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Editorial: Praise for unsung execs

Dec 16, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Has the media been guilty of over-praising the accomplishments of Roone Arledge?
That’s the question raised by the respected Los Angeles Times TV critic Howard Rosenberg last week following the outpouring of tributes to Mr. Arledge on the occasion of his death.
For example, Mr. Rosenberg was not pleased with “PrimeTime Thursday” host Charlie Gibson’s remark that Mr. Arledge “reinvented television news.” It was Ted Turner who did that, Mr. Rosenberg said.
While many commentators are certainly prone to hyperbole when someone dies, we don’t think most viewers or readers received an exaggerated view of Mr. Arledge’s accomplishments last week.
Yes, Mr. Turner, with the creation of CNN, did indeed reinvent some aspects of how we get our news from television. But as news veteran Jeff Gralnick wrote in our pages last week, what Mr. Arledge accomplished at ABC News also did, in a real sense, “reinvent” TV news in certain ways.
Still, Mr. Rosenberg’s remarks got us thinking about the many unsung executives in our business who don’t get the spotlight of the Roone Arledges or Ted Turners, but whose accomplishments also merit notice.
As timing would have it, three of them also just passed away in the past few weeks, with far less fanfare than the passing of Mr. Arledge.
Edgar Scherick, who died of leukemia at age 78, was a colleague of Mr. Arledge’s at “Wide World of Sports.” In fact, it was his company, Sports Programs Inc., that first produced “Wide World of Sports.” He was a true pioneer in the creation of sports programming on TV.
Ed Bliss, who died at 90, was a longtime veteran of CBS News. In 1963 he became the news editor of TV’s first 30-minute newscast, which featured Walter Cronkite nightly in the anchor chair. Certainly that was groundbreaking in its day. Later Mr. Bliss taught journalism and wrote the textbook “Writing News for Broadcast.” Was he influential? You betcha.
Ernest Leiser, another veteran of CBS News, passed away at the age of 81 after a heart attack. Dan Rather, in Mr. Leiser’s short obituary in weekly Variety, said Mr. Leiser “almost single-handedly” brought the then-legendary CBS News radio corps into the TV era. It was Mr. Leiser’s trained eye that helped pick out Mr. Cronkite as anchor material, and Mr. Rather to succeed him.
Scherick, Bliss and Leiser. None of them were the subject of a special edition of “Nightline,” and none of them received tributes on anyone’s local newscast.
We aren’t really concerned about someone of Mr. Arledge’s stature receiving too much praise. We only wish we had more space, and others had more time, to mention the accomplishments of so many others in our industry who have done so much.