I want to write about him; but I know my words will fail to capture the essence of Bob Beers. His words would be so much better. And funnier.
He was brilliant, erudite, articulate—part curmudgeon/part newsman in the mold of Edward R. Murrow. If he read that, he’d probably laugh and say he was more like Larry David. Also true.
This week a British newspaper described him as:
A lecturer teaching international journalism at University of Central Lancashire in England for the past 8 years.
an award-winning television correspondent and a documentary producer for CBS and local television news for over two decades.
He completed assignments in more than 60 countries and was a news consultant in the Americas, before working for The Guardian, BBC Radio 4 and BBC World Service.
That too doesn’t quite tell the story of Bob Beers– at least not for me.
He was lost, found, and then lost.
It’s one of those stories when you long ago lost track of a close friend before there was an internet; and then they re-emerge in your life as if they were never gone.
That happened a few years ago when another friend from my Miami TV days tracked down Bob on Facebook and found out that he was teaching in England.
A few months later he was in California and we each drove half the length the state to meet for lunch; in two hours, we tried to catch up on more than two decades.
More recently, his daughter and her family moved to California. He loved nothing more than spending time with them; so I got to see him several more times.
In between he filled my Facebook messages and email with words—anecdotes, insights, funny stories and takes on life.
And now I’m filled with grief after his unexpected death last week.
At the news of his death, people described him in the same words I would use: Kind, gentle, supremely knowledgable, the ultimate professional.
So maybe the best way to get across who Bob Beers was is through other people’s words.
Ike Seamans: network news correspondent
When I worked at WTVJ in the 70s, Bob Beers was perhaps the ONLY news manager who was THE voice of reason and constraint everyday, the “go to” guy to calm things down when higher ranking bosses were out of control. As great as he was as a TV news professional, I think Bob found his true calling as a teacher and molder of young minds. In the Daily Mail article, it is heartwarming to read all the loving comments from his students in England. They are reminiscent of those I heard for years…and still hear…from the legions of students he taught at Barry University.
Larry Hendricks: cameraman, producer
Normally I would edit film or shoot it. I’d been given a shot at writing for a documentary we were working on; and gave it to Bob to review. He called me in his office and said simply “tell this to me like you were talking to your brother or friend.” I spilled it out. He said ” now go back and write it that way from now on. Tell the audience what you know” …. Four years later I was made Executive Producer of the WTVJ documentary unit and his two minute lesson stuck with me for the next 25 years of my career.
Andy Dickinson, Senior Lecturer in Journalism at University of Central Lancashire:
The loss of the breadth and range Robert’s knowledge and experience brought to teaching is enormous but it’s the understated, generous and human way that he shared that with students and colleagues that will be most missed.
Alan Mendelson: TV host and producer
I don’t think he had an enemy in the business or in the world; everyone enjoyed working with him and being around him.
Charles Gomez; network news correspondent
We worked very closely together in Central America. A man too gentle to walk among the wolves. Supremely intelligent and compassionate.
I worked for Bob when he was the CBS News Miami Bureau Chief in the early 80’s. Bob was truly one of the few nice guys working in management in this biz. It was always a pleasure to work with him.
Robin Hirsh: cameraman
I remember covering a Fidel Castro visit to the United Nations in NY with Bob. At this point in his life Bob hadn’t done that much field work. He did a great job, because he let me do my job. He understood that I knew what I was doing, and he let me do my thing. There’s a lesson there for all who feel the need to control what everyone else is doing. Bob did his reporter/producer thing, I did my cameraman thing and we got a great piece out of it. Bob was a terrific guy to work with.
And surely best of all are Bob’s own words. I actually thought about copying parts of them here. He wrote so much and so well—had a funny line and funny story for everything—and unlike me, he remembered everything.
After the earthquake in Haiti he sent me a message about his memories working there. I took his message and used it as a blog post.
And I kept pushing him to start his own blog.
So he did. He only stuck with it for a few months; but whether he was writing about covering news for CBS in Latin America, American or British politics, his eye surgery, poking fun at himself or reminiscing about times spent with Orson Welles or Burt Lancaster, nobody could tell a story quite like Bob Beers—a true gentleman, and a gentle man.
He will be missed by so many; most of all by his wife Melanie, his daughter Carrie, son-in-law Charlie and beloved granddaughter Juliette. Only Bob might have found the words to express my sadness and sympathy.