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by Earl Ofari Hutchinson

A moment off-camera revealed his consummate humanity

(PNS) -- To me, the tributes to CBS 60 Minutes legend Ed Bradley sound canned. The accolades that have poured in after his death at age 65 mostly follow the same script: they justly laud Bradley's colossal news accomplishments, dutifully list his many journalism awards and praise him for the giant role he played as mentor, role model and inspirational father figure to successive waves of black journalists and newspersons. President Bush, for instance, expressed sadness over Bradley's death, and went on to tout him as one of the most accomplished journalists of our time.

Bush and others reaffirmed him as a news icon, but said very little about Bradley beyond his professional reputation. Fortunately, I had the chance to see more. It was in Los Angeles in 1998. It didn't come from the weekly glimpse the nation got of him in front of the camera, or in the stern-faced, go-for-the-jugular interviews he did with everyone of news importance. It came off camera, and it was the simple kindness he showed to a guest and a personal gesture of appreciation he gave to me that revealed another side of Ed Bradley.

Bradley and the "60 Minutes" team were investigating a wrenching story that had shocked the nation. That was the heinous and tormenting rape and murder of 7-year-old African-American girl Sherrice Iverson at a Nevada casino by a white teen, Jeremy Strohmeyer. The murder stirred even greater furor when Strohmeyer's friend, David Cash, who was at the scene, cavalierly admitted in an interview that he had knowledge of the murder but said and did nothing about it. That touched off a nationwide campaign by Sherrice's mother, Yolanda Manuel, to have Cash prosecuted as an accessory to the crime.

I had become deeply involved in the case. I assisted Ms. Manuel with the barrage of interviews, press conferences and rallies that were held demanding the prosecution of the young man. The producers at 60 Minutes made it clear that they regarded the story as more than a crime story. It was a human tragedy, and they wanted to make sure that that dimension came through in their piece.

The day before the scheduled interview, a 60 Minutes producer implored me to come to the taping with Ms. Manuel. I knew that Bradley would do the interview with her, and quickly agreed. I was pleasantly surprized when the producer suggested that Bradley was interested in getting a copy of my most recent book, "The Crisis in Black and Black."

When he entered the small room that had been hastily made into a makeshift studio at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, he smiled broadly and thanked me for the book. He thumbed through it slowly, and with that trademark pensive look, slowly and assuredly said that he looked forward to reading it. His warmth, sincerity and appreciation bowled me over. Ed Bradley treated me as a peer.

Bradley's humanity was on full display during and after the interview with Ms. Manuel. There was the gentle, empathetic tone in his voice when he talked to her, and a soft expression on his face. It was clear that he didn't consider her and the case just another news story. She was a real person to him, a mother who had suffered a traumatic loss. When the interview ended he held her hand for a brief moment and expressed his sorrow over the tragedy. He lingered for a long moment, then smiled at me, warmly shook my hand and encouraged us to stay strong. He then slowly departed. That was vintage Ed Bradley, and we deeply appreciated it.

But it was Bradley's simple gesture of kindness off-camera that meant much the most to Ms. Manuel and me. This was a man who was more than a consummate professional. This was a man that really cared. That's the Ed Bradley that I will always remember and revere.

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Albion Monitor   November 10, 2006   (

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