Why Eric Engberg of CBS News was a true original
- Loud, smart, really good and, ah, did we say loud?
Eric Engberg was a prime example of why CBS News was great. Younger folks there now probably didn't know his name when word came Tuesday of his passing in his sleep in Palmetto, Florida at age 74. Maybe a few just knew of him as that pugnacious, jowly, previously unseen geezer who exited the shadows of retirement last year to blast Bill O'Reilly, a onetime CBS colleague, as a liar when it came to O'Reilly's account of covering the Falklands War in 1982. (Mediaite) They didn't know of him as a jack-of-all-trades domestic and foreign reporter par excellence who also won awards for "Reality Check," a fact-checking feature begun during the 1992 presidential campaign and a highlight of his 26 years as a "CBS Evening News" regular. He covered IRA hunger strikes in Northern Ireland, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square uprising, the Gulf War, five presidential campaigns and much more.
We met while covering NFL labor talks in the 1980s and spent several boozy nights at a Philadelphia restaurant that was apparently a favorite of organized crime. He could work and play hard. He wasn't a high-profile star who got dragged to plush network gatherings with bigshots such as Dan Rather or Lesley Stahl. He was an idiosyncratic pro with an old-fashioned pedigree. And, ah, "Eric was loud. Very loud," a former colleague reminded me. "Probably louder than anyone you have ever known. I mean he was really loud. So loud that he was prompted to get a hearing test. Eric reported that the doctor summarized the findings of this test like this: ‘Your hearing is fine. You’re just loud.'”
Rather wrote that, back in the day, the highest accolade you could get internally was that you could have passed muster with The Murrow Boys, the talented crew assembled by CBS icon Edward R. Murrow in the 1930s. "Eric could have cut it with The Murrow Boys." Bill Plante, the indefatigable CBS White House correspondent, told me, "Engberg was indeed a tough reporter, like (the late Ike) Pappas — the kind who didn’t take no for an answer and who never backed down when questioning a public official. Guys like him were a major part of what made CBS and NBC serious news operations in the post-war to eighties era."
Our regular exchanges recently included my mentioning a now-billionaire with whom he went to elementary school outside Chicago. Engberg remembered the subsequently prickly tycoon as very smart, religiously observant and proficient in Hebrew, "which he occasionally showed off in school shows." He concluded with a touch of the politically incorrect candor that was his stock-in-trade. "He's still a dickhead." Rest in peace, Eric.
- Bloomberg is now just Bloomberg
Bloomberg Business is now just “Bloomberg.” The financial site "will just go by the name of its namesake founder as part of a homepage redesign that went live Tuesday afternoon." (Digiday) It's branched out to do opinion and politics, too, but the motherlode is financial information for which it charges about $21,000-a-year for its terminal.
- The FBI and Hillary Clinton
If you missed it, The Washington Post did a fine job on the roots of her email mess the other day. But it included this head-turning line: "One hundred forty-seven FBI agents have been deployed to run down leads, according to a lawmaker briefed by FBI Director James B. Comey." That was regurgitated in many others places, including The Hill, Gawker, Breitbart News and cable TV, whether or not they could independently verify such a number (none I found independently verified it). The Post's own Chris Cillizza, who had referenced his paper's original opus, has now updated matters: "The article cited in this piece said that 147 FBI agents had been detailed to the investigation, citing a lawmaker briefed by FBI Director James B. Comey. Two U.S. law enforcement officials have since told The Washington Post that that figure is too high. The FBI will not provide an exact figure, but the officials say the number of FBI personnel involved is fewer than 50. The headline has been corrected accordingly. I apologize for the error."
- Trump's "undoing?"
His refusal to can his campaign manager for roughing up a female reporter is part of a style that appeals to his core supporters but "will also, eventually, be his electoral end." (Slate) This is about the 127th action or declaration deemed his Campaign Doomsday by members of the press, ranging from questioning John McCain's heroism to saying brutish things about women. A lot of smart money had a mountain of seeming missteps derailing him long before the Iowa caucuses. He defended the campaign manager during a softball, long interview with Sean Hannity on Fox News last night, with the enabling host assuring Trump that he'd watched the relevant tape of the alleged altercation "at least a hundred times today" and "I don't see any jerking, I don't see any pulling." Huh? That's not what others see. (The New York Times) The campaign manager is charged with misdemeanor battery. (The Wall Street Journal)
- Obama falls short
President Obama was preaching to a media choir at the Toner Prize for Excellence in Political Reporting ceremony when he told the assembled crowd about the great legacy of American journalism and its role in a democratic society. Then he got sidetracked with conventional and not very sophisticated musings about its culpability for not forcing straight answers in the presidential campaign and in its being overwhelmed by a thrust to entertain, not inform. It was a fairly banal offering that missed several overarching realities that involve the diminished impact of media in general, the role of outside money in campaigns and the public's apparent growing aversion to facts. And then there's his administration's very poor record when it comes to full disclosure. (Poynter)
- Business Insider backers behind new venture
Dave Burdick, whose dad was editor of The Rocky Mountain News and publisher of The Colorado Springs Gazette, just left a deputy features editor post at The Denver Post and will try a journalism startup in Denver. The investors helped to found Business Insider. Lots of relevant specifics are being hashed out. (Colorado Independent)
- The poop beat
Karen Antonacci of The Longmont Times-Call and Boulder Daily Camera has of late done a piece on changes at a wastewater treatment plant that would cut down on hauling away "heavy liquid slurry mixtures; on an apartment complex that wants to use DNA to discern which residents aren't picking up their pet's you-know-what ("doggie doo-doo dereliction," she tags it); and how local hotel developers want to use various scents to limit wastewater stench. (Times-Call) "When I got into journalism I don't think I envisioned writing about poop quite this often," she tweeted. (@Ktonacci)
- Another passing
As an intern for the Detroit Free Press, Jennifer Frey "approached Detroit Tigers pitcher Jack Morris in the clubhouse. “'I don’t talk to women when I’m naked unless they’re on top of me or I’m on top of them,” she recalled the athlete telling her.'" (The Washington Post) She would later move on to a 13-year-career at The Post, plying her trade with aplomb in the Sports and Style sections. At age 47, she passed away of multiple organ failure.
- Going after Yahoo
Starboard Value LP "has proved its mettle as an activist investor by overthrowing the board at Olive Garden’s parent company and pushing a focus on real estate at Macy’s." But "Yahoo! Inc. — the latest object of Starboard’s proxy fight agitation — presents a far bigger challenge," especially since Starboard's attempt to dump the entire board comes as it possesses a rather modest 1.7 percent stake in the company. (Bloomberg)
- Campaign doesn't boost network news ratings
"The stunning, surreal, headline-making, no-one-saw-it-coming 2016 campaign has been a boon to cable news, but the broadcast evening newscasts aren’t seeing the same kind of viewership lift–in fact, no lift at all." (Adweek) Compared to last year's first quarter, NBC's league-leading show with Lester Holt hosting is down three percent, while ABC with David Muir and CBS with Scott Pelley are flat year to year.
- Job moves, edited by Benjamin Mullin
Peter Goodman will be an economic correspondent at The New York Times. Previously, he was global editor in chief of the International Business Times. (Poynter) | Job of the day: The Atlantic is looking for an assistant editor. Get your resumes in! (Atlantic Media) | Send Ben your job moves: email@example.com.