Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Radio Legend Rumbles Into Retirement: Remembering Chris Glenn

As word came yesterday that radio news icon Christopher Glenn would retire next month, I thought back to a late night in college in 1982, when I once made a point to catch a CBS News program called “Nightwatch.”

It wasn’t part of my normal viewing routine given that it aired between 2-6 a.m. Even for a nocturnal undergrad/budding news junkie that was too much to handle.

But I watched because among the quartet of anchors was Glenn, whose soothing, sonorous baritone was the one I and millions of other kids heard on some 5,000 “In The News” segments sandwiched between CBS cartoons on Saturday morning.

I knew the voice. Now I wanted to see what that voice looked like, which is why Channel 6 in Albany was on in my dorm room way too late one night, much to my roommate’s discontent.

“Nightwatch” didn’t last, but Christopher Glenn did, cementing his legend at CBS News Radio. The unmistakable rumble, burnished by countless cartons of cigarettes, boomed out of millions of radios, most notably for the last 20 years on CBS’ signature broadcasts “The World Tonight” and, more recently, “The World News Roundup.”

I went from one of those kids enraptured by the “In The News” guy to getting the chance to work with Chris for over seven years at CBS. For a radio dweeb like myself, it didn’t get any better. Being among the likes of Chris, David Jackson, Mitchell Krauss and David Dow, all of whom had links to the most glorious days of CBS News, was as good as it gets in the news business.

Only Glenn is still with the network, and when he departs on Feb. 24, so goes perhaps the last link to an incredible journalistic legacy.

Chris Glenn knew others revered his work, but never took himself too seriously, saving that for his newscasts. When I told him my “Nightwatch” story he was embarrassed more than he was flattered.

Any editor or producer who worked for him found someone willing to collaborate. That didn’t mean he’d agree with everything you’d suggest. But he’d listen, a quality many anchors often lack.

Which doesn’t mean he and I didn’t have our occasional battle royales. Sometimes we both stuck to our guns too much. Suffice to say, the rest of the newsroom was better able to hear his side of the argument than mine. Fortunately, those days were few and far between, and because he was who he was, I would labor a little harder to make his newscasts better. A “nice job” coming from him meant the world. He was that good.

I produced the CBS radio coverage of the John Glenn shuttle launch in 1998, and Chris was my anchor for the long-form coverage and special reports. A one-time fixture at Cape Canaveral for space launches, he was behind the mic when Challenger blew up in 1986, providing a sad, chilling and ultimately unforgettable real-time account of the tragedy. It contained a precise mix of poise, authority and disbelief. Twenty years later, it remains as riveting as ever.

Back in the radio studios at the CBS bureau in Cape Canaveral, Chris was in his element, interviewing astronauts and NASA officials while doing interview after interview with CBS affiliates. He relished the chance to not only read the news but to once again cover it as well.

Nowadays it’s rare for radio anchors to actually cover a story, but Chris had cut his teeth in the field as a reporter and producer. And it showed. It’s the kind of stuff that becomes a legend most.

If you haven’t heard Chris since you watched “In The News” while you were wolfing down your second bowl of Cocoa Puffs, or, gasp, listen to another network besides CBS, hear what the fuss is about while you still can and catch him on “The World News Roundup” at 8 a.m. ET and 7 a.m. PT. He also does the hourly newscasts between 11 a.m.-1 p.m. ET.


mschulze@optonline said...

I appreiciate your "Remembering Chris Glenn." Having grown up with and revered in the US Space program, his remarkable voice and style was a constant part of my life. Once and a while I catch one of his CBS radio broadcasts and his voice and delivery still sounds as resonate and comforting to me as it did during the wonderous glory days of the Cape Canaveral pioneers.

Gary Digital Williams said...

I am going to miss Christopher Glenn in the mornings as I'm on my way to work.

Like you, I grew up watching "In the News," and loved listening to Glenn break down the world's events.

Glenn's retirement is definitely another sign of an era that may not be captured again.

Helen said...

Thanks for posting this. I also grew up listening to "In the News." I didn't know Mr. Glenn was going to retire until I heard it this morning on cbs880 in NYC. I knew I was going to make myself late for work, but I had to wait for the top of the hour broadcast, so I could hear Mr. Glenn for one last time. I will miss him.