Andy Rooney: A newman’s newsman
By: Dale King
Sunday nights are going to be a bit lonelier at our home. Andy Rooney, the crusty, grandfatherly icon of the broadcast airwaves and fixture on the CBS news program, “60 Minutes” for as many years as I can remember, has died at the age of 92.
“60 Minutes” has been “must” watch at my home since I lived with my parents. For me, a young news reporter at the time, the program was – and always has been – a showcase for seasoned journalists – from Mike Wallace to Harry Reasoner, Lesly Stahl to Ed Bradley.
And then there was Andy Rooney, always pulling up the rear of the program, offering some off-the-wall comments about some of the absurdities of our crazy world. This crazy world offered many – and Andy picked off quite a few.
As I watched Andy Rooney over the years, I came to appreciate the man’s knowledge – and the steps he took to hone his craft.
You see, being a professional journalist is something I have literally devoted my life to. I am proud of my career, and it hurts to see newspapers falling by the wayside as people turn to electronic devices – first radios, then TV, then computers and now hand-held devices, to get their news.
To me, it takes a certain kind of person instilled with a certain level of training to be a good journalist. I know Andy Rooney had it.
Over the years, I learned a lot about Rooney. He launched his long career during World War II as a correspondent for the Stars and Stripes military newspaper. Rooney continue to work on his skills, fashioning a sharp, barb-like wit that skewered many a pompous individual over the years.
Andy wrapped up 33 years of his opinionated stay on “60 Minutes” barely a month ago when he delivered his final “A Few Minutes with Andy Rooney.” He died at a New York City hospital last Friday of complications following minor surgery, according to CBS.
I feel a certain closeness to Andy Rooney, not simply because we shared a similar vocation. I remember working for the newspaper in Pawtucket, R.I. at the same time Andy’s son, Brian, was a reporter at the nearby Providence Journal-Bulletin. I don’t know if our paths ever crossed, but it seemed to give the Rhode Island journalistic arena a boost to have the progeny of a famous newsman in our midst.
Andy Rooney eschewed fame. He grumbled that if anyone saw him in a restaurant, they should just stay away from him and let him eat his dinner.
Besides that, Andy Rooney seemed like one of us, a humble man just trying to earn a living by offering editorial comments – like many of us who have toiled at writing editorials. I just don’t get that same feeling about such news folks as Anderson Cooper or that untouchable ilk.
For millions of Americans, Andy was a welcome visitor into their homes on Sunday evenings, an old familiar face appearing for a few minutes at the tail end of one of the most highly rated programs in television history.
Viewers of the TV newsmagazine who saw him as a friend, neighbor or relative knew what to expect from the man who offered his opinions on a broad array of topics.
Wry. Curmudgeonly. Whimsical. An articulate Everyman. Unruffled yet quizzical. A crank. A complainer. The man of a thousand questions. Those are just some of the words journalists have used to describe the man TV Guide called “America’s favorite grump,” according to the Los Angeles Times.
Rooney was one of those well-school journalists who set the standard for those of us who have tried to uphold the honor of that trade. There is nothing more sickening to me – or to Andy, I’m sure – than watching those many, many, journalistic wannabes who use the scandalous and salacious to earn their livings. Imagine real news on such networks as E or MTV. No way.
Andy, you were one of a kind. There will never be another one like you.