Skip to: Content
Skip to: Site Navigation
Skip to: Search


`I'm Ed Bradley'. Emmy Award-winning reporter on CBS's `60 Minutes' has come a long way since his first job on the air as a radio disc jockey

By Tony VellelaSpecial to The Christian Science Monitor / October 16, 1986



New York

HARD news, soft jazz. While Ed Bradley hammers out the plans for another report on CBS's ``60 Minutes,'' the quiet sounds of George Shearing fill his New York City office. Surrounded by reminders of a fast-paced, sometimes hectic career as a broadcast journalist, Mr. Bradley recollects his earliest experiences in the field. ``I worked at a radio station [WDAS] in Philadelphia at the same time that I was teaching,'' he says, leaning back in his swivel chair. On a shelf to his right sit the five Emmy Award statuettes the industry has presented to him. One is irreverently crowned with a baseball cap.

Skip to next paragraph

``I went on the air as a disc jockey. In fact, I was a jazz disc jockey.'' Biographies of Dizzy Gillespie and Bricktop, as well as a book of jazz photographs among the political and biographical works along one wall, attest to his continuing love of the music.

Back at the beginning of his career, he showed the traits that have served him well. ``He always put in more time than he was required to,'' attests WDAS's AM program director, George Woods, who helped Bradley into the business. Mr. Woods laughs about Bradley's first feature reporting job, covering a musical group called the Monotones. ``His delivery was so straight-on, he was so totally frightened, that because of how he sounded we started calling him one of the Monotones.''

Bradley, now 45, still stops by the station whenever he's in town. Woods is quick to point out that ``he's the same now as he was 25 years ago. He was always a very concerned person, and he was always very easy to work with.''

``I was on the five-year plan,'' Bradley grins, referring to his schooling. ``I went to Cheyney [State College in Pennsylvania] in 1959 and graduated in January 1964.'' With his degree in education, he launched his teaching career and began doing unpaid spots for disc jockeys. With encouragement, he moved over to news, doing still-unpaid hourly newscasts.

``It must have been about 2 o'clock in the morning,'' he says, recalling the first real hard-news story he covered. ``I was coming out of a club and turned on the radio. I used to listen to WCAU radio, which was the CBS affiliate in Philadelphia, because I had no journalism background and no journalism professors.'' The local newscasts provided a model. ``I sort of used them as a classroom of the air, listening to the way they delivered the news and covered stories.

``I heard Gary Shepard reporting on this rioting that was going on. He signed off someplace in North Philadelphia.'' Bradley hastened to North Philadelphia and found that ``there was a full-blown riot going on.'' After a quick trip to WCAS, where he hooked up with a tape recorder and an engineer, he was on the air. ``So for the next 48 hours, without sleep, I covered the riots.''

Bradley parlayed his contacts and his enthusiasm into first-rate coverage. ``I was right in the middle of everything. There were efforts to negotiate a settlement between the head of the local branch of the NAACP, Cecil Moore, and the police chief. Cecil Moore did a commentary on our station, so I knew him from there. So while these negotiations were going on, I was in the meeting, because the police assumed I was with Cecil. . . .

``I was getting these great scoops! I was on WNEW in New York, doing feeds. And that kind of hooked me on the idea of doing live stuff, going out and covering the news. I had never done that before.''

After the riots, the station offered him a job. His starting salary, he recalls, was $1.25 an hour.