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Legendary Newsman David Brinkley Dead

Aired June 12, 2003 - 20:33   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, our business, the news business, also lost a legend today. All of us, anyone who watches a television newscast likely hears his influence in the way we hear the news being told. David Brinkley began his career writing for newspapers before moving to the infant medium of television as a news writer in the early 1940s. He stayed in television for a good long while, changing it forever. David Brinkley died today in his home in Houston. He was 82 years old. CNN's senior analyst Jeff Greenfield takes a look back at the newsman's illustrious career.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID BRINKLEY, NBC NEWS: David Brinkley, NBC News.

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SENIOR ANALYST (voice-over): It was in 1956, at the Democratic national convection, that the 36-year-old North Carolina native first came to real national attention.

BRINKLEY: Officer, why are you arresting me when you're not catching all these people robbing houses?

GREENFIELD: When NBC teamed Brinkley with the newsman Chet Huntley, America discovered a master wordsmith who specialized in short, crisp observations invariably called wry or ironic...

BRINKLEY: I was a little staggered to see this convention start on time, and so were the delegates because they weren't here.

GREENFIELD: ... that humanized the often Olympian coverage of politics.

BRINKLEY: Good morning, Mr. Nixon. I wonder, could we ask you a question or two?

GREENFIELD: And when NBC made Huntley and Brinkley the co- anchors of their "Nightly News" program later that year, they dominated the ratings for more than a decade and gave viewers a memorable catch phrase that both quickly grew to hate.

BRINKLEY: Good night, Chet.

CHET HUNTLEY, NBC NEWS: Good night, David.

GREENFIELD: On that will inevitably be on a hundred headlines.

BRINKLEY: So for the last time, good luck, and good night, Chet. GREENFIELD: Brinkley covered moments of the highest drama.

BRINKLEY: What has happened today has been just too much, too ugly and too fast.

GREENFIELD: And he also covered a thousand lesser moments made memorable by his unparalleled gift of writing for the ear.

BRINKLEY: All these piles represent a part, just a part of the paper flooding into the office of one member of Congress.

GREENFIELD: Brinkley remained at NBC for more than a decade after giving up his duties as "Nightly News" co-anchor. And when executives there pushed him aside, he proved that there were indeed second acts in American life. ABC News president Roone Arledge brought him over. Where? As anchor of "This Week With David Brinkley," he helped reinvent the stale Sunday interview show format. On his show and during conventions and election nights, his observations embodied a cheerfully skeptical take on just about everything.

BRINKLEY: I haven't the faintest idea what it'll be about.

Just a little hot-stove-and-cracker-barrel philosophizing here.

Free and unfettered, open to anything that won't cause legal problems.

-- or less casual...

-- moderately uninhibited...

-- probably suitable for family viewing.

GREENFIELD (on camera): For four decades on two networks and for thousands of days and nights, David Brinkley remained one of TV's most important journalists, largely through the great gift of treating the news seriously but not solemnly and with words that were shaped for clarity and concision by a master of the art.

Jeff Greenfield, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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