The second thing about Michael Tuck is the sheer force of his personality. He’s like an effortless lion, a sire rife with relaxed confidence. He speaks in broad swaths, igniting principles with a few purred words, coolly incendiary. When I spoke with Michael Tuck, I was charmed immediately. He seemed to take me into account as he made beautiful conversational shapes in the air with his voice, the oblique but very personal way that an artist takes an audience into account. He spoke to me as if I were right there, but also somehow as though I were very distant. It was a great way to be talked to: it made me feel, I don’t know, important.
“I honestly visualize families when I’m talking on the news,” Tuck said, “because family’s important to me. I think about what’s important to my family, I think about what’s important to my neighbors, I think about what’s important to people on the other side of town. When I first went on camera, I would swallow my tongue half the time. I used to be afraid of the camera lens. I kicked every other word, I was so nervous. And I finally decided that what I had to say was important, and somebody out there cared about it. I was not a salesman selling widgets, I was a person delivering something of value.”
The third impression that I had about Michael Tuck, and the effect that really tied it all together, is how practical he finally seems, how ready. After a few minutes of sitting there with him, I thought that if extraterrestrials fell suddenly through the drop ceiling of that conference room, Michael Tuck wouldn’t even blink, wouldn’t blink, one more time than he normally does. His heart would continue thumping at the same rate. He’d be prepared to begin an interview, the first ever interview with extraterrestrials, even before those aliens had stood up or unfolded or whatever, even before they’d dusted themselves off.
Carol LeBeau would get the extraterrestrial interview as well, but first she would probably make sure that the aliens were comfortable, that they had enough air. LeBeau is all heart, honest, just that selfless.
Months back, when I was trying to arrange interviews for this anchor article, placating the worries of publicists and producers at certain nameless news stations, jockeying to borrow time from busy anchors’ schedules, I was pleased and surprised when Carol LeBeau returned my phone call herself and agreed to meet with me almost immediately. And what’s more, while I spoke with Tuck and Bloom in impersonal oval-tabled news-station conference rooms, LeBeau generously invited me into her home (on Tunapuna Lane, no less). The day I showed up, she met me out front, talked cordially, led the way into her house, offered a range of drinks and snacks, showed a choice of comfortable places to sit, and then she worried aloud whether I might be allergic to her cats.
“Well, I’m just sort of the getting-past-middle-age anchor who’s been on Channel 10 now for 23 years,” LeBeau said, characteristically deprecating. “If you watched me on TV, that’s what you’d really see. With her not-too-perfect skin and her not-too-perfect hair. But who’s been blessed with a fairly long run here in San Diego. I’m just an everyday working person. I’m nothing special. But that’s how I approach the news as well. If I don’t understand something, then I don’t expect my audience to understand it either. A lot of times it’s homemakers fixing dinner for their families, and they’ve got the TV on in the background. Or maybe people starting their shift at work, maybe they’re waiters, or whoever, and they’ve got the TV on in the background. Very few people sit and watch the news riveted to the set, unless they’re retired, you know, or elderly. So it has to be, not idiotic, but simple and uncomplicated. Because when it comes to the spoken word, the viewer doesn’t have control over it; I have control over it. Once I’ve spoken the words, they’re on their way to Mars. And if I didn’t convey it to you in a way that you could understand, that first time, then it’s too late.”
LeBeau is rich with such understanding. She is a true altruist, an ethicist, a person who lives well in a world of others.
Witness, for example, a couple of LeBeau’s good lessons. (She speaks almost in parables.) “Do I have opinions?” she said. “I have a lot of opinions. And guess what I have to do? Check most of them at the door when I get to work. Because my opinions are irrelevant. If we’re covering a story on Roe versus Wade today, then whether I believe in abortion or not is completely irrelevant. And the more clueless the audience is as to what my beliefs are, then the better the job that I’m doing.”
Then LeBeau went on, “Now there are certain things where opinion is not the issue, but pathos is. If a small child is murdered by some predator or whatever, you get to throw all the conservative against liberal, religious against nonreligious, you get to throw all that petty stuff right out the door. I mean, there are certain things that are just universal truths, and a child being killed is a travesty, at any level. So it’s okay to show a little pathos on the air. And to show that you’re compassionate, and that you, too, believe like everybody else out there.”
Tuck articulates, LeBeau has heart, and Paul Bloom has mastered another means toward the glimmer of human understanding. His is the mastery of the accurate example. His recall is astonishing, if not total. His mind is detailed and radial. He’ll not only tell you that he did such and such, but he’ll also digress, finding apt metaphors and strong analogies, and then he’ll sweep those discoveries into synthesis — a man of ideas, bringing you the world and his mind in a profusion of accurate examples.