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NEW YORK — After more than 1000 broadcasts, Andy Rooney will make his last regular appearance on this Sunday’s 60 Minutes.
Rooney has been a fixture on the newsmagazine since 1978. And he’ll make the announcement himself in a quintessential show-wrapping segment. It will be preceded by a career retrospective interview with correspondent Morley Safer.
“There’s nobody like Andy and there never will be,” said Jeff Fager, CBS News chairman and 60 executive producer. “He’ll hate hearing this, but he’s an American original. His contributions to 60 Minutes are immeasurable; he’s also a great friend.”
Rooney is not likely to be replaced. And Fager said that he is always welcome on the broadcast.
“It’s harder for him to do it every week,” said Fager. “But he will always have the ability to speak his mind on 60 Minutes when the urge hits him.”
Rooney still comes to work everyday, although he’s slowed down in recent years. He was not on last week’s 44th season premiere of 60 Minutes. But last season, he appeared on 18 of the newsmagazine’s 36 installments.
Diane Sawyer, a former 60 Minutes correspondent, saluted Rooney on her ABC broadcast Tuesday evening calling him “an observer of American life.”
And Rick Kaplan, executive producer of the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric whose own career began at CBS News in the Walter Cronkite era, called Rooney a “brilliant writer,” “thinker” and “force of journalism.”
“[He was] never shy about standing up for what he thought was right no matter the consequences,” said Kaplan. “Unlike so many voices today who know how to make noise, Andy made people think…about things that were on their minds or should have been.”
Rooney has been at 60 Minutes since Don Hewitt conceived the show in 1968; he wrote and produced segments for Harry Reasoner. Rooney’s first essay was about the reporting of automobile fatalities on Fourth of July weekend 1978. That fall, he became a regular essayist on the show. He alternated weeks with James J. Kilpatrick and Shana Alexander. But a year later, he got the end slot to himself.
Rooney joined CBS in 1949 as a writer for Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts and also wrote for The Garry Moore Show (1959-65) CBS News public-affairs broadcasts including The Twentieth Century, News of America, Adventure, Calendar and The Morning Show with Will Rogers, Jr.
NBC News executive Bob Epstein, who worked at CBS News for 17 years including a stint on the CBS Evening News with Dan Rather and the CBS This Morning, stints on the morning and evening newscasts, recalled that Rooney enjoyed the bustle of the news room rather than the solitude of his 60 Minutes office.
“He just never wanted to be away from people who were dealing with the news everyday,” said Epstein. “He was always there.”
Rooney began his news career in 1942 as a correspondent for the U.S. Defense Department newspaper Stars and Stripes.
“For people of my generation, Andy Rooney was not the guy who did the wry commentaries on Sunday night,” added Epstein. “He represented another era in history; the days of CBS World War II correspondent. He was the living link to all of our history in television.”
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