Sunday, June 12, 2011
8 Years ago today, the world lost David Brinkley
Mister Brinkley,Thank you for all of the years you have provided in the world of journalism. Especially you touch my heart with the journalist who gets connected with the presidency. I have enjoyed your 1995 Memoir on which I have received from a friend of mine in my local library and I have readed it like 4 times and I will treasure this book for the years to come. Thank you for introducing me in the world of the presidency with all of your interviews of every President since FDR to Bill Clinton. Thank You Mister Brinkley, Remembering you 8 years later today, may you rest in peace!
David McClure Brinkley (July 10, 1920 – June 11, 2003) was an American newscaster for NBC and ABC in a career lasting from 1943 to 1997.
From 1956 through 1970, he co-anchored NBC's top rated nightly news program, The Huntley–Brinkley Report, with Chet Huntley and thereafter appeared as co-anchor or commentator on its successor, NBC Nightly News, through the 1970s. In the 1980s and 1990s, Brinkley was host of the popular Sunday This Week with David Brinkley program and a top commentator on election night coverage for ABC News. Over the course of his career, Brinkley received ten Emmy Awards, three George Foster Peabody Awards, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
He wrote three books, including the critically acclaimed 1988 bestseller Washington Goes to War, about how World War II transformed the nation's capital. This social history was largely based on his own observations as a young reporter in the city.
June 12, 2003
David Brinkley, Elder Statesman of TV News, Dies at 82
By RICHARD SEVERO
David Brinkley, whose pungent news commentaries, delivered with a mixture of wry skepticism and succinct candor, set the standard for network television for generations, died at his home in Houston late Wednesday. He was 82.
Mr. Brinkley liked to say that he had "done the news longer than anyone on earth." He summed up his own career as the subtitle of his 1995 memoir, "David Brinkley: 11 Presidents, 4 Wars, 22 Political Conventions, One Moon Landing, 3 Assassinations, 2,000 Weeks of News and Other Stuff on Television and 18 Years of Growing Up in North Carolina."
His style of writing and delivering the news clipped sentences spoken in measured cadences and in a sardonic voice was echoed by legions of young television commentators, imitated by comedians and mimics, and instantly recognized by generations of Americans.
His colleague Roger Mudd once observed that Mr. Brinkley "brought a level of political sophistication and literary craftsmanship and a lively sense of humor that television had never known before and that hasn't been equaled since."
Mr. Brinkley was among the last of a generation of reporters who got their basic training at newspapers and wire services, then made their name in the new medium of television. That generation included Walter Cronkite and John Chancellor.
"In my own work I have, for better or worse, always dealt or tried to deal with everything that falls under the heading of news," Mr. Brinkley wrote in his 1996 book, "Everyone Is Entitled to My Opinion." "Just news. No specialty, no emphasis on this or that or anything else. Just whatever came in."
He described his commentaries as "the sauce, the spice, the flavoring to be mixed in with the wars, the medical discoveries and the economic upheavals that fill the front pages."
Mr. Brinkley achieved a number of firsts, including writing and serving as host for one of the earliest television news magazines, "David Brinkley's Journal," in the 1960's. But he was at the height of his popularity from 1956 to 1970, when NBC teamed him with Chet Huntley on a nightly news program it called "The Huntley-Brinkley Report."
Mr. Huntley, a saturninely handsome correspondent who was given to punditry, reported from New York and Mr. Brinkley held forth from Washington. The chemistry between the two newsmen, thanks largely to the controlled astringency of Mr. Brinkley's commentary, gave the broadcast a dominant place in the ratings, overtaking Mr. Cronkite's in two years.
Mr. Brinkley was not given to nostalgia. Speaking in 1996 of Mr. Huntley, who died in 1974, he said: "We weren't really close. He was always in New York, and I was always in Washington." Mr. Brinkley once explained the enormous success of "The Huntley-Brinkley Report" in this way: "I wrote pretty well, and Huntley looked good and had a great voice."
Reuven Frank, the program's producer, was credited with conceiving its famous closing lines "Good Night, Chet," "Good Night, David," "And good night for NBC News" as a gesture of warmth to offset the serious demeanors of Mr. Huntley and Mr. Brinkley and the seriousness with which they treated the nightly news. In later years, Mr. Brinkley said he thought the sign-off was "silly and inappropriate."
Some of Mr. Brinkley's finest moments involved the coverage of politics by "The Huntley-Brinkley Report," particularly its live reporting from the parties' conventions, beginning in 1956.
By 1964, the program's coverage of the Democratic convention drew a remarkable 84 percent share of the viewers. President Bill Clinton said that the Huntley-Brinkley coverage of the conventions fueled his early interest in politics. And Jeff Greenfield, the CNN news analyst, said, "David Brinkley created a whole generation of political junkies."
