Goodbye, Bob

I have the morning off and I’m taking advantage of my time by listening to the final broadcast of Morning Edition featuring Bob Edwards. For the most part it’s business as usual — news updates on Fallujah and a feature on desegregation.

Bob Edwards: 30 years on NPRThen after the sports guy talks about the NBA playoffs it gets a little weird — the guy (John Feinstein) breaks format and thanks Bob for everything over the past 15 years at the end of the segment. This sort of thing pops up about 4 more times throughout the program.

It’s a rare moment where the “wall” is broken and a program and longtime host addresses itself. The moments (especially from the commentators) sound heartfelt by and large. Unfortunately, the last segment from Susan Stamberg referring to the tribute on the NPR Web site seems tacked on.

The whole situation just adds to my memories about when I first heard Bob. I didn’t appreciate Bob when I first heard him. It was 1993 and I was in the ninth grade in Roswell, Ga. My first exposure to NPR was going to an early morning student council meeting.

I carpooled to school with a friend on those mornings. The mornings when her father drove, the car radio was tuned to public radio. I remember hearing Bob Edwards’s rumbling voice through the car speakers. The news wasn’t that big of deal to me back then and I thought it was more than a little dry.

Years later, I’m working at my first job in San Diego in 1995. I spin through the dial trying to find something to keep me sane and awake. My fingers land on KPBS after I hear Edwards’ voice as he conducts an interview. Edwards’ presentation of the news and detailed stories helped keep me focused and calm through a lot of morning commutes.

Ultimately, Bob Edwards has been the voice of calm and reason cutting through the static of increasingly bland and inane radio that’s been done in through creeping consolidation and a drive to the lowest common denominator. During the most chaotic of times, NPR and Edwards provided thorough information with a personal touch.

Of course, National Public Radio’s conduct throughout this entire affair has been largely lackluster — putting a man out to pasture 6 month before a landmark anniversary without announcing a good reason is poor form. The network belatedly pays its respects to Edwards’ career with Bob Edwards: 30 Years on NPR. My best wishes go with Bob as he moves into a new role as senior correspondent.

Followup: I was wrong thinking that no one finding anything wrong with Nightline’s tribute running the names of U.S. soldiers KIA in Iraq tonight. The Poynter Institute has an interview with Nightline anchor Ted Koppel about the broadcast and some of the fire directed at the show by talk shows and columnists.

Saying the program isn’t in the “public interest,” Sinclair Broadcasting is refusing to air the program on its 8 ABC network affiliates.

I know it’s really easy to make any thing under the sun political, but the conservatives are making far too much of what really is a simple tribute that requires no journalistic digging whatsoever. It might be that war supporters are opposed to anything that will “undermine” the war effort.

On the other hand, I haven’t seen anything noting the coincidence that the program will end on May 1 — the anniversary of President Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” photo op. Given that, I think the timing of the program could be suspect beyond the fact the program airs during TV’s May sweeps.

When it’s all said and done, what Nightline is airing is a simple tribute that’ll probably tug at a few heartstrings. It’s a far cry from a in-depth report probing the U.S. government’s conduct into the Iraq conflict and the reconstruction since Bush boarded the USS Abraham Lincoln just as it was within sight of San Diego.