Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Hons Has Left The Newsroom At KDKA

When speaking into a microphone held by a local broadcaster, it often is difficult to concentrate on the topic at hand because of cascading thoughts: How did someone this oblivious get this job? Is this one worse than the one from the other station who was here earlier? How can this person not remember what we discussed 90 seconds ago? Should I just grab the microphone, ask myself the obvious question (or just a relevant question) and answer it? If were to reply that 'It is difficult to respond because my Neptunian overlords are attempting to contact me on my other frequency,' would this reporter just nod vacantly and say, 'Yes, I understand . . . please elaborate on that for our viewers. . . . '

Fred Honsberger, however, was different. He seemed interested in substantive analysis, and was able to contribute to a debate. He could wing it too much for my taste, particularly in longer interviews, but he never was vacant. Far more opinionated than other local interviewers, Fred nonetheless was courteous and generally fair, on and off the air. (I understand some in his audience considered him a bully, but I never experienced it.) It bothered me that Fred was invariably more interested in gathering background information after an interview concluded than when preparation might have improved the on-air exchange, but he seemed to be familiar with, even curious about, many issues. In Pittsburgh, that distinguished him.

Despite Fred's reflexive straying into partisan territory, and his years conducting true-believer talk shows, I considered Fred Honsberger a journalist. I knew, from his time as a straight news reporter in extended formats and on deadline, that he could write a proper sentence and an informative report. Not once, not even during hour-long interviews or contentious exchanges, was I tempted to strangle him with a microphone cord for crimes against journalism.

Therefore, for Fred, who died today, at 58:

-- 30 --

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