He grabs a bag and a camera and goes where the action is

Mar 11, 2002  •  Post A Comment

At 38 years of age, Michael Kirsch, a reporter for CBS-owned WFOR-TV, Miami, seems to have lived longer than his years.
Mr. Kirsch is not your typical local news talent. In the 1990s he covered the wars in Kosovo and Bosnia, during the 1980s the civil wars in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua, and while a student at the University of Southern California he interviewed Charles Manson. After joining WFOR last June, he was the only reporter for the CBS-owned station group to produce a one-hour documentary-his “Assignment Afghanistan” aired in January after he spent 52 days in the country. In fact, he says he was the only local U.S. reporter inside the country just as U.S. air strikes began.
“For a local news station it was a big risk,” Mr. Kirsch said. “Most local news stations don’t have the money or resources to send thousands of dollars’ worth of news equipment and employees.”
It was a risk for WFOR to let him and photographer Rudy Marshall go to Afghanistan, where they captured stories about the people and the conditions journalists had to work under.
“It was like going back 500 years in time. There was no electricity, there was no infrastructure, nothing had changed there for 500 years,” Mr. Kirsch said.
While in college, Mr. Kirsch, a Los Angeles native, had his own show on campus radio station KUSC-AM and wrote a letter to convicted murderer Manson to ask if he would come on his radio program.
“I was always fascinated with Manson since I was a kid,” Mr. Kirsch said. “Before [Manson] was at San Quentin, we did the radio interview in Vacaville [a prison in California]. That was a pretty big deal.”
After Mr. Kirsch graduated, his first TV job was as a reporter/cameraman/anchor at ABC affiliate KTNV-TV, Las Vegas. Because of his college radio show a year earlier, Mr. Kirsch was able to nab an interview with Mr. Manson once again. This time he also interviewed Manson family members and victim Sharon Tate’s mother.
Springboarding off his success with the Manson piece, at age 24 Mr. Kirsch made a big leap to CBS-owned WBBM-TV, Chicago. There he won four local Emmys in three years. Then the Gulf War began and Mr. Kirsch sold everything, bought a video camera and “literally made the last plane to Baghdad just before the war started,” he said. He free-lanced for CBS Radio and CBS News, sending radio pieces and video.
After the war was over, he returned to Illinois and later moved to Florida just in time to cover Hurricane Andrew. He worked as an anchor/reporter at WINK-TV, Fort Meyers, Fla., and then went to Bosnia as a free-lancer for CBS News and CBS sports, where he followed the Bosnian Olympian bobsledders before the 1994 Olympics. He then stayed and free-lanced for ABC News, covering the war there for three years. He met his wife, Almira, there. He later covered the war in Kosovo for Fox.
The one thing Mr. Kirsch doesn’t want to be called is “talent.”
“I’ve never considered myself talent; I consider myself a journalist,” Mr. Kirsch said. “What I don’t like are people who get into the business who read news off the box and want to just look pretty and call themselves journalists. I’m more proud to tell people I’m a video journalist instead of telling them I’m a reporter.”