Michael Tuck threads his bathroom tissue over the roll, “definitely over.” For Carol LeBeau’s last meal, she’d eat peanut butter and jelly on fluffy white bread. And Paul Bloom wouldn’t tell me how old he is, but he does sleep naked.
On a deserted island, Tuck would find drinking water, LeBeau’d pray, and Bloom would get a tan. All three are a little fanatical about having white teeth. And believe it or not, none of them flinched when asked these moderately outrageous questions.
If you’ve lived in San Diego for any length of time, and if you’re plugged in to the world at large, then surely you know who Tuck, LeBeau, and Bloom are. You know that they’re three of the longest-tenured, most awarded, most critically acclaimed news anchors in town. Every weeknight, on KFMB, KGTV, and KUSI respectively,these consummate professionals bring us up to speed on the timely events around us.
And I was determined to bring myself up to speed on the everyday, life-sized, three-dimensional Tuck, LeBeau, and Bloom, whom we see reduced into two dimensions on our televisions.
Nowadays, when you peek behind most carefully constructed public images or lift the sheens from professional façades, you don’t expect to find a shining human being alive in there. Hiding underneath the persona that they want us to see, surely dirt covers most of our famous personalities.
But imagine if you looked and instead all you saw were pure examples of how to live a morally upstanding, community-driven, attentive, and useful life. How amazing would that be? (Actually, if you’re a journalist, you kind of hope to find the opposite: shame and guilt and dirt. You know, the stuff that gives a story juice; the scandal that sells.) Instead, after I interviewed Michael Tuck, Carol LeBeau, and Paul Bloom, I came away feeling as though I had met the representatives of a club whose motto is “How to Work Hard and Live Honorably.” These people are almost unbelievably good: energetic, knowledgeable, interesting, studious, and palpably honest.
So then I started to imagine that my news-anchor story could be inspiring, and not just an informative story: three baby boomers who deserve bronze busts. Which is to say, I think these folks are transcendent examples of how to deal with the extreme rhythms and compromises of our times. Bloom, Tuck, and LeBeau are all fully themselves, confident and dynamic souls with few signs of worldly stress, and yet they deal daily with the ultimate stresses of our overwhelming information age.
Think about it this way. A news anchor is really a kind of conduit, a medium through which other media must travel. And like any good conduit, a news anchor must be sensitive yet resilient. He or she must hold and protect a flow of some sort while moving it on and carrying it about. With conduits of all sorts — pipes, wires, canals, even news anchors — you never really think about them unless something goes wrong, yet all the while their roles are heroically difficult and important.
Michael Tuck: “On a news show, the anchor is the most visible direct conduit through which information flows. Everything else is going on around you. You are introducing reporters to deliver reports; you are reading some stories; you are introducing the weathercaster or the sportscaster; you are debriefing some public official who has just made an announcement; you are integrating breaking information from the producers; it’s a lot going on at once.”
Carol LeBeau: “We have a news department of about 60 to 65 people, and my job is to anchor it with my co-anchor, and that’s the base from which we go. We go off to live reports, we go to the weather, we go to the sports. We have prepackaged reports, we have light features, we have heavy stuff, you know, bad news, good news, whatever, but it all comes back to the anchor who is keeping it moving, hopefully helping to keep it interesting, providing vocal variety, visual variety, and keeping the viewer interested because I’m interested.”
Paul Bloom: “On TV, I have to keep with a script and keep things flowing, and I have to make it look easy and I have to look really natural, even though all around me there is all this activity, there’s all these people running around, but I have to act perfectly natural. I have to filter in this information. There’s all these things being said into my ear, and then I just try to talk. And I think I probably talk pretty much the way I do now, even when I’m talking into a camera doing breaking news.”
The best voice in this little group, at least based on quality of articulation alone, is Michael Tuck’s. The first thing you notice about Tuck when you meet him is that voice. It’s a purring machine, a fine tune. It hums. Even if he isn’t speaking, you can almost feel something idling under the hood, some harmonic potential, ready to rev. And I’m not referring to onscreen Michael Tuck, Michael Tuck the news anchor, the practiced persona. I’m saying that the normal speaking voice of Mr. Tuck, of Mike, is obviously some form of rare commodity.
“I grew up in East Texas, with a real heavy East Texas accent — which, parenthetically, after a couple of longneck Lone Stars will come out again — but I always had this deep fear that people would not understand me. So I worked so hard on articulation. Sometimes I articulate too much, but I think it’s really important that people understand you. One of the first broadcasting awards that I ever got — in many people’s minds it was kind of a nothing award, but it meant a great deal to me — was “The Most Easily Lip-Read Newscaster,” and it was given to me by a disabled-rights group. And it meant a lot to me because it meant that I was communicating. I try very hard to communicate.”