Peter Greenberg remembers one of his mentors and idols, Hal Bruno.
Hal Bruno died yesterday after a fall at his home in Maryland. Chances are that most of you don’t know that name. But Hal Bruno was an amazing journalist, a reporter’s reporter and one of the legendary “front page,” hit-the-ground-running writers.
I first met Hal Bruno in Chicago over a cheeseburger at Billy Goat Tavern, when I was a lowly college “stringer” for Newsweek in Madison, Wisconsin. I was all of 20 years old and while I had youth and energy, I knew nothing.
Hal was the News Editor for Newsweek, and was the most plugged in newsman I ever knew. He had the best contacts, the best sources, he knew how to work a phone better than anyone. He had an old-school approach, and an old school Rolodex, but he could run circles around anyone then — and now.
He was also one of the more inclusive people I’ve ever met. He let me hang with him. We bonded immediately, because Hal Bruno was also a volunteer fireman. I had just joined my fire department in New York, and we would frequently tell war stories about responding to alarms and all the characters we’d met.
Responding to an alarm was very much like working a story on deadline. In each case, there was a fire to extinguish and something to save. Hal Bruno, both as a fireman and as a journalist, was the person I wanted to be when I grew up. He could interview a sitting President and have a beer with a beat cop and never break stride.
He was hired away from Newsweek by ABC News, where he was political director during the 1980′s and 90s. There wasn’t a primary or an election he didn’t report — or didn’t call correctly.
Hal was also the kind of person who remembered everything — and everyone. He could pick up a conversation where it left off 18 years ago and never miss a beat. And that was his gift — he talked to people. In their language, with their lingo. And they, in turn, talked to him.
Hal Bruno was everyman. Hal has left us at the age of 83, with a legacy that won’t be matched. He is still the person I want to be when I grow up.
By Peter Greenberg for PeterGreenberg.com