Athens, Ga. – The George Foster Peabody Awards’ board members and staff join the electronic media industry and millions of admiring viewers in mourning the passing of Andy Rooney, the curmudgeonly commentator whose essays capped CBS News’ 60 Minutes for 33 years. He was 92.
“Some say Andy Rooney was a complainer,” said Horace Newcomb, director of the Peabody Awards, “but he was our complainer. On any given Sunday evening he spoke for us about the trivial and the significant, the funny and the sad. He did it with great writing, good humor, true wit and a raised eyebrow. There will never be another like him.”
Rooney was a multiple Peabody honoree. In addition to several 60 Minutes wins, which he shared with his co-stars and producers, he got a Peabody of his own in 1975 for a prime-time special, Mr. Rooney Goes to Washington.
“Wit, irony and skillful reporting, an altogether rare compound of virtues, are the hallmarks of Mr. Rooney Goes to Washington, a CBS News special in which the maze of official bureaucracy was penetrated,” the Peabody Board said. “Written and narrated by Andy Rooney, the program was distinguished by a lightness of touch and mood, a Rooney specialty, which deceptively cloaked the serious nature of one reporter-citizen’s investigation into one of the nation’s continuing and far-reaching problems of government.”
Rooney also was cited by the Peabody Board in 1966, long before he became a household name, for writing the essays delivered over the CBS airwaves by his friend and colleague Harry Reasoner, winner of an award that year for individual achievement.
Rooney died last Friday only a month after delivering his farewell edition of “A Few Minutes with Andy Rooney” and retiring from CBS News. His death was reportedly due to unforeseen complications following a surgical procedure.
Rooney, born in 1919 in Albany, N.Y., considered himself a writer first and foremost. He began his journalism career while still in high school, working as a copy boy for the Knickerbocker News. He was a reporter for Stars and Stripes, the military newspaper, during World War II and after the war did a stint writing jokes for CBS radio and TV entertainer Arthur Godfrey before moving to the network’s news division as a writer.
Rooney first appeared on television himself in 1970, reading “An Essay on War,” which CBS had declined to air, on PBS. CBS began giving him prime-time visibility in the mid-’70s for specials such as his Peabody-winning Washington report and Mr. Rooney Goes to Dinner, a wry take on dining in America. He began his long tenure as 60 Minutes designated commentator/crank in 1978 as the summer replacement for the “Point/Counterpoint” feature.
The Peabody Awards, established in 1940 and administered by the UGA Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, are the oldest honor in electronic media. Today the Peabody recognizes distinguished achievement and meritorious public service by stations, networks, producing organizations and individuals. For more information, see www.peabody.uga.edu.