In Depth

Making a Smooth Transisiton

Osgood Jumped Ship Early From Finance to Broadcasting

Not many people know this, but Osgood is not Charles Osgood’s last name. His given name is Charles Osgood Wood III, but he became known as Charles Osgood at the beginning of his broadcast career in the 1950s because there was a Charles Woods who also worked at Washington radio station WGMS.

Charles Osgood Wood had graduated from Fordham University with a bachelor of science degree in economics, but it was quickly clear to him that broadcasting, not finance, was his future. In short order, he was named the general manager of WHCT-TV in Hartford, Conn., where he realized he would rather be on the air than be the boss. After a stint at ABC Radio News, in 1967 he joined WCBS Radio in New York as an anchor/reporter.

Forty-one years later, all of them at CBS, Mr. Osgood is still on the radio with “The Osgood File” four times a day, five days a week, on nearly 300 stations across the country. And he is the highly regarded anchor of CBS News’ “Sunday Morning,” where he took over the reins from the equally acclaimed Charles Kuralt in 1994, who called Mr. Osgood “one of the last great broadcast writers.”

Mr. Osgood joined CBS News in 1971, and has served as a reporter and anchor on its television programs including “The CBS Morning News,” “The CBS Evening News With Dan Rather” and “The CBS Sunday Night News.”

Along the way, he has won the admiration of the audience and his peers and racked up an impressive series of honors, including four Emmy Awards and three George Foster Peabody Awards.

“He has a great journalistic background, an air of authority, and people are very, very comfortable with him,” said Sean McManus, president of CBS News and Sports. “There aren’t that many journalists like him, and when they do come along, you make sure you put them in a place to be seen and heard by as many people as possible.”

Juggling
In 2005, Mr. Osgood received both the Paul White Award, presented by the Radio-Television News Directors Association, for lifetime contribution to electronic journalism and the Walter Cronkite Excellence in Journalism Award from Arizona State University. This year he is the recipient of the National Association of Broadcasters’ Distinguished Service Award.

“I couldn’t have predicted how this was going to turn out,” said Mr. Osgood. “I realize that I had the privilege to be in this business of reporting and storytelling at a wonderful time for it, because it’s fascinating, with people and events, nobody could ask for anything more.”

Juggling his responsibilities in radio and television, Mr. Osgood has one of the most grueling schedules in the business. He wakes up every weekday at 2:30 a.m. and gets to the CBS Broadcast Center on 57th Street by 4 a.m., where he broadcasts “The Osgood File” four times during morning drive.

“I’ve been doing this for such a long time that it’s become sort of natural to me,” Mr. Osgood said.

“The great thing is Charlie does everything: hard news, features, and he’s very well known for his poems. Across the board, I’m very appreciative of what he does and love listening to his work,” said Bart Tessler, senior vice president of news and talk programming for Westwood One, which syndicates “The Osgood File.” “There’s no one else doing this. Others have attempted it, but Charlie does four pieces every day, from the top stories to medical issues, science and features. That’s tough as far as ability and the demands on a person. It takes a unique skill set to pull it off.”

And when others who work early mornings might be going home for the day, Mr. Osgood is heading to meetings with producers on “Sunday Morning” to prep the weekly broadcast. Often, he goes out in the field to shoot a story.

On Saturdays, he comes in to the studio to record elements of the show—often several times. Yes, he does live nearby, within walking distance.

Sunday is normally his shortest day of the week. He comes in by 6 a.m. to work on last-minute rewrites, and he and the staff are wrapped by 10:30 a.m.—giving him time to enjoy a leisurely brunch or take in a play or a concert.

“He’s so enthusiastic and curious about the world. He brings that and his intelligence to every venture,” said “Sunday Morning” executive producer Rand Morrison, who has worked with Mr. Osgood for almost 10 years. “The energy he brings, it pushes the story to a certain level. He’s a real, genuine, down-to-earth, generous, kind person. It sounds incredibly fulsome. There are people you say nice things about to be polite that are not truthful. He’s the real deal.”
It’s been 14 years now since Mr. Osgood took over the Sunday morning broadcast from Mr. Kuralt. “The first Sunday, the way we open the show, he said, ‘Good morning, I’m Charles Osgood and this is “Sunday Morning.” I know, it sounds strange to me, too.’ In any case, it was self-deprecating and honest, and it was real,” Mr. Morrison said. “That’s what’s so great about Charlie. I love this guy. I feel so lucky I get to work for him.”

“He was following somebody with an equal amount of recognizability,” said Mr. McManus. “It was a difficult role, with large shoes to fill, and [former CBS News President] Andrew Heyward should be given a lot of credit for the decision. ‘Sunday Morning’ is unlike any other show on TV, and Charles Osgood is the right man for the right job.”

“I’m sure it was a daunting task to take over from a legendary broadcaster,” added Mr. Morrison. “What’s great is not only that he made a successful transition and followed in the footsteps, but he is in himself a highly regarded broadcaster. It was a daunting responsibility to succeed, but he’s done so with aplomb. It turns out Charles Osgood is one of a kind.”

Mr. Osgood is the author of six books, with another, “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the White House,” due out next month. His previous titles are “Nothing Could Be Finer Than a Crisis That Is Minor in the Morning” (Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1979), “There’s Nothing I Wouldn’t Do if You Would Be My POSSLQ” (Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1981), “Osgood on Speaking: How to Think on Your Feet Without Falling on Your Face” (William Morrow & Co., 1988), “The Osgood Files” (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1991), “See You on the Radio” (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1999) and “Defending Baltimore Against Enemy Attack” (Hyperion, 2004).
Another television and radio personality has adopted the moniker “The King of All Media,” but Mr. Osgood is clearly a contender in that realm. He has performed with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and played the piano and banjo with the New York Pops and Boston Pops orchestras.