Correction to This Article
The article misstated the job title of its subject. Nick Clooney is a journalist in residence at American University and the Newseum, not an adjunct professor at AU.

First Person Singular

(Karen Ballard - )
Sunday, March 8, 2009

I told [my son George] how dumb he was to go to Hollywood. I told him, "Look, maybe 5,000 people are making a living as actors in films. Maybe 5,000." And I said, "Guess what? Maybe there's 40,000 broadcasters who are making a living in news, and I can help you with the news stuff. I don't know anything about that stuff in California. This is a tough, impossible racket." The moral of the story is to always listen to your father.

I've been a reporter all my life. The [radio] voice is an accident. As one very early mentor of mine, a fellow named Gene Walters, WFTM in Maysville, Ky., when I was 16 years old told me: "Clooney, I'm not sure about your brain, but your voice is pretty good. If you haven't got anything to say, you might as well have a voice."

I remember being an 18-year-old, snot-nosed reporter tossing a question at candidate Dwight Eisenhower in Wilmington, Del. I almost got killed. Not by him; by the other reporters. I was being rude with my question, they thought. I'm sure I was. I was a better reporter at 18 than I was 10 years after. I was more direct. I was really bummed because the candidate Dwight Eisenhower, in my judgment, had dissed the great George Catlett Marshall, who had given him his job. When Joe McCarthy called Marshall a communist, candidate Eisenhower went on the dais with McCarthy, had a paragraph praising George Marshall, and took it out. And the New York Times reported that he took that paragraph out. I was an 18-year-old kid. The assistant, mostly carrying the stuff. But I also did the newscast at 11 o'clock at night, so I felt empowered to ask a question. And I said: "Do you owe General Marshall an apology, sir?" And there was a gasp. Of course, I never got an answer. I got the blue-eyed stare. And the man who eventually was his press secretary, James Hagerty, said, "Who are you, kid?"

I'm sure I tucked my tail between my legs. I didn't have that much guts again for probably 10 years. I'm sure I got intimidated, not by the general, but by my own peers. I thought, Geez, maybe that was a dumb question. And I look back now, and it was a hell of a good question.

Interview by Cathy Areu

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