Andy Rooney, Blogger?Posted: November 7, 2011
Andy Rooney, the veteran 60 Minutes commentator who passed away last week at the age of 92, didn’t write a blog. In fact, when asked what he thought about his employer, CBS’s blog, Rooney said, “I have never read the CBS Public Eye blog so I have no opinion. I’m trying to find out what blog means. It seems vastly over-rated as a communications tool.” Apparently, along with airlines, autographs, and modern art, Andy Rooney did not have much use for blogs.
And yet, I think we bloggers have a lot to learn from Mr. Rooney about our craft. His medium might have been television, but his weekly segment at the end of the 60 Minutes newsmagazine functioned very much like a blog. Each week, for 33 years, Mr. Rooney wrote an essay on a subject of his choosing. Sometimes, he wrote about serious issues like war, but more often than not, Mr. Rooney stuck to mundane issue in his life, usually something he found irritating like the high cost of movies, how much stuff people carry around, and how long it takes to shut down a computer.
His essays were candid, concise, and uniquely his own. He sometimes did small bits of research in the form of man-on-the-street interviews or taking informal polls of his friends, but his segment was not about traditional journalism. It was about expressing his views. It was one person connecting with other people by sharing his thoughts, feelings, and observations about some aspect of the common human experience. Apart from the fact that he did this aloud, and on network television, it seems a lot like a blog to me.
Mr. Rooney was an institution in American television. But had he been born a few decades later, I think it’s not only possible, but probable that his signature brand of curmudgeonly reflection would have been relegated to the network’s blog page. As far as I know, there is no other journalist/broadcaster/commentator who is given three whole minutes of precious primetime network air to pontificate, complain, ruminate, and otherwise kvetch about anything they choose. But there are many talented writers who are given coveted spots on a media organizations blog page (though most of the large media outlet blogs are reading more like magazines than traditional blogs these days).
Andy Rooney wrote lively, short, opinionated pieces designed to entertain, enlighten, and yes, sometimes enrage his audience. In doing so, he set the stage for those of us who have something on our mind and want share it. He proved that there is always a place for well-written, considered, and thoughtful contemplation. And he showed us that people like knowing there are other people out there thinking the same crazy thoughts that they think. All of these are the same reasons that blogs continue to survive, and even thrive in today’s media-saturated culture. And though he would most assuredly reject the title, I think Andy Rooney could possibly be considered the grandfather of the blog. Or perhaps its cantankerous uncle who comes to Thanksgiving and complains that the turkey is dry.
He will be missed.