Veteran print and broadcast journalist Marilyn Berger kicked off the 38th Annual Edward R. Murrow Symposium Tuesday night with a lecture on her life and the lessons she’s learned.
“Luck – I surely had,” Berger said about her career. “Talent – I don’t know if I had it, but I definitely had interest and imagination.”
Berger’s lecture, titled “Adventures and Escapades, A Life in Journalism and Beyond,” was this year’s Charlotte Friel Memorial Communication Lecture, hosted by the WSU chapter of the Association for Women in Communications (AWC).
Tallie Mattson, president of AWC, introduced Berger to the audience assembled in CADD 21.
“I was honored to be her escort for the day,” Mattson said. “She embodies what it means to be a female journalist.”
Berger told stories and anecdotes of her past, and explained how they have shaped her as a person. She reminisced on her time spent covering the Six-Day War in Israel, the construction of the Berlin Wall, the Cultural Revolution in China and the Soviet crackdown on Czechoslovakia.
“I didn’t set-out my life,” Berger said. “It just happened … Other jobs just came to me.”
Berger could still remember getting her first story published in Newsday, a Long Island newspaper.
“I was hooked!” Berger said. “I had a single paragraph on page 21.”
Berger also offered advice to aspiring young journalists.
“There is no substitute for having a field of expertise … Have a field you care about, are knowledgeable about,” she said.
“Be open to new opportunities,” Berger said. “You never know when you’ll trip over an opportunity. Never say no, say yes.”
According to the Edward R. Murrow Symposium website, Berger has written for Newsday, The Washington Post, The New York Times, The New Yorker and New York Magazine. Additionally, Berger has been a correspondent for NBC News, moderator of a public affairs program titled “The Advocates” and anchored WNET’s City Edition.
Berger is the widow of Don Hewitt, the creator of 60 Minutes and recipient of the 2008 Edward R. Murrow Award for Lifetime Achievement in Broadcast Journalism.
“It’s been four years to the day since I was here with my husband Don,” Berger said about Hewitt’s award ceremony.
Lawrence Pintak, founding dean of the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication, said he suggested to AWC that they invite Berger to speak at the Charlotte Friel Lecture back in the fall.
“I developed an individual connection with Marilyn through Don Hewitt, who passed away three years ago,” Pintak said.
Pintak said Berger has donated a collection of Hewitt’s memorabilia to the Murrow College.
“I don’t know exactly what we’ll do with it until it all gets here,” he said. “The papers and documents will be placed into a library collection. For the Emmy’s, Peabody’s and such, we’ll probably set up a display like we have for Murrow and we’re doing for Keith Jackson.”
Berger also stressed in her lecture the importance of students starting out by writing for their school newspaper. She said the two most important things a journalist must always remember are to have a pen for interviews and never miss the airplane back home.
“They were going to create the ‘Marilyn Berger Award’ in honor of anyone who missed the plane for having too much fun, not working,” she said.