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Andy Rooney to stop weekly 60 Minutes work at age 92, ending network news' most impressive run

27

September

andy-rooney.jpgTo understand what Andy Rooney has achieved, you need only know this: In an age of TV copycats, he is the only one doing what he does.

Other have tried. Molly Ivins and P.J. O'Rourke, two amazing voices on politics and culture, gave it a shot. Charles Grodin and comic Jimmy Tingle tried it on 60 Minutes' ill-fated spin off, 60 Minutes II.

But only one man has been able to close network TV's most-watched news magazine with a cheeky commentary, week after week, since 1978. And that man will make his last regular appearance on the show this Sunday.

According to CBS, "Andy Rooney will announce on Sunday’s 60 MINUTES that it will be his last regular appearance on the broadcast.  He will make the announcement in his regular essay at the end of the program, his 1,097th original essay for 60 MINUTES. It will be preceded by a segment in which Rooney looks back on his career in an interview with Morley Safer."

60 minutes producer-turned-CBS News chairman Jeff Fager said it best in the network's press release: “There’s nobody like Andy and there never will be. He’ll hate hearing this, but he’s an American original. His contributions to 60 MINUTES are immeasurable; he’s also a great friend.  It’s harder for him to do it every week, but he will always have the ability to speak his mind on 60 MINUTES when the urge hits him.”

No word on why Rooney didn't appear in the newsmagazine's first episode of the new TV season this Sunday, or why he's decided to change his role now. Also unclear: whether this means he'll do fewer commentaries or none at all (CBS' press release on the change, which offers a brief review of his career, at times reads like an obituary).

And the main question: Will they try to hire someone else to do what Rooney has done for more than 30 years?

Lots of critics, including me, have groused about how out of touch he can seem. Still, there is no doubt that Rooney has pulled off one of the great feats of broadcast journalism, closing one of the most impressive careers in TV history. 

The rest of CBS' press release is below:

andy-rooney1.jpgRooney began his run on 60 MINUTES in July 1978 with an essay about the reporting of automobile fatalities on the Independence Day weekend.   He became a regular feature that fall, alternating weeks with the dueling James J. Kilpatrick and Shana Alexander before getting the end slot all to himself in the fall of 1979. In Rooney’s  first full season as the 60 MINUTES commentator, the broadcast was the number one program for the first time.

He had been a contributor to 60 MINUTES since the program’s inception. During the first season of the broadcast in 1968 he appeared a few times in silhouette with Palmer Williams, 60 MINUTES’ senior producer, in a short-lived segment called “Ipso and Facto.” It was one of many experiments the program’s creator, Don Hewitt, tried as an end for the program.  Hewitt settled with the Point/Counterpoint segment that Kilpatrick and Alexander appeared in for a few years before finding the perfect coda for 60 MINUTES in Andy Rooney. 

Rooney also produced 60 MINUTES segments for Harry Reasoner during the broadcast’s first few seasons.   

He wrote his first television essay, a longer precursor of the type he does on 60 MINUTES, in 1964, “An Essay on Doors.” From 1962 to 1968, he collaborated with Reasoner, with Rooney writing and producing and Reasoner narrating, on such notable CBS News specials as “An Essay on Bridges” (1965), “An Essay on Hotels” (1966), “An Essay on Women” (1967), “An Essay on Chairs” (1968) and “The Strange Case of the English Language” (1968). That same year,  he wrote two CBS News specials in the series “Of Black America.”  His script for “Black History: Lost, Stolen or Strayed” won him the first of four Emmy awards.

“An Essay on War” (1971), done for PBS, was his first appearance on television as himself and won Rooney his third Writers Guild Award. 

Later, he wrote, produced and narrated a series of broadcasts for CBS News on various aspects of American life, including “Mr. Rooney Goes to Washington,” for which he won a Peabody Award, “Andy Rooney Takes Off,” “Mr. Rooney Goes to Work” and “Mr. Rooney Goes to Dinner.” Beginning in 1979, he wrote a weekly syndicated newspaper column that was recognized by the National Society of Newspaper Columnists when he was presented with its Ernie Pyle Lifetime Achievement Award in June 2003. That September, he was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Emmy.  The Overseas Press Club gave him its President’s Award in 2010 for his reporting in World War II for The Stars and Stripes.

Rooney joined CBS in 1949 as a writer for “Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts,” a Top 10 hit that was number one in 1952. He also wrote for “The Garry Moore Show” (1959-65), helping it to achieve hit status as a Top 20 program.  At the same time, he wrote for CBS News public-affairs broadcasts such as “The Twentieth Century,” “News of America,” “Adventure,” “Calendar” and “The Morning Show with Will Rogers, Jr.”

In addition to magazine articles he wrote earlier in his career, Rooney is the author of 16 books, most recently Andy Rooney: 60 Years of Wisdom and Wit, was published by PublicAffairs in 2009. Rooney’s other books are: Air Gunner; The Story of The Stars and Stripes; Conquerors’ Peace; The Fortunes of War; A Few Minutes with Andy Rooney; And More by Andy Rooney; Pieces of My Mind; Word for Word; Not That You Asked...; Sweet and Sour;  My War; Sincerely, Andy Rooney; Common Nonsense, Years of Minutes and Out of My Mind. 

Rooney was born Jan. 14, 1919, in Albany, N.Y.  He attended Colgate University until he was drafted into the Army in 1941.  In February 1943, he was one of six correspondents who flew with the Eighth Air Force on the first American bombing raid over Germany.

Rooney lives in New York.  He has three daughters and a son.

[Last modified: Tuesday, September 27, 2011 7:07pm]

    

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