THE BLOG
07/30/2007 04:46 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Tom Snyder

In late 1982 I interviewed Tom Snyder for a profile in the now-defunct Washington Journalism Review. Snyder had just taken the anchor chair at WABC New York, after a not-entirely-voluntary nine-month sabbatical that followed the cancellation of the Tomorrow show. On the first day of my reporting, Snyder was due to interview Jimmy Carter, in New York to flog a book. I met Snyder and his crew in a gigantic suite at the Waldorf, and we waited for Carter. And waited. And waited. Snyder grew visibly more restive. Carter finally arrived, something like 30 minutes late, and introductions were made. The ex-president sat on a couch, Snyder in an armchair. "Are you sensitive, sir, about the glasses in your breast pocket?" Snyder asked. "You might want to do something about that." Carter tucked them away, nodding primly, as the sound man attached his mic. "Done quite a few of these today, sir, I'll bet," Snyder said cheerily.

"Well, yes," Carter began groggily, "I... "

"Well," Snyder said, rolling over him like a toboggan, "this is prime exposure, Mr. President. Two segments, six and eleven o'clock. We're gonna sell a lot of these things for you, I promise you that."

I can remember Carter shooting his media aide, Gerry Rafshoon, a look -- Get me out of here. "Rolling," the cameraman said quietly.

"Mr. President," Snyder said, and launched into a long and thoughtful question on the Iranian hostage siege. It would take Carter a moment or two to regain his bearings. As the cameras started to roll Snyder was unequivocally in charge.

I've wondered over the years whether what I saw that day was pique or a wily veteran making use of every trick at his command. Snyder could make you wonder. He had a huge personality, and well before he died, largely forgotten, he had become a punchline. But he knew how to take charge of a room and command a camera, and he wasn't cowed by proximity to power. He was a born broadcaster. These days, that seems like plenty.