Editor’s Note: Lowell Bergman, a former “60 Minutes” producer played by Al Pacino in “The Insider”, remembers Bob Simon’s legendary career at CBS News. Simon died suddenly Wednesday night in a car accident in New York City. The award-winning newsman was 73.
When I joined “60 Minutes” over thirty years ago as a producer, I would ask the veteran camera crews who were the best correspondents. Who were just presenters? Who could really report and add to the story? Who was low maintenance? Who should I work with?
At the top of the list was Bob Simon, “The Man.” Norman Lloyd, a legendary Bay Area cameraman and regular with CBS News and 60 Minutes, who would become a close friend, said it all, “Bob is the Best!”.
In this business you are your reputation in house as well as to the public. Bob stayed “The Best” as the decades went by. We never worked together except when I got into his territory back in 1993 doing a 60 Minutes piece with the Hezbollah. And as expected from his perch in Israel, he was unsparing in his help on the ground, a reporter’s reporter.
It was his ‘rep’ that made it a no brainer to try and do everything one could to get him and his crew out. It was the instant reaction I got from sources all over the Mideast when I hunted for ways to check on his status inside Saddam’s Iraq. Bob was irreplaceable. Bob cared about you, so you did too.
As Dong Shin Lloyd, Norman’s wife, who was in shock last night offered, “I cannot believe it. He could have died in Vietnam, in Israel’s wars, and Iraq. But in a car accident?!”
Like the tragic car accident that took another hero of journalism, David Halberstam, when he was traveling to Palo Alto, this is to be sure a reminder to all of us that death is not just the great equalizer, but that it chooses its own often absurd, mundane moment.
To those of you who have missed meeting Bob Simon or watching him over the decades, remember that he never forgot real NEWS. Getting it. Understanding it. Delivering it. Despite all the challenges from those who would distort, trivialize or suppress it; from all those who would take credit where it was not due, Bob Simon’s example will live on. Bob Simon is still, “The Man.”
Lowell Bergman is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and one of the founders of the Center for Investigative Reporting. He spent 22 years as a producer/reporter first with ABC News and then CBS, where he was a staff producer at “60 Minutes” for 14 years. Since leaving CBS in 1999, he has been a correspondent and producer for PBS “FRONTLINE”. He is a Distinguished Professor of Investigative Reporting at the UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism, where he has taught for over two decades.