HUNTLEY, CHET

U.S. Broadcast Journalist

Chet Huntley is most famous for his role as co-anchor of the critically acclaimed and highly rated The Huntley-Brinkley Report. This evening newscast, which first appeared in October 1956 on NBC, ushered in the modern era for television evening news. The Huntley-Brinkley Report introduced an innovative broadcast style, cutting between Huntley in New York and David Brinkley in Washington, D.C. The energy, pace, and style of the program was clearly a step beyond the more conventional work of "news readers" who had preceded the new format.

Huntley's rise to broadcast news stardom began during his senior year at the University of Washington when he landed his first broadcasting job at Seattle's KPCB radio. His roles for the station ranged from writer and announcer to salesman, and his salary was a mere S10 a month. These modest beginnings led to several short stints at radio stations in the northwest, but by 1937 Huntley settled in Los Angeles. He worked first at KFI Los Angeles, and then at CBS News in the west. He stayed with CBS for 12 years until he was lured to ABC in 1951. His tour of the networks was complete when NBC enticed him to New York in 1955 with talk of a major TV news program.

Huntley first worked with Brinkley in 1956 while co-anchoring the Republican and Democratic National Conventions of that year. The NBC duo successfully garnered the largest share of the convention television audience, and as a result, the Huntley-Brinkley team was born. The Huntley-Brinkley Report's audience was estimated at 20 million, and in 1965, a consumer research company found that, as a result of their hugely successful news program, both Huntley and Brinkley were more recognizable to American adults than such famous stars as Cary Grant, James Stewart or the Beatles.

Throughout his impressive career, however, Huntley developed a reputation for airing his personal opinions on-air, and he was once accused of editorializing with his eyebrows. In the 1950s, he candidly criticized Senator Joseph McCarthy's outrageous allegations of Communist sympathy among government officials and members of Hollywood's film industry.

As a cattle owner in his native Montana, Huntley's endorsements for the beef industry during the 1960s again brought criticism from other professionals. His only apparent disagreement with his partner came during 1967, when Huntley crossed an American Federation of Television and Radio Artists' picket line claiming that news anchors did not belong in the same union as "actors, singers, and dancers."

Despite his critics, Huntley received an estimated $200,000 salary from NBC during the height of The Huntley-Brinkley Report's time on the air. He also earned several prestigious news industry awards including an Alfred I. duPont Award, a George Polk Memorial Award, two Overseas Press Club Awards, and, with Brinkley, eight Emmy Awards. He was named the International Radio and Television Society's "Broadcaster of the Year" in 1970.

The Huntley-Brinkley Report's ceremonial closing, "Good night, David," "Good night, Chet" would have been heard for the last time on 1 August 1970, when Huntley retired from broadcasting, but Brinkley altered his words to "Good-bye, Chet." As he signed of, Huntley left his audience with one final plea: "Be patient and have courage--there will be better and happier news some day, if we work at it."

Huntley retired to his native Montana, where he worked to develop the Big Sky resort. His love for the state and its people is evident in his memoir, The Generous Years: Remembrances of a Frontier Boyhood.

-John Tedesco


Chet Huntley

CHET HUNTLEY. Born in Cardwell, Montana, U.S.A., 10 December 1911. Educated at the University of Washington. Married: 1) Ingrid Rolin (divorced 1959); children, two daughters; 2) Tipton Stringer. Began career as a radio announcer, KPCB, Seattle, Washington; announcer, disk jockey and writer, Spokane, Washington and Portland, Oregon; joined KFI, Los Angeles in 1937; CBS News, Los Angeles, 1939-51; newscaster and correspondent, ABC television, 1951-55; newscaster and correspondent, NBC television, 1955-70; teamed with David Brinkley as co-anchor of The Huntley-Brinkley Report 1956-70; retired to Montana, 1960, to pursue business interests. Recipient: Alfred I. DuPont Award, George Polk Memorial Award, two Overseas Press Club Awards; eight Emmy Awards, with Brinkley. Died, 20 March 1974.

TELEVISION

1956-70 The Huntley-Brinkley Report

PUBLICATION

The Generous Years: Remembrances of a Frontier Boyhood. New York: Random House, 1964.

FURTHER READING

Fensch, Thomas, editor. Television News Anchors: An Anthology of Profiles of the Major Figures and Issues in United States Network Reporting. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland, 1993.

Frank, Reuven. Out of Thin Air: The Brief Wonderful Life of Network News. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1991.

 

See also Anchor; Brinkley, David; News, Network