The Winding Road
My Journey Through Life and the MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour
by Michael Saltz
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Pub Date 15 Jul 2022 | Archive Date 15 Aug 2022
Home, Neighborhood, City, Country, World: Signposts in Michael Saltz's ever-expanding journey into the world and the lives of millions of people as a senior producer for The MacNeil Lehrer NewsHour, one of the most highly esteemed news programs in America. It's a road filled with twists and turns, with failures as well as triumphs. And stories.
Some stories are personal, like having polio and listening to Bach as a young child. Others are the stories he encountered and helped create as a senior producer at The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour, where he worked from before its inception in 1975 until his retirement in 2009. There are stories about big domestic events like the near-catastrophic nuclear meltdown at Three Mile Island and almost invisible ones like the suicide of a 16-year-old girl in upstate New York. There are the stories of largely unknown people he meets along the way: a worker at the dying Kansas City Stockyards, a folk singer in Arizona still blackballed by her fellow musicians decades after national fame, a legendary (if largely invisible) old musician in New Orleans. But also stories about more famous people like Robert Motherwell and Frank Herbert. And then there also are stories about events in revolutionary Iran, regime change in Rhodesia, Muamar Gadhafi's Libya, and Moscow in the waning years of the Soviet Union. And so many more.
The NewsHour's Essays, helmed by Saltz between 1985 and 2009, were a favorite of many viewers. Roughly 1500 programs ended with these four to seven-minute commentaries that won an Emmy and two Peabody Awards.
Along the way, we learn much about the creation of MacNeil/Lehrer and its evolution. We meet both MacNeil and Lehrer and what it was like to work for them. Also, there are reflections about many of the 57 writers who Saltz gathered to help create the essays. And too, there are observations about the creation of art, television, television news, and what he saw and made of everything along his journey. Clearly, it's a journey that has never ended.
"Your book is a revelation. You and your favorite essayists gave the NewsHour a creative distinction I had not anticipated but loved." — Robert MacNeil, co-anchor and executive editor, The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour
"With pride, I introduce Michael Saltz to you now — my teacher for nearly twenty years." — Richard Rodriguez, author of "Hunger of Memory," "Days of Obligation," and "Brown"
"When a creative person finds their unique art form, something no one has ever done in the same way, it is a cause for wonder and celebration. It does not often happen that someone steps out of the box, especially if that box is television, moreover a television news program. But out stepped Michael Saltz and put his hungry, humane talents to work crafting hundreds of beautiful, layered, questioning essays for the MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour. Now, in his captivating memoir, he is looking back at his life, the winding road that led him out of his childhood among noisy, creative people and into television and the joys — and duress; yes, some of that too — of being true to your talent and finding a place for it to flourish. A moving American story in which, lucky me, I play a small grateful part." — Anne Taylor Fleming, associate director of the Sun Valley Writers' Conference and author of "Marriage: A Duet and As If Love Were Enough"
"When we were out on video shoots, I often thought that his stories about 1950s New York and early television could make a good memoir. I'm just happy that he wrote it. I hope the lessons he learned can help prepare the rest of us for whatever comes next." — Clarence Page, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and Editorial Board member at the Chicago Tribune
"One of the many fascinating things about The Winding Road is that it shows how the development of an extraordinary intelligence contributed to the development of an extraordinary place. The book is an elegant memory of both a child growing up and the institution he grew into." — Roger Rosenblatt, author of "Kayak Morning," "Rules for Aging, Making Toast" and "Cold Moon"