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If you like Sam Donaldson's story, you might also like:
George H.W. Bush,
David Halberstam,
Nicholas Kristof,
Charles Kuralt,
Peggy Noonan,
Dan Rather,
Neil Sheehan
Mike Wallace and
Bob Woodward

Sam Donaldson's recommended reading: Plutarch's Lives

Sam Donaldson also appears in the videos:
Perseverance and the American Dream
Advocacy and Citizenship: Speaking Out for Others

Related Links:
University of Texas

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Sam Donaldson Interview (page: 2 / 9)

ABC News Correspondent

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  Sam Donaldson

Thinking back on those radio broadcasts you listened to during the war years, was there any particular personality or broadcast that inspired you?

Sam Donaldson Interview Photo
Sam Donaldson: Like everyone else, I listened to Edward R. Murrow from London. "This is London." I listened to that voice, I can't imitate it. I listened to other voices over the years. My friend and my idol, David Brinkley. "Well, this is David..." Over the years I've gotten onto a fact about people in my business. I hope they're smart, I hope they can recognize news stories, I hope they work hard and all that, but most of them have distinctive voices. They may look funny -- hello! -- or not. But a distinctive voice is important. I don't think I realized this as a young kid, but I do remember listening to those voices.

As I went to college, I went into radio and television. Now I suppose most people think that's one step ahead of basket weaving as a major in college, but it was part of the journalism department. We didn't have any television in the Southwest when I started to college in 1951. The FCC had frozen new construction permits and there were no television stations. But by the time I went to college, I knew that I wanted to talk on the radio.

I like talking. Hello! I had tried out for the football team, and after three days the coach came to me and said, "Thank you, but no thanks." Since I couldn't be a football star, the next best thing for enjoying life as a young man was to be a disk jockey on the radio.

In those days, if you wanted to listen to music on the radio you had to look in the newspaper and find out when it was going to be played. Now, today there are all-music stations, I mean, all over your dial, just as there are all-news stations. But there was a strict category of broadcasts, lots of soap operas, and other features. And at four o'clock in the afternoon, there would be music, something called, "Sam's Show" - - me! And I remember the theme. Bing Crosby and his son, Gary, sang it on a record: "Here's a happy tune, they love to croon, they call it Sam's song." And I'd come in and say, "Hello, this is Sam Donaldson," and on we'd go. And I'd play music for an hour and just had a ball.

[ Key to Success ] Passion

What made it such a ball for you? What did you enjoy about the business in those early days?

Sam Donaldson: It was kind of exciting being on the radio. Not everybody was on the radio. "Look, ma, no hands!" Broadcasting news is a serious business, and I take it seriously, but ask anyone in the business, and if they don't admit there's a little bit of ham in them, they're either fooling you or fooling themselves.

There was a little bit of ham in me. And there's a lot of people say there's a lot of ham in me. One of the things I thought when I was in the White House many years later as ABC's White House correspondent, and Ronald Reagan used to call on me frequently, I thought, well you know, two or three things. First of all, he can hear me, because President Reagan even then was a little deaf. And second, one ham recognizes another ham. And so, he and I, from the standpoint of that, got along pretty well.

I wanted to be on the radio. There were no news departments in small radio stations throughout the country. The wire services, AP and UPI, would provide wire machines, and you'd rip and read five-minute summaries of the news. So I'd read the news. And on election night I'd go down to city hall in El Paso, Texas and cover the election. In those days, of course, we didn't have exit polls. You didn't know who had won the election until they actually counted the votes. I thought that was exciting too.

The truth is, when I got started in this business, it wasn't because I had a full understanding of the importance of the business, but because I thought it was fun. I found it exciting. It fulfilled me, whatever it was that I was looking for. I thoroughly enjoyed my college years, working on the radio. And at the end of my college years, television had come to El Paso.

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This page last revised on Aug 30, 2009 13:23 EST
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