Editor’s note: Now, retired I was a member of DC’s National Press Club throughout the latter days of my career. The Club still sends me updates of what they’re up to. Here’s a special remembrance of newsman Charles Osgood, his bowtie and banjo:
GUEST BLOG / By Gil Klein for the National Press Club--The recent passing of Charles Osgood, the legendary CBS News “Sunday Morning” host, brings to mind the day he spoke at the National Press Club.
Osgood had recently taken over "Sunday Morning" from Charles Kuralt when he appeared at the Club on Oct. 18, 1994, when I was Club president. Known for his wit, his trademark bow ties and often putting news reports into verse, he already had established his reputation as a daily CBS Radio commentator with the “Osgood file.”
As he started his address at the podium, he noted that the first news commentators were minstrels who traveled from village to village putting stories of the king, prince or duke in the last town he had visited to rhyme and singing about it with a lute or a lyre.
With that, he picked up his banjo, and launched into this song he wrote for the National Press Club to the tune of “On Top of Old Smokey”:
The National Press Club is known far and wide
for all the insiders you’ll find inside.
Perhaps you don’t realize how lucky you are
to sit at these tables or to drink at that bar
and hear the reporters while having a drink
reveal to each other the things that they think.
There’s nothing to fear there if they talk to you.
The stuff that you hear there might even be true.
But while they’re relating how much they all know,
it’s damn fascinating, who cares if it’s so.
But the drinking and noshing sets up déjà vu
when you are watching the “Washington Week in Review.”
Because I’ll bet you Ken Bode or some other star
is having a sod-ey right now at the bar.
Though the fate of the nation may hang by a string,
unless it’s discussed here, it won’t mean a thing.
For matters they take up and the things that they say
tomorrow will make up the news of the day.
These are powerful forces, of that there’s no doubt.
They’re the Washington sources we’ve heard so much about.
Aside from career memories recounting his humiliation of losing a game of tic-tac-toe to a chicken, Osgood’s serious point in his remarks – and remember this was 30 years ago – was that the public’s faith in politicians, business, journalists and television news was dropping precipitously.
“Somehow, they got the idea that everybody is out to get them, that everything is a scam or a ripoff, and it’s not,” Osgood said. “Where do they get these ideas? Is it possible in somehow reporting the news, we’ve crossed the line between skepticism – which is a healthy thing – and cynicism, which is very unhealthy?
There’s not an accusation built into that question I just asked, but there is a suggestion that we might – you can’t eliminate the negative and you can’t always accentuate the positive -- but it does seem to me there are things we can do and stories we can look for which are more positive that the ones we use,” Osgood ended.
In 2020, Osgood received the Club's President's Award for lifetime achievement from then-Club President Michael Freedman.