Column: Wow, what a newsman we have

04/28/2013 6:00 AM |

John Miller

My mother, borrowing some folk wisdom from the Disney film “Bambi,” routinely told me when I was a lad that if I couldn’t say anything nice, then I shouldn’t say anything at all. Obviously, at some point over the years, I stopped taking Mom’s (and Bambi’s) advice.

And yet I have something nice to say this week about a man who I had something not so nice to say about in this space not so long ago. The man in question is CBS News correspondent and part-time Shelter Island resident John Miller, who took some grief from me here for a televised report he did on Plum Island that I thought suffered from a rehashing of some oft-told but dubious tales about the island being the birthplace of Lyme disease and the Montauk monster.

After I criticized him here, however, we kissed and made up, after a fashion, and I have admired his work for CBS ever since.

And never have I admired it more than this past Friday night, when he and CBS anchorman Scott Pelley did an outstanding job reporting on the arrest of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the younger of the two brothers implicated in the Boston Marathon bombing.

The former Joan Giger Walker and I had just returned from dinner with friends in Greenport when we turned on our television to scenes of celebration in the streets of Watertown, Mass. The headlines scrolling across the bottom of the screen informed us that there had been an arrest in the case, but all we were seeing were flag-waving crowd scenes and policemen honking the horns of their patrol cars. We were desperate to know the who, what, where, when and how, and all we were getting, as we surfed from channel to channel, was more of the same: crowd shots from Watertown.

Until we switched to CBS, that is. In the space of less than 10 minutes, Scott Pelley and John Miller did a superb job of summarizing the story and the situation. Mr. Miller’s reportage, in particular, was most informative, as he called on his insider’s knowledge of law enforcement gained from his years of experience as a police reporter, as an aide to New York City and Los Angeles police commissioner William Bratton and as assistant director for public affairs with the FBI in Washington, D.C.

In other words, the dude has paid his dues. And never was that more apparent than Friday night on national television, when he and Scott Pelley helped make sense of as complex a news story as we’ve seen in this country since 9/11.

I’d never done this before, but I was so impressed with his reporting that at 9:23 p.m. I fired off the following email to the address I had saved after our tête–à–tête over Plum Island: “John: Great job tonight. Your coverage was very best, by far. (We channel surfed for a while before getting the real story from you and Scott.) Well done, sir.”

And now for the truly amazing part of this tale, remembering that this was a man sitting in a CBS-TV network studio in New York City, having just reported what probably will be the story of the year.

At 9:27 p.m., just four minutes after my original email, I get this back from John Miller:

 “Hey! They blocked the road from the Orient Ferry because they thought he might have made it on to the Cross Sound [Ferry]. Do we know if that is true? Thanks for the kind words. ”

Does this guy have sources, or what? Yes, the road had been blocked earlier in the day, and I was astounded that he knew about it at all, given everything that had been going on in Boston that day. And when I responded by sending him a link to Times/Review’s detailed online coverage of the false alarm at Orient Point, he responded again with a simple “Wow.”

Wow is right. I think I have a new favorite television newsman. And his name is no longer Brian Williams.

When I first met Steve Rosin, some 25 years ago, he was working as an apprentice to electrician Sal Prato. Steve would have been about 30 then, and what I remember most was that he was precise in his workmanship and soft spoken in his bearing. What I didn’t know then, but what I came to learn over the next 2 1/2 decades, as he continued to be our electrician of choice both at home and at work, was that he was kind and funny and incredibly reliable. And, by all accounts, he was a loving and devoted husband to Aileen and father to Sascha.

So it is with great sadness that I acknowledge Steve’s untimely passing this week at the age of 55. That is way too soon for a man of his vigor and lust for life, and it’s going to take me some time to make sense of his death. If I ever do.

tgustavson@timesreview.com

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