A Tribute To CBS News' Paul Douglas

The eulogy was written by CBS News correspondent Mark Phillips.
There's been something of a competition over who, among the speakers here, would get to tell which endearing anecdote about Paul. There's had to be a kind of clearinghouse so everybody doesn't step on everybody else.

In the interest of not giving away the plot, I won't list the stories, but you'll recognize them as they go by. You'll probably have a few of your own. The point is that there are so many of them and so many people who want to tell them. Everybody wants to be part of the testament. Everyone still wants a piece of Paul.

It's a good thing there's so much of him to go around.

Paul was a big man in all the good ways. The impression he made wasn't just based on his height or the breath of his shoulders or even the width of his smile. The biggest thing about Paul was his heart.

We've all got stories. One of mine goes back to very early in his time at CBS. I think it was in January of 1994 in Sarajevo. Paul had been to Bosnia before and knew how to operate there. I think it was my first trip and it happened to straddle the Serbian New Year.

Serbian New Year celebrations had always been on the noisy side, involving the joyous use of various high explosives. Sure enough, sometime after midnight things started to go nuts. A crescendo of first small arms and then larger and larger arms fire began to land around the front line — on which the old Holiday Inn sat.

Many of you will remember the place was already pretty shot up, its windows long since replaced by UNHCR plastic sheeting. I was lying on my bed as the roar of incoming fire got louder and louder and closer and closer until — ka-bam! — a huge blast just outside my room actually knocked me off the bed onto the floor. The place filled with smoke and dust.

What seemed like seconds later, a flashlight (torch) beam cut through the gloom. I could just make out Paul's grin. "I told you to sleep in the bathtub," he laughed. The fact the tub was full of our emergency water supply hadn't occurred to him, I guess. But the point is he had moved through the blacked-out hotel during an artillery barrage, knowing my room was close to the front of the building, to check on me. I had been told that Paul was a good man to have around; I was just beginning to learn how good.

I learned a lot about Paul on that trip and subsequent ones to many other garden spots. The main lesson was to let Paul do the talking. Approaching a hostile checkpoint on the road, dealing with an increasingly agitated crowd, getting to some access point that somebody really didn't want you to get to —let Paul do the talking… and usually the driving.

With his big smile, in that big hat, and that cheerful "How're you doing. Mate?" he was pretty well irresistible.

You'll hear a lot about Paul's good nature today, and that's all true. But I also want to leave you with an appreciation of how good he became at what he did. Paul started in the business as a sound man and decided he wanted to become a cameraman. He was one of the quicker studies I've ever seen.

He became one of those people who could shoot not just the obvious, but could shoot the essential. He could get at the inner image that was often the most important.

I'll tell you only one story — of the time he and I were on HMS Sir Galahad, which was making the first run up the previously and maybe still-mined channel into Umm Kasr in southern Iraq early in the war. It was pretty tense to begin with and got worse, as at one point, a fast boat appeared on the ship's radar … heading right for us. We were on the bridge. The tension built as it got closer and closer — 5,000 yards… 4,000 … they couldn't identify it… the closer it got, the more it looked like trouble. Guns were manned. Trigger fingers twitched. The boat turned out to be friendly — or as friendly as a boatload of Australian special forces can be. But it was a hairy time there for a while.

Looking at Paul's tape of that episode afterward was an education. The building tension on the faces… doo-dads blipping… that spot speeding toward us out of the haze. You could have just run his tape raw on the air. And I remember thinking; Paul has become one of the really good ones. I think his family should know not just of the friendship and affection he enjoyed, but of the respect. You could trust him in every way.

His loss — to his family and to us — is a great one in every way.

As a further tribute to Paul, I think it's important to say a few words about the circumstances of his death. It's been said he died doing what he loved, and I'm sure that's true. He loved the work, he loved the camaraderie; OK, he loved the air miles. But in his own way, he was a journalistic warrior in the important battle to tell people what they should know.

Paul was in Iraq out of a sense of responsibility … to his job, to his family, to his colleagues. If he hadn't been there, someone else would have had to.

Paul was not a cowboy; far from it. He was careful out there. He did not take unnecessary risks. When Paul said, "I don't think we should do that," it was a pretty good indicator that you shouldn't do it.

He would reassure Linda of his cautious approach, and she told me the other day that she used to worry more about him riding his Harley up and down the M1 than she did when he was away.

Yet the odds caught up with him. Paul is another victim of this war.

A little bit of all of us died on that Baghdad street … and a little bit of Paul lives on in all of us.

Those wishing to make contributions to Douglas' family may send them to the following address. Please make checks payable to "Trust for the Family of Paul Douglas."

CBS News
Attention: Andy Clarke, Deputy Bureau Chief CBS News London
1st Floor, Building 10
Chiswick Park
566 Chiswick High Road
LONDON W4 5XS



By Mark Phillips
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