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In memory of Bill Beutel, Eyewitness news anchor

By Scott Wagner
On March 29, 2006

Bill Beutel, the longest running television news anchor in New York history, whose time with the AM America news show would spin off to become ABC's "Good Morning America," has died at the age of 75.

Beutel was born the son of a dentist in Cleveland, on Dec. 12, 1930. He claimed to be inspired to be a reporter while listening to Edward R. Murrow's London broadcasts on the Battle of Britain.

In 2001 William Beutel retired from his anchor position with Eyewitness News and continued some correspondence work until 2003 including a small time covering the civil war in Sierra Leone.

Beutel, whose 35 years of experience behind the anchor desk for WABC is unprecedented in New York television history, died Saturday, March 18 at his home in Pinehurst, N.C.

According to the New York Times, Beutel's wife Adair said the cause was complications due to a progressive neurological disorder.

"People tend to know their local news anchor by first name. There is an odd sense of loss if you grew up watching, a sense of home," said James Castonguay, chair of the department of Media Studies.

Douglas M. Reda, 50, an attorney of Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y. remembers Beutel as a "brand name" for most New Yorkers. "He was the sole person I associated with nightly news for many years," said Reda.

Beutel's first radio job was in Cleveland before he moved to CBS radio in 1957. According to Wikipedia.com, he began his television career in the October of 1962 as a reporter with ABC News and as anchor for New York's WABC-TV.

Beutel joined the ABC News team full time when he became the London bureau chief in 1968. However, after only two years there, WABC's new director of news, Al Primo, called Beutel with an interesting opportunity. Primo offered Beutel a position as co-anchor opposite his predecessor at WABC-TV, Roger Grimsby. Primo wanted two, sturdy, well-defined personalities heading up the Eyewitness News format he had brought along with him from KYM-TV in Philadelphia.

In an interview with New York Times journalist Campbell Robertson, Al Primo said, "I needed somebody who had confidence in himself and could keep his own style. Sure enough, his experience, his confidence, his presence and his humor came through."

Eyewitness News quickly gained popularity as co-anchors Beutel and Grimsby grew to become possibly the two most well known personalities in television news history. For a long time "Eyewitness" was the single most talked about news program in the country.

On Jan. 6, 1975, Beutel also signed on to co-host AM America with Stephanie Edwards, which was designed to compete with the "Today" show on the CBS network. The program struggled, according to Wikipedia.com, and after only eleven months was succeeded by Good Morning America.

Beutel never left Eyewitness, continuing to anchor for the show for 16 years after Grimsby's dismissal in 1986.

Beutel was a dedicated news anchor that touched the hearts of many people. He was more than just a news anchor, he was a man who was trusted and loved by many.

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