Eric Engberg

Radio/TV Correspondent (Retired) at CBS News Washington Bureau

Degree(s): BJ '63

Whereabouts: United States, Florida, Palmetto

What do you do?
Retired radio/TV correspondent, CBS News Washington Bureau.

How did you get your job?
I was working for a broadcasting company, Westinghouse, when it closed its Washington Bureau, laying off 12 people, as an economy measure. I sent letters, resumes and writing samples to all the networks. (There were then only three). NBC and CBS asked me to audition. CBS had an immediate opening. NBC did not. I had a young family, so I took the job that started immediately. It turned out CBS was the right place to go. In my time it was an aggressive, classy organization. I worked in two bureaus before being sent to Washington, which was where I really wanted to work.

What is the best professional lesson you learned at the J-School?
Writing ability is the one absolutely essential skill for anyone who wants to succeed as a reporter. All good writers are people who read a great deal and learn from that reading how to improve their own work. I never heard a professor at J-School specifically say that. But the lesson came through in the totality of the lessons they taught. Secondly, listening is the best way to cover almost anything. Reporters generally work too hard on framing difficult questions and not enough on listening to what the source says. Thirdly, the obsession that the faculty running the Missourian city room – Duffy, Sharp, Norman – had about getting even the smallest facts right stayed with me through the years. The passion for accuracy is one which all editors and producers appreciate.

What advice do you have for current students?
Don’t do what I did, which was to try to find the easiest electives available so as to spend more time on J-School coursework and social life. I have kicked myself a thousand times, while covering government stories, for not studying accounting or statistics in college. Pick elective courses in areas like finance, accounting and political science, which will enable you to write more thoughtfully about our society.

What is your favorite J-School memory?
Easy. Meeting my wife-to-be in 1961, Judy Klein (BJ, ’62). After that, my biggest thrill was the first homicide I covered while working as the KFRU Sunday night reporter. My first front page story in the Missourian (city council meeting) was also a big kick.

Any parting comments?
These are generally tough times for professional journalists, what with the decline of the traditional newspaper and the belief by the techno-freaks that “citizen journalism” can perform the function that now requires trained, well-supervised professionals. But this profession will remain critical to the survival of our country…and at the same time be more fun than doing anything else.

Updated: November 4, 2011