BOB GARFIELD: We're back with On the Media. I'm Bob Garfield.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: And I'm Brooke Gladstone. A quiet Southerner with a dry wit and a heaven-sent appreciation of brevity has stolen the television limelight this week at the Democratic National Convention. That was Jack Gould, the New York Times television critic, writing on August 17, 1956. "Mr. Brinkley," he wrote, "quite possibly could be the forerunner of a new school of television commentator." [CLIP PLAYS]
DAVID BRINKLEY: On January 2nd, Fidel Castro gave us another exercise in the modern art form: talk-fact. That is say something is a fact because you wish it were. He said "The imperialists," meaning us of course, "had been defeated all over Latin America."
BROOKE GLADSTONE:He died Wednesday from complications from a fall, ABC news reported, at the age of 82. When he stepped down as host of This Week with David Brinkley in November of '96 he had been the anchor or host of a TV news show for 40 years -- longer than anyone ever had. I watched the Huntley-Brinkley Report with my parents when I was a little kid. In fact, I was a little startled the first time I saw David Brinkley in color. He used to fascinate me even when I was in the single digits, because as the reviewer said, his style was so laconic and so dry -- there was always the palpable presence of an absence -- all the things he chose not to say! Av Westin is a veteran of network news, and--you've worked on and off with David Brinkley, haven't you?
AV WESTIN: I did, and I competed against him on a number of occasions, and you're absolutely right --this, this is a brand new style. It was folksier, in fact, than we were sort of used to. Broadcast news originally was cast in the mode of Murrow and the rather stentorian tones and-- I used to say that news was defined by Murrow's definition, and if it wasn't geopolitical, it didn't have a place on the air, and Brinkley clearly broke that mold.
AV WESTIN: Do you remember watching the Huntley-Brinkley Report?
AV WESTIN:I was working at CBS News at the time, and I will tell you that we watched that team rapidly supplant CBS News as a major audience-getter and--
BROOKE GLADSTONE: [LAUGHS] He beat the pants off you guys!
AV WESTIN: [LAUGHS] Well that's a way of putting it.
BROOKE GLADSTONE:Veteran TV news producer, Av Westin. When the three networks ruled, anchors could have a huge impact on the way people saw the world. Brinkley spoke not from on high but with feet firmly planted in the soil. It's his skeptical take on the powerful, even more than his wit, that is sorely missed on the small screen today. [MUSIC]