When I was a student at California State University in Los Angeles, I would listen to a police radio to find out where things were happening. Then I’d go take photos and sell them to the Los Angeles Times and other local papers, to make money. I kept running into the people from the mobile unit for KNX, the CBS radio station. They finally asked me just to ride with them. They told me when a job opened up, basically for a gofer in their newsroom, and I got that job. My boss there told me that my most important job was to keep the coffee pot full, and my second most important job was to make sure the wire service machines didn’t run out of paper. This was just a few years after Edward R. Murrow had left CBS. The radio station had a full staff in the newsroom—about 25 people. Those machines were busy.
As long as I fulfilled my coffee and wire machine duties, I could do other jobs around the newsroom. I would edit tape for the CBS network news. Eventually I did some reporting. I switched to working full-time and going to school part-time because I was learning so much there. That job set the pattern for everything that followed.
I spent my whole career in broadcast journalism: in radio, TV, writing books. My wife and I moved to Southwest Florida in 2002, after I retired. I connected with WGCU, the public radio and TV station, and I became the oldest living intern for them. I do special projects for the station and report on news in Charlotte County, where I live. So I’m still involved in journalism, which keeps my mind engaged. I’m using the very same skills as I did on that first job for KNX radio. My output is just a little lower now.
I did my first interview when I was in sixth grade for the school paper, and I haven’t stopped asking questions since.
—As told to Cary Barbor