I joined WSB Radio in June of 1973, straight out of school, as a police reporter. A few weeks later, Peter Maer (now CBS Radio's White House correspondent) was hired, and we went out together on our first machete-murder at a place called the Vulcan Basement Waterproofing company. I soon learned ( and I gather Peter did too) that there were better beats. I have never served in the military, though I was prepared to go in 1973 had my draft number been called. I abandoned a plan to file as a Conscientious Objector when I realized I wasn't truly a pacifist. I have never worked for a political party or for the government, although I was offered an appointment with the State Department, which I turned down. All my full-time jobs have been in broadcasting.
Who produces and writes your CBS pieces?
I do. I prepare them at KIRO for a live broadcast at 7:38 PT, re-write them to fit the CBS time constraints (one minute and twenty-nine seconds) and the re-read them over an ISDN line to New York about an hour before the network feed (12:25 ET). Michael Singletary, who is not only a CBS producer but an accomplished contemporary painter (www.michaelsingletary.com) records the feed and inserts the commercial.
During the weeks I sub for Charles Osgood, I usually work with Phil Chin, Charlie's long-time producer, who provides a list of topics with attached news stories. We toss around a few ideas over the phone, then I write the scripts and feed them from home the night before. Charlie does them closer to broadcast time, but I have to be in at 6:00 to do my three-hour KIRO talk show the next morning.
Do you really have a Dux bed?
Yes. The above schedule is one of the reasons.
How many stations carry your own commentary?
How long have you done Chip Talk?
Chip Talk premiered on January 31, 1983 on AP Radio.
It was an outgrowth of the first regular feature on computers at KIRO,
called "In The Chips" started by Phil Johnson, a long time reporter (and
Coast Guard officer) who not only has an interest in computers but a talent
for assembly language programming. A computer consultant who was
working with him on the program agreed to research scripts for me as well,
and I started a network version. The runner-up title was "Solid Statements."
The 5,459th program ran on January 1, 2004.
Why the interest in computers?
I was a gadget monkey
from the age of five, when my Grandfather taught me how to complete a circuit
with a battery and a light bulb. Santa brought Lionel Electronic
Labs every Christmas, then Heathkits, and many summers would find me in
Grandpa's workshop in the Bronx soldering components into place. My first
"computer" was a mechanical DigiComp II which would count from 0 to 7 in
binary. I loved Physics and took the 200 level courses as a freshman
at Cornell, but in the Spring of 1970 became distracted by the anti-War
demonstrations and the class cancellations and got too far behind to continue
the major. I switched to English.
Do you really like Paris?
Yes. Excellent Metro, spooky and beautiful churches, imperial palaces and museum, real street life, fantastic snacks and the Eiffel Tower, probably the only landmark I've seen that is every bit as immense and arrogant as you expect. You understand completely why they don't give a damn what we think. And then there are all the ghosts -- from the Romans to the English to the Nazis -- the place is irresistibly haunted. The architecture is intended not just to serve but to impress. The buildings have opinions. Reforms notwithstanding, the feeling is still "L'etat, C'est Moi" which is just scary enough to make you understand why you're more comfortable at home.
What do you think about the French?
They're blunt on-mike
the way GW Bush is blunt off-mike. I think that's root of the problem
between us. Mutual stubbornness.
Why do you like to travel so much?
The first plane trip I ever took was for the Cornell Glee Club's 1970 tour of West Germany. We flew a 707 from JFK to Cologne and toured US Army bases, some of them pretty primitive. We sang for Radio Free Europe. I saw Hitler's reviewing stand in Nuremberg, and cities that still displayed damage from World War II and realized that seeing historic events in person is a very different experience from book or movie -- at once more real and more mundane. I'd seen pictures of Rome's Coliseum, but not until I visited Rome did I realize that it now sits in the middle of a traffic circle and is primarily considered a traffic hazard (at least by taxi drivers.)
In 1972 we visited Eastern Europe (Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, and Hungary) and found that America had come to represent salvation for a subjugated middle class. Through whispers and notes we were told "Russia, bad - USA good!" When border guards delayed us at the Czech border for 2 1/2 hours, we wondered whether our audience in Prague would wait. They did -- even though the concert started over an hour late. The opera house was packed, and as we walked in straight off the bus (without even changing into our tuxedos, a breach of Glee Club tradition) the audience, who seemed to know what we'd been through, erupted. It didn't matter whether we could sing; we were Americans. We represented freedom.
I've never forgotten that feeling, not only for what it says about the importance of individual rights but also as a demonstration of naive most American protesters were to think that their experience had anything in common with the type of repression eastern europeans had to endure. But they're the canaries in the mine shaft. God Bless peaceful dissenters, the ACLU and a petulant press.
My first extensive international assignment with KIRO was to follow Pope John Paul II on his journey through Great Britain in 1982. Our broadcast team set up in Rome, and I took off on my own to Manchester, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Cardiff, and Canterbury. Later when the Pope decided to give equal time to Argentina (which was then at War with Great Britain over the Falklands) my trip was extended to include a 7,000 mile detour to Buenos Aires. I booked my own travel, and had to improvise a few hookups to be able to do the live reports (childhood knowledge of elementary telephone circuitry came in handy.) I also learned the most appealing part of being a correspondent -- perfect strangers wanted to talk to you and even invite you into their homes. I had delightful tea with a couple of ladies in Manchester, and was invited to dinner with a family in Caerphilly, a suburb of Cardiff.
That was followed by remotes in Hong Kong and Japan in 1983, China in 1984, and the Soviet Union in 1987. By 1989, when it became clear the Berlin Wall was falling, the cost of these remotes was more than KIRO wanted to spend, but I badgered management into sending me without a crew. I got to Berlin in time to see West Germans dancing on the wall. Crossing into East Berlin, I could see how stubbornly sticking with a flawed system could screw up a whole society. Crossing Checkpoint Charlie was like going from Day into Night. The buildings still had war damage. The cars were smaller and smellier. The people were furtive. The streets and shops were empty. Dissenters still met in secret and were watched by the Stasi. One invited me up to her apartment for an interview and pointed out an agent on the street below. Her parlor was like a set from the 1950s and included a old console radio tuned to Radio Free Europe.
When the news focus shifted to Czechoslovakia, I booked a flight to Prague, (lying to the visa agent that I has permission to go and a contact) and arrived without a reservation at a fully booked hotel. No matter. I was an AMerican. The underground economy swung into action and the hotel clerk handed me a slip of paper with a name and phone number. Soon I was rooming with a student at a private home just outside town. The student was happy to take me to their sit-ins, help with interviews, and arrange for me to phone in a report from a locked government office over looking a packed Wenceslas Square as Vaclav Havel addressed the masses. After he report, my friend wiped the phone free of fingerprints. The revolution hadn't succeeded yet and the army was stationed just off the square. It was very different from my Glee Club visit 17 years before.
Will you add more to this page?
Yes, in the event readers pose more questions.