Remembering a broadcast giant

By Lee Kamlet
Dean, School of Communications 

On Monday night, a giant in the broadcast news industry died, and I lost a friend and mentor.

Jeff Gralnick was an example of someone who used his talents to rise to the top.  He began his career as a desk assistant at CBS News, where he spent 11 years as a reporter, a producer for Walter Cronkite, and as one of the original “60 Minutes” producers.  He joined ABC News in 1972 and later became executive producer of “World News Tonight.”

I actually met Jeff’s wife Beth before I met him.  In 1980, Beth was the executive producer of the first political conventions ever covered by CNN, and I was lucky enough to get the assignment as her assistant producer.

Jeff hired me away from CNN in 1981, and I became a producer for “World News” in Washington.  At ABC, Jeff set the bar for coverage of special events, from rocket launches to political conventions. He was never afraid of experimenting with new techniques and new technologies, in order to bring the audience closer to the story.

He was a demanding boss, and a wonderful mentor.  I still have the note he once sent me, about a story I produced with Brit Hume about the crazy things tourists in Washington do.  “That was a perfect piece…ALMOST,” Jeff wrote.

In 1993, Jeff moved to NBC, where he took “NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw” from third to first place.

I had the good fortune of working with Jeff again in 1996, when he returned briefly to ABC.  I sat behind him in the control room where we produced coverage of the presidential nominating conventions, and the election.

Just last month, I received an email from Jeff.  He was excited about my appointment as the new Dean of the School of Communications at Quinnipiac University, and he promised to come visit later in the spring.

Yesterday, there was an outpouring of testimonials to Jeff from correspondents, producers and executives who worked with or for him.

On an ABC Facebook page, I wrote:  “How lucky were all of us?  We got a front row seat to some of the biggest events of our lifetimes, and we had Jeff as our guide.”

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