Magazine article Newsweek

The End of the Road: Charles Kuralt, Tell of Stores, 1934-1997

Magazine article Newsweek

The End of the Road: Charles Kuralt, Tell of Stores, 1934-1997

Article excerpt

Charles Kuralt, teller of stories (1934-1997)

ON A BITTER JANUARY MORNING in 1974, Charles Kuralt and his CBS crew were setting up on a remote illtop west of Dubuque, Iowa. They were there to do an "On the Road" segment on farmer Bill Bodisch, who hoped to sail his 58-foot homemade yacht around the world. While the three crew members arranged their equipment, Kuralt, stiring his coffee with a butcher knife, traded yarns with Bodisch. "Y'know, you really can't find a hick town anymore," said Kuralt, who was then 39--and not at all happy that American places were becoming less distinct."People see television, and they read good newspapers," he told Bodisch. "Once, when Harry Reasoner was still with CBS, we traveled to his old Iowa home at Humboldt. We thought the people would want to talk about hogs. Instead they wanted to talk about the European Common Market, which we didn't know anything about."

Kuralt, who died of heart failure on July 4 at the age of 62, could always find the stories about the hogs--or the singing mailmen or the 93-year-old brickmaker. Driving around America in a beat-up motor home, he could not only discover but also celebrate the oddities, the piercing truths hidden in an otherwise prosaic yarn from somewhere up the dirt road. in an era of journalistic cynicism run amok, Kuralt had an even rarer gift--a genuine interest in the people he profiled. He spoke about them, even the kookiest, with reverence and without the slightest sense of condescension. His view was that he was enriched, not diminished, by dealing with everyday people. …

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