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10 Plus 1: Inside The Writer's Head

You likely heard his work on last night's "Evening News" broadcast, but you probably didn't realize it. So here's a closer look at Jerry Cipriano, news editor and head writer for the "Evening News" --What is it like writing with someone else's voice in mind? And how important is a TelePrompTer, really?

So, what do you do for a living?

I am the news editor and head writer for the "CBS Evening News with Bob Schieffer." Bob, I and two other newswriters each write a portion of the broadcast. My job is to make sure the copy is clear and accurate. In addition to the news of the day, I write the nightly "American Heroes" segment, in which we profile an American serviceman or -woman killed or wounded in Iraq or Afghanistan. I also write for CBS News Special Events broadcasts, such as political conventions, the funeral of President Reagan and any special reports we may do during the day.
What is not being covered enough at CBS News?
I would like to see more coverage of pocketbook issues, especially the coming financial crunch facing many baby boomers heading into retirement with drastically reduced pensions or no pension at all, rising medical costs and threatened cutbacks in Social Security.
What's the strangest thing that has ever happened to you on the job?
One of my responsibilities during the "Evening News" broadcast is to keep an eye on the TelePrompTer, to make sure it is showing the anchor the right copy. One night, the two men operating the prompter got into a fight while we were on the air and stopped running the copy, setting off a slow-motion meltdown of the broadcast.
If you had 10 broken fingers and no gas in the car, which colleague would you want to be there?
Ten broken fingers and out of gas. That is a familiar feeling for a newswriter at the end of the day. Three colleagues who have come to my rescue on a number of occasions are Joe Zarinko, Betty Chin and Gavin Boyle, three of the most can-do, will-do people I know.
If you were not in news, what would you be doing?
I think I would have enjoyed being a detective.
What is the biggest change at CBS during the time you've been here?
The single biggest change was the departure of Dan Rather as anchor of the CBS "Evening News." For a quarter of a century, Dan was the face and voice of CBS News.
What are the last three books you've read or the last three movies you've seen?
How about two books and a movie? The movie is "Crash." Excellent.

The first book was recommended to me by former "Evening News" Executive Producer Jim Murphy, who knows I am a presidential history buff. It's called Assassination Vacation. The author takes you on a truly bizarre tour of historic sites related to the Lincoln, Garfield and McKinley assassinations. It is a fun read.

Right now, I am reading Thomas Friedman's The World is Flat, in which he stresses the need for Americans to be better educated to compete in the global economy. I was reminded of this the other day when I attempted to change the windshield wipers on my car, and the directions consisted of a series of pictures and arrows. No words. The manufacturer assumes you can't read.

What is your first memory of TV news?
I remember watching, with my father, "Douglas Edwards with the News." I have a clear memory of Doug, in that wonderful voice he had, reporting the death of Eleanor Roosevelt: "Mrs. Franklin Delano Roosevelt is dead." I, as a kid, knew her not as the former first lady but as the woman in those margarine commercials she did near the end of her life.
Would you want your child to go into the news business?
I would want my child to go into any business in which he or she could find enjoyment and make a positive difference. If it's the news business, great.
Who is the most fascinating person you've covered and who is the biggest jerk?
The most fascinating people are those we have profiled in the "American Heroes" segment, men and women who are so willing to sacrifice everything for their country. If I could single one out, it would be Bryan Anderson, who lost both legs and an arm in Iraq and is determined to get back to a normal life. We interviewed him at Walter Reed, where he is going through rehab. When we asked him how he does it, he said: "I have to, or I'll just roll over and die."

I'm not going to call anyone a jerk, but I do remember interviewing a governor of a major state who was less than gracious.

And finally, a question from reader Mark R.: You have been in your position under two anchors, Schieffer and Rather, and perhaps a third, how difficult is it to find each person's voice?
I have written for many different anchors over the years at CBS, and one of the fun parts of the job, one of the challenges, is to try to capture their voice and their style. You pick it up over time by listening to them talk. You get to know the way they say things, the words and phrases they like to use and those they prefer not to use. If you do it long enough, it becomes second nature. As you're writing, you can hear the anchor saying the words. If he doesn't like the words, well, you may hear that, too.

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