“A journalist enjoys a privileged position. In exchange for not being able to participate in the rough-and-tumble issues of a community, we are given license to observe it all, based on the understanding that we'll tell everyone what happens fairly and squarely. That's harder than it sounds.” – Bill Kurtis
If you’re a fan of National Public Radio and more specifically the weekly “News Quiz” show called “Wait, Wait … Don’t Tell Me!” then you know that Bill Kurtis’s voice is one of the most recognizable on the air. There, he is the announcer and scorekeeper (yes, they really have a scorekeeper) on the show. Today, he celebrates his 75th birthday.
Prior to this current gig, it wasn’t as if Kurtis was hiding his light under a bushel. For years he was the longtime anchor of WBBM-TV in Chicago and also served as anchor of “CBS Morning News.” When he wasn’t doing the news – either as a journalist, producer, narrator or anchor, he was the host of a number of the A&E Network’s crime and news documentary shows, including Investigative Reports, American Justice, and Cold Case Files.
Kurtis began broadcasting at age 16 and continued doing it part-time while working his way through college and then law school in Kansas. After finishing his law degree he was weighing options in the legal field while still working part time at a Topeka station when one of the nation’s biggest storms struck the region. As a fill-in reporter and anchor he ended up staying on air for 24 straight hours. His broadcast work that night was lauded throughout the nation, and he was snapped up by WBBM where he spent 30 years at the CBS affiliate before going to CBS nationally.
While many are lamenting the fact that today’s youth seem ambivalent about journalism and the news, he said he believes that young people are looking for answers to the big questions just like everyone else. “(I think) that they respect intelligent comment to help guide them through tough times.” He sees a bright and shining opportunity ahead for the news business.
“Think of it: television producers joining with newspapers to tell stories. It's journalism of the future.” Look for the tireless Kurtis to continue playing a key role in how it all shapes up.
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