Roone: A Memoir

Roone: A Memoir

by Roone Arledge

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Roone Arledge's extraordinary career of more than a half century mirrors the history of the television industry he helped create. Roone is the vivid, intimate account of his own rise to fame and power as the head of both ABC Sports and ABC News as well as an up-close-and- personal story of his era, peopled with friends and foes alike.


Roone Arledge's extraordinary career of more than a half century mirrors the history of the television industry he helped create. Roone is the vivid, intimate account of his own rise to fame and power as the head of both ABC Sports and ABC News as well as an up-close-and- personal story of his era, peopled with friends and foes alike.

Editorial Reviews

Roone Arledge began as a humble stage manager at NBC's now-forgotten WRCA, but he rose to become head of ABC News and Sports. His media-savvy mentality helped redefine television. He created Wide World of Sports and Monday Night Football and added 20/20, Nightline, This Week with David Brinkley, and Prime Time Live to ABC's once-lackluster lineup. He also transformed the Olympics into a major television spectacle. This anecdote-rich memoir reveals seldom-seen sides of an authentic media genius.
The Los Angeles Times
Maybe television never really experienced a golden era, but Roone makes you think it did and inspires nostalgia for a time when shameless exploitation -- and an utter lack of originality -- were not network TV's defining characteristics. — Carmela Ciuraru
The New Yorker
It's hard to believe that someone actually invented the slow-motion replay - it's as if someone had invented butter -- but this was just one of many techniques by which the television producer Roone Arledge revolutionized sports coverage, from the nineteen-sixties onward. Having brought the imperatives of show business to sports, he moved on to news, creating several landmark shows, such as "20/20" and "Nightline." Arledge, who died last December, seems to have had little interest in his personal life (one wife divorced him after he bagged a Hawaiian vacation to orchestrate coverage of a college football game), and most of his memoir is an insider's account of ABC's ramshackle beginnings, its innovations as an up-and-coming network, and the difficulties brought on by corporate ownership. Not above a little score-settling but full of love for his work, Arledge is an infectious raconteur, capable of narrating even the most labyrinthine boardroom maneuvering as if it were as exciting as a sports event.
The New York Times
This is a book of professional, not personal, reminiscence. And Arledge has an enormous amount of territory to cover. Even at more than 400 pages, it seems barely to scratch the surface of what he did, where he went and whom he met. Roone Arledge's career, full of games, contests, news breaks, was all about events. His book, like his life, can best be summarized in one word: eventful. — Bill Carter
Publishers Weekly
In his long career as an executive at ABC-TV, Roone Arledge revolutionized sports and news broadcasting by emphasizing entertainment-and his posthumous memoir (he died in December at age 71), entertains as well. Arledge, who created The Wide World of Sports and Nightline, among other shows, was known as a creative but difficult genius, and no one who reads this book will have trouble understanding why he gained that reputation. He delights in telling how people opposed his innovations-such as introducing slow-motion replays and putting three men in a broadcasting booth for Monday Night Football-only later to be proven wrong. He also relishes telling war stories of his life at the network-from Jim McKay broadcasting live at the 1972 Munich Olympics to a debate between South Africa's foreign minister and Archbishop Desmond Tutu during the peak of the battle over apartheid. He also provides a behind-the scenes look at his four decades of wheeling and dealing with top executives and on-air personalities: Howard Cosell, Barbara Walters, Peter Jennings and Diane Sawyer all trace much of their stardom to Arledge's tutelage and backing. Nor is Arledge afraid to shovel some dirt. Former ABC news anchor Max Robinson is depicted as a drunk who made accusations of racism to cover up his own shortcomings. Arledge laments corporatization of the networks and the resulting decline in the quality of their news broadcasts. Anyone interested in sports, news or television in general will have difficulty putting this valuable book down. (May) Forecast: Arledge's recent death received major media coverage; this book is bound to be widely reviewed and should have a shot at bestseller lists. The first printing is 75,000. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Roone Arledge, who died last December, was a giant in the history of broadcasting. When he joined ABC Sports in 1960, the American Broadcasting Company stood a very distant third among the three television networks, and Arledge played a major role in changing that during his long, imaginative career. As he worked his way up to being named President of ABC Sports in 1968, Arledge created new programs such as Wide World of Sports and Monday Night Football, greatly expanded coverage of the Olympic Games, and introduced such technological innovations as instant replay and slow motion. His success in heading the Sports Division led to his 1977 appointment as president of ABC News, to which he gave a sweeping makeover with the development of such new programs as World News Tonight, Nightline, 20/20, Prime Time Live, and This Week with David Brinkley that led to a complete reversal of fortunes for the unit. While some would criticize Arledge's "up close and personal" style of covering both sports and news, he won 36 Emmy Awards and helped lift ABC into a leading role in the industry. Showing just how he did it, these well-crafted memoirs provide a behind-the-scenes look at prominent personalities, milestone events, and landmark programs. Highly recommended for all collections, especially for sports collections.-John Maxymuk, Rutgers Univ. Lib., Camden, NJ Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

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Read an Excerpt

A Memoir

Chapter One

Growing Up

I wonder what he'd have made of me.

