Before He Retires: Charles Osgood On Charles Osgood

Sep 22, 2016

Charles Osgood retires from "CBS Sunday Morning" on Sept. 25.
Credit CBS News

Before Charles Osgood retires from "CBS Sunday Morning" this weekend, I want you to hear Osgood's take on Charles Osgood and the program's success.

From years ago.

In 1999, Osgood met with the Television Critics Association in Los Angeles, and he told us about his philosophy for one of TV's best shows (9-10:30 a.m., Channel 12, CBS).

At the time, "Sunday Morning" was celebrating its 20th anniversary, and Osgood was marking his fifth year as host since replacing originator Charles Kuralt. Osgood, 83, who joined CBS in 1971, has won three prestigious Peabody Awards, four Emmy Awards, and career achievement awards from the National Association of Broadcasters and the Radio-Television News Directors Association.

What Osgood said in 1999 remains true today. So as Groucho Marx once said, "Don't stop me if you've heard this before, because I want to hear it again."

Osgood celebrated the 25th anniversary of the program in 2004.
Credit CBS News

ACCENTUATE THE POSITIVE: "Because of the day of the week and the time of the day, and because we're an hour and a half, it's possible for us to deal with those things that are not shocking and depressing….  (Kuralt) would much rather find a hero and point to somebody and say, 'Isn't that terrific what this person does?' than to point to some really rotten thing that somebody did and say, 'And next week, we'll find another rotten person to tell you about.'  It is our good fortune to be able to report wonderful things that people are doing and to accentuate the positive, and we do that fairly shamelessly.

"When there is news of the other kind, we also will broadcast that…. with the understanding that these (viewers) are intelligent people who want to know more than just a line and a half about a story. And we have the luxury because of the time that we have to do things that are a little more in depth and a little more reflective than most news broadcasts."

RESPECT FOR VIEWERS: "We don't talk down to the audience, although we're doing things about the arts. And, you know, we talk about ballet and orchestral music and chamber music, and we talk about poetry and theater….On 'Sunday Morning,' if you're there for a while, you quickly come to the conclusion that the audience is smarter than we are. And we're visiting them in their homes on Sunday morning. We try to treat them with some respect, and maintain a certain amount of dignity, but that does not mean that we're like college professors or lecturing or telling them something that they would not otherwise, perhaps, already know themselves.

Credit CBS News

HIS BOW TIES: "The man who writes the 'Dress for Success' books has written that if credibility is important to you, then you should never wear a bow tie.… He says if you're going to wear a bow tie, you may as well wear the rest of the ensemble, which is a beanie with a propeller.

BEST JOB IN TV: "I love doing this broadcast….. It's the best television job I've ever had."

ON A MISSION: "Charles (Kuralt) used to say that our great competition are the cartoons and the clergy. Not necessarily the going to church, but the ones who were on television. But I think that, in a way, we have – maybe it's just subconsciously – gotten the idea that ours is a kind of religious service. I mean we have – there's a liturgical pace to the show, I suppose. Although, I certainly don't ever want anybody to think that we're preaching to them.

BIGGEST SURPRISE: "One of the things that surprises me is that… is that still nobody is doing what we do and we have done successfully… Nobody really has tried to imitate us, and I’m glad about that, because what we're doing remains distinctive."

Why?

"Because deep down, in their souls, television people don't believe that people really want this stuff. They don't really believe people are intelligent, and that they care about the arts, and they're interested in nature and the environment. They think that – I mean deep down in their little souls – the television people think that the way you increase audience, if you want to do it, is to keep digging down to the lowest common denominator… We are broadcasting for the head and for the heart. You know, for the mind and the soul."

Sunday mornings will never be the same.  We'll miss you, Charlie.

See you on the radio.