CBS News White House Correspondent Mark Knoller has been a radio reporter for more than 30 years -- and today remembers one of the giants of the business, Christopher Glenn. -- Ed.
Sometimes your radio serves as audio wallpaper. It can be a low-level drone to keep the VU Meter in your ear bouncing gently.
But it was never that when Christopher Glenn was on the air reporting the news.
His distinctive voice and compelling delivery demanded attention.
He knew the value of the simple declarative sentence. In radio, journalists get one chance to convey a story. A listener can't hit rewind and play it again if the point is missed on the first go-round. With Chris Glenn, you got the story on the first pass. Even in a moving car, with the window open.
He was authoritative without being stuffy; credible without being pedantic.
In a world where TV reporters write to their video, Glenn mastered the skill of writing for the ear.
He could boil down complex stories to their essence. What might take a print reporter hundreds of words to explain, Glenn could convey in a sentence.
That skill made him an object of respect, admiration and envy to the rest of us in the business.
It was a milestone in my career the first time I went "live" in a Chris Glenn CBS newscast. I had admired him long before coming to CBS News. As a college student, I was privileged to intern at WNEW Radio in New York, In its heyday, it was a station that set the standard for local radio news.
Chris Glenn was no longer working there by the time I arrived, but his legacy of excellence still reverberated loudly in the WNEW newsroom. To this day, I vividly recall a documentary he wrote, produced and narrated for WNEW's weekly series "Sunday News Close-Up." It examined the much ballyhooed rumor that Beatle Paul McCartney had died. The half hour report was cleverly written and skillfully produced. That report remains is an icon of the radio documentary genre. Somewhere in the boxes of stuff I've accumulated over the years, is a reel-to-reel audio tape of that broadcast. This weekend, I plan to dig it out and listen again to Glenn's mastery of the medium.
Of course, Glenn will always be remembered for his TV series In The News. It aired during the cartoon programs CBS broadcast on Saturday mornings. Whether you were a kid in pajamas enjoying the weekend, or an adult just cracking open your eyes after sleeping in, those In The News programs were an informative oasis.
You could get Glenn to bristle a bit by telling him "Oh, I remember seeing those reports when I was a little kid." But he had a great sense of humor and even greater sense of self.
He loved doing radio news, especially in a TV news age. And the rest of us loved doing it with him – or just listening to his reports.
He showed the rest of us in the business how it was done, for which we'll always be grateful.