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Thursday, May 12, 2016

Sometimes you have to take sides

“They said it was against the rules to take sides on a controversial issue. I said, 'I wish you had told me that during World War II, when I took sides against Hitler.'” – Howard K. Smith

Longtime reporter and then co-anchor of the ABC Evening News, Howard K. Smith was born on this date in 1914.  One of the original “Edward R. Murrow boys” in London, he first bolted onto the national and international scene when he was literally expelled from Germany for his negative news coverage of Hitler and Nazism just before the start of World War II.

He always considered that expulsion “providential,” since he left for Switzerland on Dec. 6, 1941.  Had he been there on Dec. 7, he might have been detained and even imprisoned since he was persona non grata with the Nazis at that point.  The story of his tumultuous reporting year in Germany (for CBS) and expulsion became the topic for his international best-seller, Last Train From Berlin, first published in 1942 and revived and reprinted in 2001, shortly before his death.

A native of Louisiana, Smith worked his way through Tulane University, majoring in both Journalism and German, making him an extremely valuable reporter for CBS and Murrow’s team before, during and after the war.        

Among his many awards at ABC were 7 Overseas Press Awards, a Peabody, several Emmys, and both the DuPont and Sigma Delta Chi Awards for reporting excellence.  He also produced hundreds of TV documentaries and on-air essays and wrote 3 other books, highlighted by a remarkable memoir, Events Leading Up to My Death: The Life of a Twentieth-Century Reporter, published in the late 1990s.  For anyone aspiring to a career in journalism, I put in on the “must-read” list.

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