At first, I didn’t know how to feel about Andy Rooney’s passing.
When I first heard of Rooney’s death — through a quick flutter of “R.I.P. Mr. Rooney” Facebook posts — I assumed they were referring to Ferris Bueller’s principal. It only dawned upon me later that the 60 Minutes star, had just begun his long-deserved retirement, as well as a new chapter in his life.
I’d like to tell you that I watched 60 Minutes every week as a kid to hear Rooney vent on another issue that delighted or confused him, and wouldn’t that have made for a great eulogy? It would make for a much better story if he were the reason I decided to major in journalism, that he inspired me to proudly voice my own wacky opinions about Lindsay Lohan’s dating life or the future of the American hot dog vendor.
But he’s not, and he didn’t.
I was just never a fan—I was too busy watching watching Sportscenter and Letterman to pay attention.
It is only now, after the man has died and I sift through the many tributes and eulogies, that I can fully appreciate everything he contributed to the history of television and broadcast journalism. It’s funny how life works out that way sometimes.
Journalists tend to age like dogs. Ten years with a program would have seemed like a long time—Rooney spent three times that with 60 Minutes alone, commentating week in and week out.
Sure, as he approached the end of his life, various late-night hosts took shots at his age, his on-screen mannerisms, and the topics upon which he commented — but even in retrospect I can look into Rooney’s eyes on YouTube videos of his commentaries and see the similarities among his younger, sexier contemporaries.
I have no doubt that Rooney’s passionate style and presence will live on with each new generation of journalists, and it’s given me a reason to smile and to be hopeful about the future of the trade I wish to someday practice professionally.
Andy Rooney was journalism’s Dick Clark — you knew he’d be there every Sunday night, just like you knew Clark was there every New Year’s Eve. Maybe that’s why I didn’t bother to tune in.
Andy Rooney led life with opened eyes. He never stopped questioning, never stopped being curious. He never stopped trying to understand the world through which he walked.
Sure, Rooney claimed in his last 60 Minutes appearance that he did a great deal of complaining over the years, and that may be true. For every comment about the ramifications of talking dogs and music he didn’t understand, he opened my eyes to the little things in life that are taken for granted and often underappreciated, or worse, forgotten entirely.
In his eyes, they were complaints. In my eyes, they were beautiful observations and curious documentations. Though Rooney saw himself as a curmudgeon, I’d say he saw the world through the eyes of the everyman, often speaking for those who had no voice.
Honestly, that’s the kind of journalist I want to be. I want to view life as an optimistic skeptic, someone who draws attention to the confusing aspects of the world in order to make it a better place to question those confusing aspects. I want to stand up for those who need support.
I hope everyone majoring in journalism at St. John’s — both now and in the future — strives to be that kind of journalist.
This mentality, for me, far exceeds my career choice — that’s the way I want to live my life, too. That’s the kind of person I want to become. I want to look at the world not with tired, helpless eyes, but with those of hope and wonder.
Hope, of course, for the future of the American hot dog vender.