Friday, 18 December 2015

Farewell, Doug Limerick

There are few great network radio newscasters in the United States. After today, there will be one less.

Doug Limerick is retiring from ABC News.

He was there for 33 years, taking over the morning slot on the Information Network after Tim O’Donnell died of a heart attack 15 years ago this month. But his career went back to 1961 as a teenaged disc jockey. That was when the Boss Radio days were flowering and jocks would scream stuff into the microphone like “It’s a million-dollar weekend on WKKD! Here’s another big, big hit from Chubby Checker! Pony Time!” ensuring they talked up to the vocal at the start of the song (an art in itself).

Rock jocks of the ‘60s urgently belted out the intros, and Doug Limerick urgently belted out the news. One of his great newscasts has been preserved on the internet. He was on the air during the attack on the World Trade Center towers. Not only did he have to throw away his script, he had to watch the clock and time out to affiliate cutaways at the :02 and :04:30 marks. He had to be to the second. He made it sound easy, like every newsman can do it. Take my word for it, they can’t. Listen below. (If it doesn’t work in your browser, play it here).



But the best part of any Doug Limerick newscast was his lighter stuff. Doug would occasionally mutter a pun after completing a story and you had to be quick to catch it. He could grab you with his writing. One of his news stories stuck in my memory began: “An elk. A bull elk.” It came out of nowhere and you listened to hear where he was going with it.

He had an almost cryptic economy of words when appropriate and there was at least one newsroom that timed some of his stories. One I recall went five seconds. It was something like: “Jersey City. House. Burglar. Chimney. Stuck. Arrested. You’re listening to ABC News.” He did a 60 second daily feature called “Doug’s Limericks” and one of them consisted of nothing but single words starting with (I think) “Leaves.” Finally came the payoff—he was describing what he saw on the first day of fall.

Cheri Preston’s taking over the morning slot on the network but no one will ever take Doug Limerick’s place. He was such a joy to listen to and radio won’t be quite as good now that he’s gone.

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