"The Huntley-Brinkley Report" ended with Mr. Huntley's retirement in 1970, but Mr. Brinkley remained at NBC for 11 years after his departure. He was an anchor of "Nightly News" with John Chancellor from 1976 to 1979 and for a while presided over "NBC Magazine." In the 1960's, he had also been the host of "David Brinkley's Journal." Both "Magazine" and "Journal" were critically acclaimed, although neither attracted as large a share of the television audience as critics thought they deserved.
In September 1981, Mr. Brinkley, then 61, said he was leaving NBC after 38 years "because there's nothing at NBC that I really want to do." The network had just picked Roger Mudd and Tom Brokaw as the anchors for "Nightly News" and Mr. Brinkley felt he had no role. He later called his departure "a rending, wrenching experience," that brought tears to his eyes.
He soon joined ABC News, where Roone Arledge was planning a Sunday morning program. "This Week With David Brinkley" at first featured Benjamin C. Bradlee, then the editor of The Washington Post , and Karen Elliot House, a diplomatic reporter for The Wall Street Journal. It later included George Will, Cokie Roberts and Sam Donaldson.
With Mr. Brinkley in charge, the program's blend of political news, commentary and sometimes quarrelsome debate established it as both a ratings leader and a trendsetter on Sunday mornings. It also inspired a wave of similar programs. Tim Russert, the host of NBC's "Meet the Press," which challenged the ratings supremacy of "This Week," said of his competitor, "David Brinkley redefined Sunday morning TV."
Mr. Brinkley retired from his weekly stint as moderator of ABC's "This Week With David Brinkley" in November 1997, saying he would contribute commentary and perform other duties for the network. In the months leading up to his retirement, he observed that he had covered 22 national political conventions, which he had come to regard as "cruel and unusual punishment."
Mr. Brinkley had been in deteriorating health for some time. He had lung surgery and afterwards, even after convalescence, some colleagues thought he had lost a step.
In 1998, he surprised many of his admirers in the news business when he agreed to become a spokesman for Archer Daniels Midland , the agribusiness giant. He had retired from ABC only months earlier. Archer had gotten itself into serious difficulty with the federal government in 1996, paying a $100 million fine for the price fixing of food and feed additives.
So there was considerable dismay when Mr. Brinkley appeared for A.D.M. in an advertisement on his old program with these self-introductory words: "Since television began, I have brought you the news wars, elections, victories, defeats. The news, straight and true. I will still speak straight and true. I'll never change that, but now I will bring you information about food, the environment, agriculture, issues of importance to the American people and the world."
Some of the most esteemed figures in television news, including Mr. Cronkite, the retired CBS News correspondent and anchor, expressed reservations and puzzlement, since representing a corporation appeared to be in conflict with Mr. Brinkley's image of independence as a newsman.
When the commercial turned up only on the program that Mr. Brinkley had just retired from, ABC pulled the ad, but reinstated it a few months later.
In later years, Mr. Brinkley was accused of becoming more of a curmudgeon than a skeptic.
Mr. Brinkley countered: "As long as I've known anything about politics, I've been skeptical. And it has evolved. The more I saw, the more skeptical I became."
He said that politicians in the 1990's were largely concerned with the "naked pursuit of power and of privilege and of perks."
During his final election-night program, in 1996, Mr. Brinkley delivered some parting shots, calling President Bill Clinton a bore and telling voters they could expect more "goddamned nonsense" for the next four years.
After covering presidential elections since the 1956 Eisenhower-Stevenson race, the 1996 election was Mr. Brinkley's last as a broadcaster. Winding up a long night, when ABC correspondents gathered around Peter Jennings, the anchor, Mr. Brinkley said of the newly re-elected Mr. Clinton: "He has not a creative bone in his body. Therefore, he's a bore, and will always be a bore."
Callers flooded the network's phone lines to complain about or praise Mr. Brinkley's remarks. But he apologized to President Clinton a few days later.
David McClure Brinkley was born on July 10, 1920, in Wilmington, N.C., the son of William Graham Brinkley, a railroad man, and Mary MacDonald West Brinkley. While he was still a student at New Hanover High School in Wilmington, he worked for a weekly newspaper, owned by a relative, providing a column about high school activities. It "was full of such racy items as who was buying 10 cent sodas for whom," Mr. Brinkley later said, "each one separated by three dots."
After high school, he attended the University of North Carolina and Vanderbilt University, but got degrees from neither, because "I didn't think there was anything they could teach me," Mr. Brinkley said. He joined the Army in 1940 but was discharged for medical reasons a year later.
In 1942, he got a reporting job with United Press in Atlanta and later worked for the news agency in Montgomery, Ala., Nashville and Charlotte, N.C. He then moved to Washington, where NBC, impressed by his ability to write for the ear, hired him as a news writer.
In his 1995 memoir, Mr. Brinkley told how he came to deliver the news in his distinctive melodic fashion. During World War II, he said, he took to underlining words to ensure the correct emphasis on the radio and developed his "jerky, labored way of speaking."
