An award-winning CBS News Correspondent who reported on the “CBS Evening News” for 26 years, has died, CBS has announced. The correspondent, Eric Engberg, was 74. Dan Rather, who sat in the anchor chair at CBS News for many of those years, today said, according to Deadline, that Engberg was “One of the best television correspondents of his generation.” Rather added that he was “tough but fair, and that rarity: a hard-nosed reporter with a sense of humor.”
The following is from the CBS announcement:
“Former CBS News Correspondent Eric Engberg, a political and investigative reporter who also covered overseas conflicts for CBS News and won electronic journalism’s top honor for a report identifying a Vietnam veteran buried in the Tomb of the Unknowns, died yesterday. Engberg was 74 and passed away in his sleep at his home in Palmetto, Fla., yesterday (March 27th), where he retired after his CBS News career.
“Engberg appeared on the ‘CBS Evening News’ for 26 years and is best remembered for his original series ‘Reality Check,’ a new style of fact checking and watchdog reporting on the federal government that used modern graphics and stylish production. The series ran on the broadcast in the 1990s and helped popularize the phrase so common today among commentators and comedians.
“‘Reality Check’ began as a regular segment on the accuracy of charges and counter charges flung about in the 1992 presidential campaign. Besides setting the facts straight or exposing inconsistencies, Engberg would also uncover abuse and waste. He reported on expensive body guard units created to protect cabinet secretaries, an $18 million-dollar luxury subway built to carry U.S. senators a few hundred yards to their offices and an un-noticed law revision allowing U.S. representatives to buy radio ads with taxpayer money. Engberg could raise an eyebrow or turn a humorous phrase when the story called for it. His signature phrase in the series was ‘Time out!’
“He and his team won a Columbia University DuPont Silver Baton for a ‘Reality Check’ investigation that made big news in January 1998. Engberg’s reports built a case identifying the Vietnam unknown in Arlington National Cemetery as U.S.A.F. 1st Lt. Michael Blassie, a pilot shot down in the war. The investigation resulted in the exhumation of the body, a DNA positive identification and a reburial for family.
“Engberg distinguished himself as the principal reporter in other major investigations for CBS News. He was the first to report the existence of a security fence at the home of White House aide Oliver North paid for with Iran-Contra money. He was among the first to link faulty O-rings to the explosion that brought down the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1986.
“He covered the presidential election campaigns of Bob Dole in 1976, John Anderson and John Connally in 1980, Gary Hart and Geraldine Ferraro in 1984, George H.W. Bush in 1988 and Patrick Buchanan in 1992.
“Engberg was sent overseas to report on the IRA hunger strikes in Northern Ireland, the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square uprising in Beijing and the fall of the Berlin Wall. He reported from Saudi Arabia in the run-up to the Persian Gulf War in 1991 and then covered the first units in the army artillery on their mission to liberate Kuwait.
“Enberg joined CBS News in the New York Bureau in 1975 as a correspondent and was sent to the Dallas Bureau the next year. He joined the Washington bureau in 1981, where he remained until his retirement in 2002. He appeared on several other CBS News programs, including ‘48 Hours.’
“Engberg was a seasoned Washington beat reporter before joining CBS News. In 1968 he began reporting for WTOP Radio in D.C. and quickly became the public affairs director and then news director of WMAL-TV. There he won a Silver Gavel award from the American Bar Association for a series he produced and narrated. He was hired by Westinghouse Radio in 1972 and covered Watergate and the elections. One of the biggest scoops of his career came when he reported the resignation of Vice President Spiro Agnew in a Baltimore courtroom in 1973. His eyewitness report for Group W won a Sigma Delta Chi medal for the year’s Best Spot Radio News Reporting.
“Eric John Engberg was born September 18, 1941 in Highland Park, Ill., and was graduated in 1963 from the University of Missouri School of Journalism. Still a student, he became heavily involved with a local radio station KFRU, where he worked for nearly five years after graduation and became the station’s news director. He also taught broadcast newswriting at the University of Missouri during this time.
“Engberg made news last year. When questions arose about Bill O’Reilly’s claim of reporting from a dangerous war zone during the Falklands War in 1982, Engberg thought he saw another ‘reality check’ opportunity. He had been with O’Reilly, then a CBS News correspondent, and other reporters who were prevented from reaching the front and were contained in Buenos Aires, where there was street violence. ‘It wasn’t a combat situation by any sense of the word that I know,’ he told CNN. The Fox News commentator then attacked him and a war of words ensued, in which the feisty Engberg took delight in getting back in the media once more.
“He is survived by his wife, the former Judith Ann Klein; three sons, Robin, Jason and Mark; and five grandchildren. Services will be private.”