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I didn’t get old on purpose, it just happened. If you’re lucky, it could happen to you.
In his final 60 Minutes essay tonight, Andy Rooney reflects on himself and his nation. Both have changed substantially during Rooney’s 33 years as essayist-commentator on CBS News’ ground-breaking television news magazine.
During his tenure at CBS Rooney had a front row seat from which to observe his profession and his nation. At 92, Rooney remembers the depression and writing for Stars & Stripes during World War II. Both Rooney and broadcast journalism have changed substantially since Rooney took his first job at CBS writing for Arthur Godfrey. In the 1950s, before videotape and satellites, network television programming consisted of fuzzy black and white pictures of studio originated programs that were always live.
In those years, being a writer meant that Rooney could write for both entertainment and news programs. At times he wrote materials for major entertainment program stars including Gary Moore. At other times Rooney worked on serious news and documentary projects including CBS’ highly acclaimed The 20th Century series. He came to be recognized more for his journalistic skills after he teamed up with CBS News’ Harry Reasoner on a series of noteworthy news and documentary projects.
60 Minutes’ creator Don Hewitt saw something in Andy Rooney that others may well have missed — for like Hewitt himself, Andy Rooney was an American everyman. For ten years Hewitt ended his 60 Minutes magazine program with what were called Point/Counterpoint segments that featured Shana Alexander and James Kilpatrick.
Then, in the summer of 1978, Hewitt invited Rooney to write and present a weekly commentary for the summer broadcasts. Rooney took up the challenge with immense energy and what seemed to many at the time, hard-edged satirical wit. By summer’s end, Andy Rooney made of himself a public institution by his sometimes humorous and often caustic comments about human frailties and the American experience.
Tonight the last everyman on television will tell it like it is one last time as a regularly scheduled segment. Whether or not this is the last we’ll hear from Mr. Rooney remains to be seen.
Either way he will be missed by millions of everymen and everywomen who came to know him and love him as one of their own.