In 1945, NBC made him the moderator of a television news show called "America United," which was shown in the Washington area. Mr. Brinkley liked to say that he made all his learning errors at a good time, because at that point, there were only a few hundred people with television sets in Washington.
NBC decided that Mr. Brinkley had on-camera talent and in 1950 made him a news commentator. The next year, he became Washington correspondent for NBC's nightly 15-minute news program, "Camel News Caravan," named after the cigarette company that sponsored it.
In 1955, he met Mr. Huntley and in 1957, NBC decided that both men would be commentators on the "News Caravan," which was then anchored by John Cameron Swayze. Soon, Mr. Huntley and Mr. Brinkley became the anchors for the program and the combination immediately received critical acclaim.
In August 1956, Jack Gould, the television critic of The New York Times , predicted that Mr. Brinkley might well be the forerunner of a new school of television commentator. He lauded Mr. Brinkley's terse style and said, "He has the knack for the succinct phrase that sums up the situation."
The broadcast continued to grow in popularity and Mr. Brinkley added to his luster by his deft completion of special assignments. In 1959, for example, NBC sent him on a tour of the Mediterranean and the resultant clips were broadcast as "Our Man in the Mediterranean." It was literate, funny and acerbic. Three years later, Mr. Brinkley captured much the same tone with another such program, called "Our Man in Vienna."
Throughout the 1960's "The Huntley-Brinkley Report" set the pace for NBC News, helping it pull ahead of its rival networks' news operations, including CBS News, which had always regarded itself as the elite network news operation.
Mr. Brinkley's marriage to Ann Fischer ended in divorce. Their children are Alan, a historian who is to become provost of Columbia University on July 1; Joel, a correspondent in the Washington Bureau of The New York Times; and John. In 1972, Mr. Brinkley married Susan Adolph. Mrs. Adolph has a daughter, Alexis, by her previous marriage to Peter Adolph.
The 1970's brought about increased criticism of both print and broadcast journalism, especially from conservatives. Mr. Brinkley met such criticism with characteristic directness. In 1970, when Senator Barry Goldwater, the Arizona Republican, complained about bias in the news and what he called "liberal comments about the Nixon administration" that had "taken on an edge of desperation and hysteria," Mr. Brinkley snapped, "He gave no details, no names and no specifics."
He added that "no politician has ever complained about biased news coverage when the news reported made his political opponent look bad." He said that what some politicians wanted was "slanted reporting, slanted their way."
Mr. Brinkley's commentaries kept their edge. In 1972, he noted in "David Brinkley's Journal" on NBC that if a Social Security recipient earned more than $30 a week at the time, he started to lose his pension. "His pension is not a gift, not charity and not welfare. He paid for it in advance," Mr. Brinkley said. "In simple truth, when a person retires, whether he works or not, is none of Washington's business."
In the years that followed, both at NBC and at ABC, he railed at what he saw as the incompetence of big government. He came to think that Congress had dangerously isolated itself from the rest of the country. Over the years, his gut issues were taxes, law and order, environmental decay and urban planning.
John J. O'Connor, reviewing this phase of his career for The Times, called Mr. Brinkley "one of the more articulate and persuasive practitioners" of television news reporting.
"The only way to do news on television is not to be terrified of it," Mr. Brinkley said. "Most of the news isn't very important. In fact, very little of it is."
Days before his announced retirement from regular news coverage, Brinkley made a rare on-air mistake during evening coverage of the 1996 presidential election, at a moment when he thought they were on commercial break. One of his colleagues asked him what he thought of Bill Clinton's re-election. He called Clinton "a bore" and added, "The next four years will be filled with pretty words, and pretty music, and a lot of goddamn nonsense!" One of his team pointed out that they were still on the air. Brinkley said, "Really? Well, I'm leaving anyway!" Brinkley worked this mistake into a chance for an apology as part of a one-on-one interview with Clinton that followed a week or so later.
Brinkley stepped down from hosting This Week on November 10, 1996, but continued to provide small commentary pieces for the show until 1997. He then fully retired from television. He had been an electronic journalist for over fifty years and had been anchor or host of a daily or weekly national television program for just over forty years. His career lasted from the beginning of broadcast news to the information age.
During his career, he won ten Emmy Awards and three George Foster Peabody Awards. In 1992, President George H. W. Bush awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor. Bush called him "the elder statesman of broadcast journalism"; but Brinkley was much more humble. In an interview in 1992, he said "Most of my life, I've simply been a reporter covering things, and writing and talking about it".
Brinkley is the father of historian and Columbia University Provost, Alan Brinkley, and of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and Stanford professor, Joel Brinkley.
Brinkley died in 2003 at his home in Houston, Texas, from complications after a fall. His body is interred at Oakdale Cemetery, Wilmington, North Carolina.