Linda Mason ’64
As a producer for CBS News and the winner of thirteen Emmy awards, Linda Mason has had an indisputable impact on television news. But her influence doesn’t end there: she’s also been the first woman to occupy each of the jobs she’s had at the network.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Mason was executive producer of Sunday Morning and of the network’s weekend news programs, to which she brought in such popular commentators as John Leonard and Bill Geist. In 1992 Mason became CBS News’s vice president for public affairs programming, reviving the CBS Reports documentary series and rewriting the book of standards for the network’s news operations.
Mason’s interest in journalism began with a high school job working for her hometown newspaper. During her senior year at Brown, she watched the television coverage of President Kennedy’s assassination and decided that that was the medium for her. She worked her way up to associate producer for CBS Evening News under Walter Cronkite and Dan Rather and eventually became a senior producer under Rather.
Several years ago Mason told a Brown audience she was once warned to keep her ambitions modest. “Women,” a male colleague told her, “can’t be producers.” She’s been proving him wrong ever since.
Ira Glass ’82
When it comes to radio, there is nothing quite like This American Life. Since the show debuted in 1995 on WBEZ in Chicago, Ira Glass’s quirky and original blend of carefully edited narratives, overheard conversations, and free-ranging monologues has drawn a devoted audience of more than 900,000 listeners, who listen to Glass on 350 public-radio stations nationwide. The program won a Peabody, broadcasting’s most prestigious award, after its first year.
Glass transferred from Northwestern to Brown, where, he says approvingly, he “found people who were obsessively studying for the sake of learning things.” He chose semiotics as his concentration, a choice that he says helped him develop the ideas underlying This American Life. “Most of what I understand about how to make radio,” he told the BAM earlier this year, “is all filtered through what I learned in semiotics at Brown.”
Betsy West ’73
If your view of the world and current events is at least partly shaped by such television-news programs as 60 Minutes, 60 Minutes II, or 48 Hours, you can thank Betsy West. Two years ago CBS News hired her away from ABC and appointed her vice president for prime-time programming. West, the winner of eighteen Emmy awards and a trunkload of other prestigious broadcast honors over the past twenty-five years, has helped shape some of the most highly visible news programs on television.
During more than two decades at ABC, for example, West helped launch PrimeTime Live and the critically acclaimed Turning Point, for which she was also executive producer. She had earlier been a field producer for World News Tonight and a long-time producer at Nightline.
Among her accomplishments at Nightline were coordinating broadcasts from the Middle East, which included the first televised debates between Palestinians and Israelis, and supervising a week of broadcasts from South Africa that included the first debate between the South African government and the African National Congress. She also created and supervised ABC News’s medical and legal units.
No stranger to controversy, West oversaw the decision by 60 Minutes two years ago to broadcast a videotape of Jack Kevorkian helping a patient commit suicide, a segment that a number of local stations opted not to run.
Chris Berman ’77
In 1979 sports on television consisted of weekend games, tournament coverage, and ABC’s Wide World of Sports. That year Chris Berman took a job with a cable channel that planned to offer nothing but sports. One advantage to the job was that Berman, who was then working at a radio station in Waterbury, Connecticut, would not have to move. The network was setting up shop just down the road in Bristol.
Today ESPN is as well-known as ABC, but it didn’t start that way. Berman and his colleagues were at first mistaken as broadcasters for the ESP Network or a Spanish cable channel. (The initials actually stand for Entertainment-Sports Programming Network.) Now Berman is the broadcaster most associated with the network in viewers’ minds. He spent plenty of time providing commentary for dart tournaments and hosting such shows as Legends of Billiards, but Berman’s first eleven years were mostly spent hosting SportsCenter. In 1990 he began contributing play-by-play baseball coverage, developing the player nicknames that quickly became his trademark (Sandy “Remember the” Alomar, Bert “Be Home” Blyleven). Since 1987 he has covered the NFL, and in 1996 he began hosting the Monday Night Football halftime show.