David Brinkley On Charles Kuralt
One bright August afternoon, I called David Brinkley. The reason was that I had been commissioned to do a series of oral histories with people who knew and remembered Charles Kuralt. I told Brinkley that it would be a great honor if he would be willing to reminisce. He listened with interest, and when I was done, he said, "Well, I didn't really know him."
"Oh?" I replied. I was puzzled.
"In fact, I never met him," Brinkley added.
I thought about this for a moment and mustered the courage to challenge the veteran journalist. "But what about the time that I heard you two interviewed on National Public Radio?"
"That was all done from remote locations," Brinkley said. "We never sat face-to-face." So much for the stories I expected to hear from David Brinkley.
Listening to that NPR broadcast back in 1995, I took for granted that Kuralt and Brinkley were old friends. After all, they were born in the same town, Wilmington, North Carolina; they were both icons in the same profession. As they fielded questions from callers during that radio show, they talked of the state of their trade and complimented each other about their new books and their own Sunday morning programs, Kuralt's, which had aired on CBS, and Brinkley's, on ABC. It sounded as though they were old buddies.
They weren't. But they knew each other's work, and they knew the value of each other's work. That was made clear during the radio interview when Brinkley said to Kuralt: "Charles, your program made people feel better about themselves and their country, and I believe it was a great service."
Kuralt took the compliment with his trademark modesty, but Brinkley's comment really hit home for me. It is just as valid now as it was then. Brinkley not only defined what Kuralt had given to us but also summed up the collective feeling of the 100-plus people who I interviewed for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's historical archives.
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