ANDREW HEYWARD: Linda Mason worked closely with
Charles for five years as executive producer of SUNDAY MORNING from
1987 to 1992. Together they took the broadcast to the Soviet Union with
Ronald Reagan, to Japan for Emperor Hirohito's funeral, and to Tiananmen
LINDA MASON: Charles Kuralt had an insatiable curiosity, which resulted
in his knowing a lot about a lot, and he loved to impart that knowledge.
One early Sunday morning, as we prepared for that day's broadcast, he
told me he'd been up the night before reading the seed catalogsthat's
seeds for flowerslooking particularly at daffodils. I love flowers
and, in fact, grow daffodils, so his comment got my immediate attention.
"Did you know," he said, "there are over 100 varieties
of daffodils?' He had that twinkle he always had when sharing some delicious,
obscure tidbit. Of course I didn't, but he did. In fact, he planted
many kinds at that Connecticut home. Later I learned that a species
of daffodil had been specially bred and named for him. So as you look
at the common, garden-variety daffodil, which is known as King Alfred,
know there are a few special daffodils growing and multiplying called
I first came into contact with Charles as a brand-new producer for Walter
Cronkite's EVENING NEWS. I had not yet done anything of note when, one
day, I was entrusted with an ON THE ROAD report which Charles had just
sent in from the field. Every report in those days was assigned a New
York producer, and I felt great. I was finally being given an important
assignment. After all, ON THE ROAD had become a signature series for
the EVENING NEWS.
What I soon realized was, this was a perfect assignment for a new producer.
Charles was a producer as well as a correspondent and had covered every
angle of the story to perfection, and editor Tommy Micklas worked magic
with the film. I was truly a supernumerary.
Years later, when I worked more closely with Charles, I realized that
the seeking of perfection evidenced in my first ON THE ROAD experience
informed all of his work. In every report, he concentrated on detail,
on character, on story and, most importantly, on the words, for his
unique fusion of wordsin a picture mediumand pictures was
his hallmark. Charles will remain one of the greatest writers for television
news. He understood that on television, less is moreat least where
words are concerned. He knew how to distill a thought or a concept to
its barest minimum. Many an early Sunday morning I was treated to Charles's
redo of a piece of copy that refocused the perspective ever so slightly
and yet gave the item new meaning and clarity.
Charles's spectacular writing came hard. He agonized before taking pen
to paper or fingers to keyboard. He was, as I said, a perfectionist
and very critical of himself. This was obvious when, one day, he mentioned
that he was almost a year late in delivering the final manuscript of
his book A Life on the Road. He was thinking about giving back the advance,
but his editor said there was enough manuscript in hand to make a book,
and that's what the publisher planned. He added, "It will be a
mighty short book, however." That fear was enough to get Charles
writing at top speed.
Charles was well known for his travels on the road in America. Many
forget that he had been one of CBS News' busiest foreign correspondents,
from his assignment in Latin America to his weekly EYEWITNESS TO HISTORY,
which he reported and anchored from all over the world. I was lucky
enough to travel with Charles on several farflung stories and to see
how his ability to cut through and distill made glasnost and the attempted
Chinese revolution immediately accessible to millions of Americans.
When President Reagan went to Moscow to meet with Premier Gorbachev,
we took SUNDAY MORNING to Moscow and then did pieces for the EVENING
NEWS, since Dan Rather was originating from Moscow for the week. At
that time, it wasn't easy to move around Russiaand certainly not
out of Moscowbut we had arranged to film in a neighboring village
just outside of Moscow and, we learned later, just outside our allowed
boundaries. We enjoyed walking around the village, with Charles snapping
pictures of peasant faces. He later shared the photos with me, with
captions, and was quite proud of them.
Charles was a reporter's reporter. He understood the power of the small
story made big. He could use a detail to tell the big story, and he
always concentrated on people and their stories. On that same Russian
trip, Charles met and talked with an old Russian dentist, Dr. Nikita
Aseyev, who had been a P.O.W. in a German prison camp. For more than
40 years, Dr. Aseyev had been trying to get in touch with the American
P. O.W.'s who had been enslaved in the same camp and who he felt had
saved his life. Dr. Aseyev came to the very busy CBS headquarters in
Moscow, and only Charles saw the potential story. He did an incredible
interview in a Moscow park, where Dr. Aseyev drew a plan of the POW
camp in the sand with a stick. In this interview, Charles was able to
tell the story of World War II, when America and Russia were allies,
and then of the Cold War, and then of glasnost. Charles focused on this
Russian dentist who had a heroic story to tell. Charles had an incredible
ability to celebrate man's achievements. He had perfect pitch for every
On a trip a year later, I had occasion to witness, firsthand, Charles's
ability to focus on the particular to tell the big story. We brought
SUNDAY MORNING to Beijing on the eve of Gorbachev's visit. Again, we
went to do SUNDAY MORNING and then to contribute to the EVENING NEWS.
Each day, Charles and I drove through the streets of Beijing, which
were teaming with all manner of banners and protesters marching under
those banners. Picture this: Charles and I with a driver who spoke only
Chinese and a cell phone to call CBS headquarters in Beijing or New
York. We were virtually alone on the crowded streets of Beijing. Freedom
was palpable in the air. And, once again, Charles saw the whole story
of the revolution in the streetsto be specific, on one street
corner. He stayed on this corner with a crew and recorded as various
groupsfrom workers. to students to older Chinese citizenscrisscrossed
the corner. Profiling them, Charles was able to tell the story of the
He felt strongly about freedomfor the world and for himself. He
was a truly free spirit, and when he said he was leaving CBS three years
ago to finish another book, I felt some day he would be back. And, in
fact, this year he had taken a step back, hosting I REMEMBER for CBS
Cable. I think some of us hoped this would be the first step toward
a renewed involvement with CBS News. Unfortunately, the road ended too
An intellectually stimulating collection of insightful
and occasionally poignant commentaries, Charles Kuralt's People is
very highly recommended reading for students of the human condition in
and legions of Charles Kuralt fans in particular. — Midwest Book
for more info.
Hard cover, 386 pages, $25.95 plus $3.95 Priority
Mail shipping. (NC residents must add 6 percent sales tax.)
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About Kenilworth Media
Publishers of the first edition of "Remembering Charles Kuralt,"
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the life works of Charles Kuralt.