Veteran CBS Newscaster and First-Time Author
April 17, 2006: “Crime scene technicians verify the path of the fatal bullet tonight but there’s really no mystery,” booms out the sonorous voice of Lou Young on the CBS evening news. “A shot fired in anger on West Tremont Avenue missed its target and instead hit a passing minivan full of children being ferried to Easter services, causing fatal injury to a toddler [David Pachecho] strapped in a carseat.” As Young interviews the emergency medical technician, Angel Cruz, who unsuccessfully tried to revive the dying boy, he leans over and pats Cruz on the shoulder. “I’m sorry,” Young says simply.
And so Young continues to weave an on-camera magic that combines solid journalism with a humane yet consummately professional interviewing style, qualities that have served him well in a three decade long broadcast journalism career that began in Gainesville, Florida in 1974. “I was blessed with an accidental career path that allowed me to take lots of tiny steps,” Young says of his early days in the industry following graduation with a B.S. in Broadcasting from the University of Florida. As one of only three employees for WCJB-TV, “I would go weeks without being live because I had to shoot the film…Then I also wrote and edited…By starting out that way, you can make mistakes without having your career implode on you,” reminisces Young.
Far from imploding, Young’s broadcast career skyrocketed, and he packed his bags for the bright lights of New York City at the tender age of 28 to work for ABC (1981-1990), then NBC (1990-1994), and finally his current boss, CBS, in 1994. From his first story about a multiple fatality car wreck in 1974, Young has since gone on to report on the most monumental headline grabbers of our times. “When I covered TWA Flight 800 [in 1996], I thought it was the biggest story I’d do,” recalls Young. “Then I covered President Clinton’s impeachment proceedings. Then there was the election of 2000, then 9/11 and the Iraq War…The news just seems to get bigger and bigger. We live in strange and exciting times,” he concludes. But Young’s most memorable story was his exclusive interview with now-convicted serial killer Nathaniel White in Orange County, New York, complete with all the sensational trappings—an on-camera confession and gory details of how and why White murdered each of his victims. “I had a killer exclusive that gave my station [Channel 4 at the time] number one ratings for the first time in years,” he recollects with a kind of “aw shucks” humility.
Despite a grueling schedule that keeps Young traveling to wherever the next story is breaking (he spent months in Israel reporting on the Arab-Israeli conflict), he has found time to co-author a brand new book with renowned sketch artist Marilyn Church entitled The Art of Justice, which offers an inside look at some of the most sensational trials of the last thirty years. The book combines Church’s artistry (for years, television cameras were banned from courtrooms and artists like Church were commissioned to record the day’s proceedings at lightning pace) and Young’s painstaking research and riveting prose to help readers relive some of the biggest headlines of recent decades: Bernhard Goetz, Amy Fisher, Woody Allen, and John Gotti, to name a few. Through his research, Young reinforced his belief that “there’s not one version of the truth. The longer you look at something, the more sides there are…It’s like a prism,” he muses. Yet, according to Young, “sometimes the justice of the case has nothing to do with the verdict.” Was there any one case that did the best job of equating justice with truth? Thoughtfully, Young replies, “Perhaps it was the Karen Ann Quindlan case. Everybody thought they were deciding this [comatose] woman’s fate…Yet when they finally unplugged her [from the ventilator], she continued to live on her own. She died many years later of natural causes.”
Young attributes his career success to key mentors he encountered in his years of schooling —not only the journalism professors who taught him how to capture the salient facts and reveal the essence of a story, but also his Newfield High School English teacher in Selden, Long Island, Warren Glass, who taught him to appreciate classic authors and good writing. “Whenever I get into a box in a story I’m writing, I don’t try to write more; I read,” Young explains. His advice to up-and-coming broadcasters? “If you can write, there will always be a place for you in the industry.”
Revealing a modesty uncharacteristic of a multiple Emmy Award-winner who has earned a sheaf of distinguished accolades from such gold standard organizations as the Associated Press and United Press International, Young has no higher aspirations than to continue in his supremely rewarding profession. “I go to work every day liking what I do….Most days I go into the office thinking, ‘This is a cool job.’”#