Radio icon speaks at PSU

Before his reassignment last month, Bob Edwards spent 25 yearsgoing to bed at 6 p.m., waking up at 1 a.m., and spending two hoursevery day delivering news via the National Public Radio program”Morning Edition.”

His trademark authoritative voice brought thoughtful insight,over 20,000 interviews and quirky newsbits to about 13 millionlisteners each week. He reported on such events as the resignationof Nixon, the end of the Cold War, the Oklahoma City bombing andSeptember 11th and his weekly phone conversations with Red Barber -a former radio announcer for the Brooklyn Dodgers – were among hismost memorable journalistic moments.

When NPR announced their intention to replace Edwards with twohosts; Steve Inskeep and Renee Montagne (both correspondents forNPR), they received upward of 35,000 complaints.

As Laura Gross, an NPR spokesperson, put it; “Its part of anatural evolution, a new host will bring new ideas and perspectivesto the show. Bob’s voice will still be heard; he’ll still be atremendous influence on the show. We just felt it was time for achange.”

Prior to returning to work as Senior Correspondent for NPR,Edwards is taking three months to promote his new book, “Edward R.Murrow: And the Birth of Broadcast Journalism” on a national tour.He appeared in front of sold out audiences in Washington and lastThursday, he arrived at Portland State’s Smith Center Ballroom tofind that it too had sold out.

There was an excited, loud buzzing of conversation, franticsearching for seats and an almost rowdy atmosphere with theoccasional “save Bob!” shouted from unseen origins.

Charlotte Baskin, an attending fan, told the women sitting nextto her that when she listens to Edwards on the radio she alwaysresponds to his familiar “this is Bob Edwards” with “Hi Bob!”Thursday was no different.

After a lengthy standing ovation, Edwards absently asked if hismicrophone was on, the first words out of his mouth inspiringinstant recognition from the audience and rousing yet another roundof applause.

April Baer, OPB’s local host for Morning Edition was on hand todirect the interview formatted event, using audio and visual clipsto underscore the importance of Murrow in journalism. Baer’squestions dealt with the content of the book:

“What do you like about Murrow’s writing?”

To which Edwards, who with furrowed brows and hands claspedunder his chin appeared to be listening and approaching each withcareful consideration, replied that he enjoyed the vivid imageryand the “word pictures.” It was not possible at that time to recorda story for future play, so Murrow had to go on a flight mission,take notes and then deliver the story live on the air.

The audience later turned the conversation to his recentdeparture and tried to understand why, despite the opposition, NPRproceeded with the staff change-which drew hissing from some.

When asked what the most heart wrenching and the most gratifyingmoments for him were, Edwards responded, “This works for me.”

Just before leaving to a second standing ovation to sign books,Edwards told the appreciative crowd that the National Public Radiolisteners are the “most intelligent, most engaged” audience, theone that “everyone else wants and that we have.”