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Roger Mudd (1928–2021), “Meet the Press” host and “NBC Nightly News” anchor

by Linnea Crowther

Roger Mudd was a broadcast journalist well known for credits including hosting “Meet the Press” and co-anchoring “NBC Nightly News.”

Broadcast career

Mudd’s national career started at CBS News in 1961, where he was weekend anchor for “CBS Evening News” and sometimes substituted for anchor Walter Cronkite (1916–2009) on the program’s weeknight broadcasts. Mudd left CBS in 1980 – when he lost the chance at the weeknight anchor spot to Dan Rather – and moved to NBC News, where he was co-anchor on “NBC Nightly News,” “American Almanac,” and “1986,” as well as hosting “Meet the Press.” In later years, Mudd became a correspondent for “The MacNeil-Lehrer News Hour” and a primary anchor for the History Channel.

Ted Kennedy interview

Among the best remembered moments of Mudd’s career was the interview he conducted with Senator Edward M. Kennedy (1932–2009) of Massachusetts in 1979. Kennedy was running for the Democratic nomination for president, and Mudd’s simple question for him was: “Senator, why do you want to be president?” It wasn’t a gotcha question, but it appeared to stump Kennedy, who offered a rambling and confusing answer that never really got down to the point. The moment dealt a blow to Kennedy’s campaign, and it boosted Mudd’s profile as a political interviewer.

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Mudd on how news reporting has changed

“You know, it used to be with the three networks and then maybe three or four. And then came deregulation. And then it was 20 channels, and then it was 50. And now it’s how many, 500 channels? And cable. And there’s a channel for everybody in America, virtually. And so, as a consequence, with the competition being what it is, attention being shorter and shorter, and the pie, which used to be cut up into three or four pieces, is now slivers of 500, and everybody has to make the pie a little sweeter to hold the audience. And so, as a consequence – at least in my view – the quality of news broadcasting has declined, because of the pressure to hold the audience, to keep the audience interested, because that remote can pop off to 500 different places.” – from a 2008 interview with Brian Lamb for C-Span

Tributes to Roger Mudd

Full obituary: The Washington Post

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