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Published:February 12th, 2015 13:59 EST

Bob Simon`s Sudden Death in a Car Accident is a Blow to Journalism!

By John G. Kays


Hearing the news last night of CBS correspondent Bob Simon`s sudden death in a car accident (NYC) made me very sad! Although I`m not familiar with all of his work (there`s so much to review), I am old enough to remember him covering the Vietnam War (primarily the latter part of that frustrating conflict)


As such, and since Bob Simon`s career at CBS spans something like 47 years, I`ve been relying on some more good examples of journalism to summarize a few of Bob`s highlights in the news business (there are so many of them, it will take a while)


The one part of his career I`m most interested in, his early days in Vietnam, has only, so far, received sketchy coverage; I suspect this will change in time, since he just died yesterday. What I had in mind, is somebody (I assume it`ll be CBS who does this) bundling together the actual television pieces he did when covering the Vietnam War, because that`s what I want to see (YouTube doesn`t have any of them). 


This prejudice I have doesn`t mean I don`t like all the other aspects and dimensions of Bob Simon`s career; rather my reason has to do with the fact that I`m an amateur historian of the Vietnam War. I don`t doubt this will get done, but I wanted to see some of his Vietnam stories today! I still have flashes of them, yet the memory is faded.


Let me get this out of the way; I tried to comprehend the car crash which took Bob Simon`s life, but was unable to really grasp it in a way that made very much sense, or that was a logical, understandable sequence of facts. I mean, I`ve looked at quite a few photos of the car and it looks like it`s been squeezed in a compressor. 


My sense is, the car must have been going at very high rate of speed, say 60 or 70 MPH, in order to sustain that kind of damage. Perhaps we`ll learn more in good time, so I just turned away from this immediate senseless tragedy, instead focusing on Simon`s sterling career, and began to consider what contributions Bob may have made to journalism. 


CBS had a link to a recent 60 Minutes piece he did on the movie Selma, where he interviewed the director, Ava DuVernay. I`ve seen the movie several times now, and have studied the actual episode, so I could follow Bob`s piece without any trouble. A good point made, was that LBJ only reluctantly coupled up with Martin Luther King in his seeking of equal voting rights for African-American, after tremendous lobbying and pressure applied by way of press coverage (especially television). 


This is, I believe, what happened with the Real Selma episode in 1965, leading up to the Voting Rights Act. Cementing this chapter in our history, Bob Simon`s written piece, accompanying his Selma TV presentation, looks like a work of art! I`m sorry I`ve missed many of these, but will make a point to watch them all. 


One I didn`t miss and which I won`t ever forget, however, is Bob`s coverage of the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. It occurred on November 4, 1995, the day I moved back to Austin; the move was permanent this time! Bob Simon`s archives are, I sense, valuable resources for students of broadcast journalism to collect, (or, for that matter, students of American History); I should include myself with these students.