A Magazine by the Society of Professional Journalists

SDX Awards: Radio breaking news reporting, CBS

By Quill

On June 5, 2004, CBS Radio News correspondent Mike Wallace spoke on the phone with former first lady Nancy Reagan. Their conversation led to CBS Radio News being the first to report that former President Ronald Reagan was close to death.

“We soon had a correspondent reporting live outside the Reagan home and launched continuing coverage when Mr. Reagan did, in fact, pass away a few hours later,” said producer Paul Farry. “All week, we had a team of reporters providing live coverage of every aspect of this unfolding.”

CBS Radio News sent reporters across the country, capturing the official ceremonies in Washington and California and the informal memorials started by everyday citizens.

“I think our coverage of Mr. Reagan’s death and funeral was able to spotlight the widespread love and affection Americans had for the former president,” said correspondent Steven Futterman. “Whether it was at the funeral home in Santa Monica or the Reagan Library or the route leading to the library where thousands lined up to pay their last respects, it was clear that there was a very special connection between this former president and the American people – even more than 15 years after he left office.”

She is fondly patting the casket … the big American flag that envelopes the casket that contains her Ronnie – our 40th president of the United States, but her Ronnie.

She has been so composed this week, and at this moment, she has simply lost her composure. This is that final goodbye, the goodbye that she knew was inevitable for many years and yet, when it comes, it comes hard. … She plants one final kiss.

Washington correspondent Dan Raviv painted the “word pictures” to listeners.

“Sometimes, as in describing the Reagan funeral, I am at my anchor desk in the Washington Bureau, yet thanks to several TV screens and excellent reporters in the field, I often have the pleasure of hearing later, ‘Hey, you guys really took me to the scene. It was like being on Pennsylvania Avenue,’ ” Raviv said.

Judges praised the organization and thoroughness of the reports.

“You can plan for breaking news, and the staff of CBS Radio News has proved that fact in their blanket coverage of the death and funeral of former President Reagan,” they said. “CBS was able to activate its plan and execute it with precision.”