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Mudd looks back on journalism’s glory days

August 12, 2013

By John Dodge

Former CBS newsman and anchor Roger Mudd, left, covered events such as the March on Washington and the Vietnam war. He visited his daughter, Maria Mudd Ruth, in Olympia last week. STEVE BLOOM/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Read more here: http://www.bellinghamherald.com/2013/08/11/3141195/mudd-looks-back-on-journalisms.html#storylink=cpy

Former CBS newsman and anchor Roger Mudd, left, covered events such as the March on Washington and the Vietnam war. He visited his daughter, Maria Mudd Ruth, in Olympia last week.
STEVE BLOOM/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

The 60-and-older crowd can remember that time in modern American history when the civil rights movement was born; President John F. Kennedy, his brother, Robert F. Kennedy, and Martin Luther King Jr. were assassinated; and the Vietnam War and Watergate tore at the nation’s social and political fabric.

The news of the day, often horrific, sometimes inspirational, was delivered in a measured, thoughtful way by the icons of print journalism and the big three television news networks, long before federal deregulation of the media eliminated the Fairness Doctrine, and the Internet and the 24/7 news cycle produced ill-informed bloggers and overheated proselytes masquerading as news commentators but lacking the substance and knowledge to deliver the news objectively.

If this sounds nostalgic, so be it. Journalism has seen better days, and who better to reminisce about it than Roger Mudd, one of the stalwarts of the CBS and NBC news teams in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. He was a trusted, familiar face to an audience who watched the evening news around dinner time without fail, and often without much knowledge of what had happened in the world around them in the past 24 hours.

I had the pleasure and privilege of sharing cocktails and dinner with Mudd on Wednesday night in the Olympia home of his daughter, Maria Mudd Ruth, a friend of mine who is a nonfiction writer, covering topics ranging from marbled murrelets to clouds, and a citizen scientist who shares her father’s wit, curiosity and, daresay, looks.

On Thursday, I spent 75 enjoyable minutes interviewing Mudd about his memories of some of the nation’s most historic events he covered in the ’60s and ’70s while serving as an award-winning Washington, D.C., correspondent and news anchor for CBS. At 85, the years have been fairly kind to this handsome, stately fellow with a full head of hair and familiar voice.

We’re approaching the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, the watershed moment in the fight for racial equality, the day when some 250,000 American citizens — 80 percent of them black — filled the space between the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial to hear Martin Luther King Jr. share his dream, and Bob Dylan and Joan Baez sing.

Mudd was in the thick of it, anchoring the live, day-long CBS news coverage from a portable table placed on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

“It was a major test of my ability to ad-lib,” Mudd recalled. “Nobody really knew what was going to happen. Up until then, the Civil Rights movement was synonymous with demonstrations in the South, police confrontations and violence.” Read more in The Bellingham Herald.

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