Remembering Roone Arledge

Producer Oprah Winfrey participates in press conference for the film 'Precious' during the Toronto International Film Festival on Sunday, Sept. 13, 2009 in Toronto. (AP Photo/Evan Agostini) AP Photo/Evan Agostini

I want to add a few sentences to all that's been said about Roone Arledge, who died on Thursday. He more or less invented modern television sports coverage, and he was hailed for all the technological innovations he brought to TV: the freeze frames, the instant replay, the sophisticated graphics.

The accolades were well deserved, but here's why I admired him. Too often in television, we become so carried away with the wonders of technology that we use it just to show we have it. Arledge knew better. He used technology to tell the story better. He never let it drive the story or get in the way of the story.

More importantly, when he built ABC News into a powerful news-gathering organization, he did not build it around technology. He built it around great reporters, which are the core of all good news organizations.

Too often, TV executives put the most telegenic young person on camera, surround them with all kinds of sophisticated graphics, and then assign a corps of off-camera producers to make them look good, but not Arledge. He was not afraid to hire smart people, the best he could find. He put them out front and depended on them to drive the coverage. He understood that excellence filters down and almost never filters up.

So, as others celebrate the bells and whistles that he brought to TV news, I'll remember his old-fashioned side. He believed that, if a story broke, you sent the best people you could find out to see what was happening, and then tell the rest of us about it, and tell us whether we need to worry about it.

That's the part of Roone Arledge I liked.

By Bob Schieffer


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