I'm talking about the little boy with the thatch of red hair and the funny-sounding first name who grew up on suburban Long Island in the middle of the twentieth century: Roone Pinckney Arledge. What would he have thought of this full-grown graybeard in the next century, walking with a cane? What would he have made of my thirty-six Emmys and my directorships ranging from ESPN to the Council on Foreign Relations and Columbia University (ESP-what? he might ask), and my three wives and four children and five grandchildren? And the Lifetime Achievement Emmy I'm to receive for News, the first of its kind to be given by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences? And, last but far from least, my late-life disease that now afflicts so many human beings?

A "legend in television," did you say?

I've been called that, much to my chagrin. Legends are the dead, people like Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig whose images are carved in relief in deepest center field at Yankee Stadium. And I'm very much alive despite the cane, still chairman of ABC News and working on these memoirs in my spare time.

But which would be stranger to the little boy? The idea that he might grow up to win a lifetime achievement award in television?

Or television itself?

(Until I was eight, I don't think I had ever even heard of television.)

I have an equally hard time relating to the little boy I once was, the one his schoolmates nicknamed "Genius." (Whether he was or wasn't one he once lost a spelling bee because he muffed the word! That's right: "g-e-n-i-o-u-s"!). "Roone" was safer. The good thing about being called Roone, my father told me, was that people always remembered who you were. There are a lot of Johnnys, he said, a lot of Jims, Bobs, and Bills, but I've never run across another Roone.

He knew wherefrom he spoke: His name was Roone, too.

Dad was right, as he was about nearly everything. In all the years since, I only encountered one more Roone, and that's my son, who soon became known in the family as Boss and who christened his own first son ... Benjamin!

Of course, there's always an exception, somewhere. In what was once East Berlin, an ABC crew once came across the statue of a Prussian field marshal who'd served as Bismarck's chief of staff. His inscribed name? "Roon." My ABC colleagues took a picture of the statue, simply added an e to the end, superimposed a photo of my face on the general's, and proudly presented it to me.

My father, in fact, had been christened without the e, too. My grandfather chose "Roon" for him, a minister's last name that he'd discovered written in an old family Bible. The Pinckney -- my grandfather's middle name, as it was my own -- was borrowed from an illustrious South Carolina family that went back to Revolutionary days, whereas we Arledges, at least through my grandfather's generation, were farmers from Scotland. As for "Roon," Dad added the e, went to Wake Forest, and after serving as a sergeant in France during World War I, came north to work as a real estate lawyer for Equitable Life Assurance.

My father's choice of the law was doubtless influenced by having grown up in a family famous for arguing and debating around the dinner table but even more so by his brother, Yates. Yates Arledge was locally celebrated for having defended the Carolina Power & Light Company in court against a farmer whose mule had been electrocuted by a fatal encounter with an electrified fence that had been erected by the company. The farmer wanted restitution for his mule. Yates filed a countersuit on behalf of the company, charging the mule with negligence. As everyone knew, he contended, mules were endowed with special intelligence. A horse might have run into such a fence, not knowing any better, but a mule? Never. The mule should have known!

The judge in question laughed both cases out of his courtroom.

My mother, Gertrude, was a Scot, too. I learned good manners from her, personal reserve, and most of all the love of excellence and attention to detail (a characteristic that, over the years, annoyed some of my ABC colleagues no end). But it was from my father, I think, that I got a passionate, an almost insatiable, curiosity about the world around me, and a devouring appetite for news and media. My earliest broadcasting memory is being huddled around the living room radio, a kind of mini-cathedral in dark wood with a lit doorway at the bottom where the dial was, listening to FDR's fireside chats. President Roosevelt was one of my father's heros. Another was Douglas MacArthur. I can summon to memory the announcement on our radio of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. December seventh fell on a Sunday that year, and the special news bulletin broke into a football game. When not long afterward, we heard that the Japanese had invaded the Philippines, my father opined, "We've got MacArthur out there. He'll be terrific." The next day, in school, I remember being called upon to explain what had happened -- probably my first experience in journalism.

World War II, needless to say, was the news story of my youth, and it ran every day for four astonishing years, on radio and in the newspapers. My father had tried to enlist but, much to his chagrin, was deemed too old to serve. Instead, he transformed our backyard into a victory garden and patrolled the streets of our Long Island community at night, wearing a Civil Defense helmet and watching for homes that failed to obey the blackout laws ...

A Memoir
. Copyright © by Roone Arledge. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Roone Arledge began his career at WRCA in New York City, an NBC affiliate, and rose to become head of ABC News and one of the shining lights in television programming. He lived in New York City. He died on December 5, 2002 at the age of 71.

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