News anchors often speak about the people who work behind the scenes and make it all possible. Well, for most of his life, CBS News producer Bernie Birnbaum made it all possible for hundreds of people at CBS News. In a business filled with legends, Bernie was a legend.
Everyone loved and respected Bernie. He worked with all the greats, especially when CBS News was the most powerful broadcast news organization in the 60's and 70's. A former Fulbright scholar, he produced for Walter Cronkite, Charles Kuralt, Roger Mudd and worked with Fred Friendly, Howard Stringer and Don Hewitt.
While not great in stature, barely five-feet tall, he was a great person. He said hello to everyone, often with a smile and a quip,; he frequently had a devilish look on his face. He knew just about everything about everyone. He certainly knew where to find every piece of video ever shot by CBS News.
Yet he was a whirlwind of ideas and enthusiasm. He understood the fundamental principles of journalism, in fact he probably helped write them. Yet while he was a traditional journalist, he quickly and easily embraced change in technology and program requirements. He was honest, decent, a man of enormous integrity and a gigantic heart.
Bernie died at the age of 89 on this past Thanksgiving Day. He certainly had a wonderful lifetime to be thankful for. But those of us who worked with him are equally thankful for his friendship and support. He was a true legend.