Bob Franken

Bill Headline

Bill Headline could have endured a lot fewer jokes had he decided on different career. But he chose television news at CBS and later CNN, and journalism was infinitely better for it. I’m sure he got tired of all the smirks, but he just ignored them (or at least pretended to) as he pursued excellence, going for the uncommon highest standards in a profession that sometimes reaches for the lowest.

Bill, died suddenly over the weekend, in a freak accident. He leaves a legacy of class that will be hard to match. His move to CNN signaled the transition from Chicken Noodle News to the major leagues. With his quiet but firm guidance, the DC bureau went from ragtag to smooth. Yet, he was always able to push people to be their best without demeaning them.

He had an amazing ability to suffer fools. I’ve always believed that’s why he was willing to give me my chance. With his remarkable credentials, no one, particularly me, could resist resist when he’d steer us away from the scatterbrained to something

Bill Headline was one of the giants who created television news and then refined it. That explains why, in the latter part of his career, he was always the one to try and resist the hucksters who snuck in to latch on to all the good works and attempt to trivialize them. In that effort he only enjoyed partial success. But Bill fought the good fight and pushed us all to exceed our abilities.

Through it all, he was one of the kindest people you’d ever meet. That’s not easy in an environment where there are no excuses for failure. Somehow, though, he would find ways to allow his charges to maintain an equilibrium that frequently eludes many who try to live up to the uncommon demands of our craft.

Those us who were privileged to work and know Bill Headline have lost a treasured friend as well as an esteemed colleague. That can be a platitude, but it certainly is not this time. And we all will miss a man who led the never-ending fight to help us understand our world and nation. For that, we owe him a debt of gratitude. His example will be his memorial.

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