Harry Reasoner never lost the common touch

August 07, 1991|By Steve McKerrow | Steve McKerrow,Evening Sun Staff

FOR A TELEVISION newsman, CBS News anchor Dan Rather had the oddest -- and nicest -- thing to say about colleague Harry Reasoner, one of the original "60 Minutes" correspondents who died in Connecticut yesterday.

Reasoner was one of the "transitional generation" of TV people who never lost the sensibilities of a print reporter, commented former "60 Minutes" correspondent Rather this morning on National Public Radio's "All Things Considered."

CBS News said in a statement that Reasoner, 68, had been in Norwalk Hospital in Norwalk, Conn. since June 11, and that surgeons removed a blood clot from his brain on June 12. The cause of death was cited as cardiopulmonary arrest.

Only weeks before his hospitalization, Reasoner had retired from the highly rated program he helped found in 1968 with Mike Wallace.

Among many accolades from broadcast figures, Rather's tribute fits best -- and not just because Reasoner, a Dakota City, Iowa native, began his career in print, writing news in 1942 at the Minneapolis Times.

For in all of his work Reasoner never projected the attitude so common among TV news figures (sometimes including Rather), that a story was worth hearing about only because he was there to report it.

Instead, the story and especially the people in the story, were foremost in Reasoner's presentations. A sure sense of what viewers would want to know directed his approach.

Wallace would drill into interview subjects like a Spanish Inquisitor. But Reasoner would cock an eyebrow and ask the question viewers were most wondering about, or find the person in a story most likely to represent a connection to viewers.

The last of his three Emmy awards, in 1983, was for the quintessential Reasoner story. In "Michael Doyle's Camden," he found a parish priest to serve as viewers' Everyman, sadly observing and trying to stem the decay of an urban center.

Reasoner joined CBS News in 1956, after serving as news director of Minneapolis' KEYD-TV. Earlier, he had written news at radio station WCCO and served in the Philippines for three years with the U.S. Information Agency.

From 1970 to 1978, Reasoner left CBS to anchor the "ABC Evening News," and also covered for that network the presidential elections and campaigns in 1972 and 1976. But he returned to CBS and "60 Minutes" in the fall of 1978.

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