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Nightline, Fresh Air remember Mr. Rogers

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Nightline is repeating their wonderful profile of Mr. Rogers Thursday night and Fresh Air is repeating an interview on Friday.

You can listen to the Fresh Air interview and a Motley Fool show he was on at the bottom of this page. The NY Times obit. KQED, the San Francisco PBS station, is already running a brief visual tribute to him with music and the PBS NewsHour is doing a tribute today.

This is the email Nightline sent out about their program tonight:

When we woke up to the sad news this morning, our first thought was our colleague John Donvan’s lovely portrait of Fred Rogers, which aired on Nightline in 2001. Indeed, when John heard the news, he began thinking of how children need him now more than ever:

“This is going to sound corny, but what the hell. This morning, after getting the news that Fred Rogers had died, my wife and I dug into a cupboard and pulled out the two Mister Rogers Neighborhood coffee mugs that Fred’s co-performer David Newell (who played Mister McFeeley the Speedy Delivery Man) had given me as a gift. And there in the kitchen, before dawn, we raised those mugs to the memory of one of the greatest men I have ever interviewed.

I know that may sound a little strange. I know that Fred Rogers is a guy that a lot of people snicker about. I used to be one of them. Talk about corny! Those sweaters…those sneakers…those silly songs ( in one of them, called “Tree”, the man just keeps singing that one word – “tree”-over and over and over again). But two years ago, I finally met him, in the course of doing a Nightline profile, and he became one of my heroes.

Here’s why Fred Rogers (whom I never watched as a kid) got through to me: he confirmed for me that decency, integrity and quiet service are still their own rewards.

He was a man on television who spoke gently and honestly, putting the priorities of his audience – the most vulnerable, impressionable TV
viewers there are–children – in front of everything else. He didn’t do it
for fame. He certainly didn’t do it for money (there are no Mister Rogers
talking dolls and action figures out there in the merchandising channels).

He did what he did because he believed in it. And in a world where
there were certainly flashier shows on TV, and sexier, more aggressive
characters vying for kids’ attention, Fred was always softspoken, forever
gentle, maybe even a little shy, and yet he had an enormous impact.

It was a powerful lesson for me, another guy in TV, and we talked
about this a little bit. Also softspoken, low-key, and perhaps even shy,
I have sometimes wondered whether I am in the wrong business, given how a
lot of TV news has yielded to a high-octane, high-testosterone
make-the-reporter-the-star kind of journalism. Shouting,
confrontantional, tear-down-the-walls journalism is just not my style.

You wonder if a quiet curiousity still has a place in this business; if
work done that way can still have an impact.

Fred made me believe that it does – because he is the best example of
that. Ever courteous, he changed TV history. Ever humble, he once saved
PBS’s funding source by appearing before a Congressional committee.
Ever compassionate, he taught millions of children the valuable lesson
of respect, not just for others, but also for themselves.

Speaking of kids, I’ve been thinking lately that I have to find a
way to tell my two kids, who are 6 and 3, that I am about to head off,
maybe for a long time, to cover a war far away. Trying to figure out how
to do this, I had already had the thought: “What would Fred say?” Now I
can never ask him, but at least I can still watch his show for ideas.

Thank goodness for reruns.

In fact, only last night, when for all I knew Fred still had years
and years left to go, I arrived home from work and was met in the front
hallway by my little girl. She told me that I had missed Mister Rogers’
show, but said, literally, “Don’t worry, we taped it. Do you want to watch
it again with me?” So we did. It was a great way to come home.

Corny, eh?”

Tonight, John Donvan celebrates the life of Fred Rogers. It’s a
neighborhood you’ll want to visit.

Richard Harris and the Nightline
Nightline Offices
Washington, D.C.

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About Steve Rhodes

  • nay

    i am 31 years old and i think the day mr rodgers past away was one of the sadest days of my life i will not forget it i was watching the news real early that morning and it came across about his passing and my husband was leaving the drive for work and i went out screaming and crying mr rodgers is gone oh it was so sad and seeing how the episode with coco the ape was my favorite episode my husband bought me a stuffed ape to console me that day i love mr rodgers and i miss him deeply he was a wonderful human being