Ted Koppel on his longtime friend Charles Osgood
“Sunday Morning” senior contributor Ted Koppel remembers Charles Osgood (who died January 23, 2024 at age 91) and their adventures in broadcast journalism:
I guess that I’m the oldest member of the “Sunday Morning” cast of characters; and so it’s reasonable to assume that I have the earliest memories of Charlie.
As it turned out, we were hired the same week, in June of 1963, to do a soft news program – “Flair Reports,” it was called – on ABC Radio. Charlie had previously been the general manager of a television station, WHCT in Hartford, Connecticut. He recalled his departure from the job with the same wry humor that marked so much of his work in years to come. “They left me off the hook very gently,” Charlie remembered. “They said, ‘You’re fired.’”
Charles Osgood and Ted Koppel started at ABC News the very same week back in June 1963. CBS News
He had been the youngest station manager in the country. Taking on this new job in journalism at ABC made him, Charlie thought, the oldest cub reporter in the country. He was 30; I was 23, making me the youngest network reporter in the country. We were destined to be friends.
We also believed that we were destined to make it into television.
At the time, NBC was the only network with a morning program, the “Today” show. Charlie and I decided to create a similar program for ABC. We were ambitious, but we knew they wouldn’t hire us as hosts, so we reached out to Dave Garroway. He had recently been let go as the host of the “Today” show. Older viewers will remember that he had a chimpanzee, J. Fred Muggs, as his occasional co-host. Charlie and I thought we could probably match that standard. We were wrong! The network brass at ABC liked the show but felt they could do it without us.
One weekend, I recall, this would have been 1966 or so, Charlie and I drove up to Providence, Rhode Island. There was an FM radio station for sale, and we thought about buying it. I think it was going for about $250,000. Charlie and I were a quarter of a million dollars short.
That next year, I went off to Viet Nam to cover the war for ABC television, and Charlie traded networks, and became one of the most beloved voices on CBS Radio.
It wasn’t until 1994, as I’m sure someone has probably mentioned by now, that Charles Kuralt retired, and Charles Osgood applied for the impossible job of replacing him. It is probably safe to mention now, finally, after Charles has passed on, that some of the CBS brass didn’t think he was quite right for the job – thought his bow ties were silly (!), and his delivery was off.
Well, for the record, Charlie: They were wrong, just like that other batch of executives over at ABC nearly 60 years ago.
You were so, so right for the job.
Story produced by Jon Carras.
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