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10 Plus 1: Alexandra Cosgrove Mathers Looks Back On 29 Years At CBS News

After 29 years at CBS News, Producer Alexandra Cosgrove-Mathers is retiring. Her first job at CBS News was helping Lesley Stahl prepare for "The CBS Morning News" every morning from 7 to 8 a.m. By 2000, she joined, where she's been ever since. As our "10 Plus 1" subject this week, Alexandra shares some of her more memorable experiences at CBS News – like when President Reagan was shot and all the news directors were out to lunch, literally.

What do you do at CBS News?

I'm a producer for As such, I write and edit stories for inclusion on our Web site. I happen to think it's the best job in the company – I have a chance to work on all kinds of stories; there's never a boring day.
What single issue should be covered more at CBS News?
Besides the obvious -- more world news -- I think education and technology issues should be covered in more depth. There are a lot of questions still about the "No Child Left Behind" program, and the U.S. education system isn't performing as well as it should when compared to other countries. What are children learning in school? It makes me crazy when I hear that college kids don't know that Hawaii is a state, or what the initials "FBI" stand for. We need to hear more about programs that work for all kids, regardless of income, race, talent, disability or whatever.

As for more technology news, as an early advocate of computer use I find it fascinating how technology is impacting our lives – kids can't add in their heads anymore, producers and directors don't know how to backtime a story using stopwatches and very few people know how to use a dictionary.

Give us a great behind the scenes story.
When President Reagan was shot in 1981 all the directors and associate directors were out to lunch. I had to call air control in New York and get permission for the Washington Bureau to take over control of the network. The people up there had no idea who I was and kept asking for real authorization. The Bureau Chief kept screaming at me to get control. Needless to say, I was a little nervous, having never done that kind of thing before. But we did make air -- before the other networks I believe.
Have you ever been assigned a story you objected to? How did you deal with it?
I can't say that has ever happened. I think news is news and our job is to put it out there.
If you were not in news, what would you be doing?
I'd like to think I would be a Broadway musical star, but since I can't sing or dance I doubt that would happen. That said, I would probably be some type of teacher either at the high school or college level. That's what I was studying when I got sidetracked by a part-time job at the "CBS Morning News."
Do you read blogs? If so, which ones? If not, what do you read on the Internet?
I don't really read a lot of blogs. I read of lot of industry newsletters and mainstream news sites, with being my favorite (naturally.) I also look at sites pertaining to Russian history and Arthurian legends.
What's the last really great book or movie you found?
Alexander II: The Last Great Tsar by Edvard Radzinsky and Antonina Bouis. I've read everything I can get my hands on about the Romanov dynasty – I have over 200 books on the subject.
I'm embarrassed to say I'm not a real movie watcher. I can sit still and read for 12 hours straight, but when it comes to watching a movie – no matter how great it is – I get all twitchy and have to move around. That doesn't work real well in movie theaters.
What is your first memory of TV news?
My first memory of television is knocking on the TV screen and looking at the back of the set. I had heard my dad was "in TV" (he was a director at a local Washington station) and wanted to find him.

My first memory of TV news, like so many other Baby Boomers, is of President Kennedy's funeral.

If you could change one thing about the profession of journalism, what would it be?
I'd like to see CBS News once again be the Tiffany Network.
Who is the most fascinating person you've covered and who is the biggest jerk?
I think the most fascinating person would be the former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping. The first remote I worked on was covering his visit with Jimmy Carter in 1979 and I found it fascinating that this little man could control the lives of so many people.
As for the biggest jerk? Still to be determined.
Finally, a question just for Alexandra: What will you miss most about your job; what will you miss the least?
I will miss working with some of the smartest, wittiest and nicest people in the world. The rush you get when there is breaking news is a real thrill. As far as missing something the least – that happened almost seven years ago when I came over to I used to be in charge of the computers in the Washington Bureau and I hated getting calls at 2 in the morning telling me that a printer was broken.

All in all it's been a great ride and I'm proud to have worked for CBS News for 29 years.

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