As a newspaper reporter, I looked down my nose at TV “talent” who called themselves journalists. My colleagues and I thought TV reporters were hired for their looks and their voices, and because they could read well what their producers wrote.
Then TV made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. I had three kids to raise. The new job meant I’d have to learn a new skill. Writing the spoken word is not at all like writing for print.
During the 1976 bicentennial, Kuralt reported from Independence Hall in Philadelphia. He stood in the spot where Thomas Jefferson had argued what should be in Declaration of Independence. Kuralt spoke Jefferson’s exact words. Then the camera moved around the room and Kuralt told us what Patrick Henry and Benjamin Franklin had said.
In all his stories, Kuralt’s prose was often poetry. He made it seem so easy. He was the guy next door, with a conversational style that explored people and places all across America. He educated and inspired his listeners. He was the master storyteller, teaching us more history than we learned in school. Little ironic gems like Robert E. Lee, as a U.S. Army colonel, leading the troops who captured and executed John Brown at Harpers Ferry. Brown was hanged for trying to start a rebellion against the federal government and its tolerance for slavery. Shortly after, Lee became the supreme commander of all Confederate troops, fighting the Civil War against that same government.