During those nineteen years, five months and seven days at CBS News, working in its Washington bureau was the central experience of my life. There was no news bureau like it anywhere in television or, with two or three exceptions, in print. Of the hundred or so reporters and producers who worked in the bureau during those two decades, almost all of us were college graduates. Three or four went to the Ivy schools, a few more to private colleges but most attended the big public universities — Illinois, Indiana, Michigan State, Missouri, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, City College of New York, and Rutgers. We were the sons and daughters of bakers, electrical engineers, ditch diggers, map makers, roofers, preachers, maids, architects, house painters, professors, coal miners, mill workers, deli owners, nurses, salesmen, bankers and manufacturers. Only two were from wealthy parents.
Being assigned to the Washington bureau was never automatic; it meant either you were of top network quality or showed signs of it. We all felt privileged and lucky to be in the bureau but each of us knew, given the competition within and without, we wouldn't stay long if we didn't measure up. This was no hiding place or dumping ground for losers.
Once in the bureau, though, believing we were the best, we tended to swagger; we were aggressive; we out-covered, out-wrote and out-filmed our competition. We laughed at the gentlemanly, pipe-smoking NBC bureau which sniffed at our hard-charging ways. They claimed their follow-up stories were superior to our breaking stories — not much of a claim if you're in the news business. We were quietly proud of each other's work, although compliments were rare, egos and vanity being obstacles.
For me and the hundreds of others in the Washington bureau, those twenty years were the glory years of television news.
Excerpted from The Place to Be: Washington, CBS, and the Glory Days of Television News by Roger Mudd, Copyright © 2008.