NPR’s Robert Siegel turned the tables on the crowd of journalists gathered Wednesday night in the ballroom of the Washington Hilton for the annual National Press Foundation awards dinner.
“It’s a delight to actually see you,” he told the audience, as he picked up the W.M. Kiplinger Award for Distinguished Contributions to Journalism. Echoing a line he apparently hears quite often from his own listeners when he meets them face to face, he joked: “As I often find on these occasions, you don’t look anything like what I thought you’d look like. I thought you’d all be taller and have a lot more hair than you do.”
For an evening mostly devoted to earnest cheerleading for the essential and lofty mission of the Fourth Estate — led, of course by journalists, many of whom might be feeling a bit downtrodden of late — Siegel’s laugh line passed for high humor amid the chicken Wellington.
And in accepting another award, the Sol Taishoff Award for Excellence in Broadcast Journalism, CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer revealed a prescient chapter from his youth. Turns out, even as a young cub print reporter, he had craved the limelight of TV — and didn’t lack for confidence. During his acceptance speech, Blitzer shared a portion of one of the letters he had written to his parents in Buffalo from Tel Aviv, where he had taken his first job in journalism, as a correspondent for Reuters.
He wrote that strangers on the street recognized him because they knew him from a televised press conference he’s attended. Apparently, a local newspaper had written about the question he had asked, but hadn’t named him as the clever fellow who had posed it. “So you can see I am improving little by little as a journalist,” he proudly informed mom and dad back home. “I honestly feel if I keep my eyes open and am willing to work hard I have all the natural ability to become a good one.”
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