; where it's really at."

Given Rudd's "reporter's reporter" misgivings about the modern media, it is perhaps a little surprising that he would be invited to anchor the CBS Morning News; it has been suggested that he got the job by being a good drinking buddy to William Paley. After leaving CBS in 1979, he worked as a correspondent for ABC's World News Tonight until retiring to France in 1986. He died on October 13, 1992 in Toulouse, France.

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