CBS' Bob Simon remembered as master storyteller

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CBS' Bob Simon remembered as master storyteller
NEW YORK - JUNE 13: Bob Simon, correspondent for 60 Minutes on the CBS Television Network. (Photo by John Paul Filo/CBS via Getty Images)
CBS correspondent Bob Simon, center, speaks to reporters after he and three collegues were freed in Iraq, Saturday, March 2, 1991. Behind him is cameraman Roberto Alvarez. The 4 man team left for Jordan shortly after. (AP Photo)
NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 11: Bob Simon, CBS News reporter at a CBS Radio microphone. Image dated February 11, 1969. (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - MAY 15: CBS News Correspondent Bob Simon pictured with his book, Forty Days. Image dated May 15, 1992. (Photo by Tony Esparza/CBS via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - APRIL 30: Bob Simon, CBS News correspondent. Image dated April 30, 1979. (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)
LONDON - MARCH 8: Bob Simon, CBS News correspondent (seated) and television colleagues, clean-shaven in London, England, upon release from forty days of captivity in Iraq. Standing, left to right, sound man Juan Caldera, producer Peter Bluff, and cameraman Roberto Alvarez, with scarf. Image dated March 8, 1991. (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)
BAGHDAD - MAY 20: CBS News Correspondent Bob Simon in Iraq for news special, 'Bob Simon: Back to Baghdad,' originally broadcast on July 4, 1991. Image dated May 20, 1991. (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)
CBS correspondent Bob Simon (2R) posing arm-in-arm w. his CBS crew (L-R) sound man Juan Caldera, producer Peter Bluff & cameraman Roberto Alvarez during press conference at the Wellington Hospital; finally freed by the Iraqis after 40 days of imprisonmen.t (Photo by Ian Cook/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)
A car remains on the scene of an accident in New York, Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2015, that killed longtime "60 Minutes" correspondent Bob Simon. Simon covered riots, Academy Award-nominated movies and wars and was held captive for more than a month in Iraq two decades ago. He was 73. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Major media personalities react to the death of Bob Simon, veteran journalist and longtime CBS correspondent.
Officials survey the scene of a fatal collision that killed longtime "60 Minutes" correspondent Bob Simon, Wednesday, Feb,. 11, 2015, in New York. Simon, who was 73, covered riots, Academy Award-nominated movies and wars and was held captive for more than a month in Iraq two decades ago. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
A police officer stands by the scene of a fatal collision that killed longtime "60 Minutes" correspondent Bob Simon, Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2015, in New York. Simon, who was 73, covered riots, Academy Award-nominated movies and wars and was held captive for more than a month in Iraq two decades ago. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
A police officer tows a car following an accident in New York, Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2015, that killed longtime "60 Minutes" correspondent Bob Simon. Simon covered riots, Academy Award-nominated movies and wars and was held captive for more than a month in Iraq two decades ago. He was 73. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
A police officer surveys the scene of an accident following a collision in New York, Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2015, that killed longtime "60 Minutes" correspondent Bob Simon. Simon, who was 73, covered riots, Academy Award-nominated movies and wars and was held captive for more than a month in Iraq two decades ago. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
A police officer surveys the scene following an accident in New York, Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2015, that killed longtime "60 Minutes" correspondent Bob Simon. Simon covered riots, Academy Award-nominated movies and wars and was held captive for more than a month in Iraq two decades ago. He was 73. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 11: The scene where CBS News correspondent Bob Simon died in car accident on Manhattan's west side on February 11, 2015 in New York City.The award-winning journalist was 73. (Photo by John Lamparski/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 11: The scene where CBS News correspondent Bob Simon died in car accident on Manhattan's west side on February 11, 2015 in New York City.The award-winning journalist was 73. (Photo by John Lamparski/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 11: The scene where CBS News correspondent Bob Simon died in car accident on Manhattan's west side on February 11, 2015 in New York City.The award-winning journalist was 73. (Photo by John Lamparski/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 11: The scene where CBS News correspondent Bob Simon died in car accident on Manhattan's west side on February 11, 2015 in New York City.The award-winning journalist was 73. (Photo by John Lamparski/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 11: The scene where CBS News correspondent Bob Simon died in car accident on Manhattan's west side on February 11, 2015 in New York City.The award-winning journalist was 73. (Photo by John Lamparski/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 01: Bob Simon (C) of 60 Minutes attends the Mike Wallace Memorial at Frederick P. Rose Hall, Jazz at Lincoln Center on May 1, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Rob Kim/WireImage)
NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 01: '60 Minutes' correspondent, Bob Simon attends the 'Faces of America' premiere at Allen Room at Lincoln Center on February 1, 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Charles Eshelman/FilmMagic)
CNN's Larry King interviews Don Hewitt, Mike Wallace, Ed Bradley, Morley Safer, Lesley Stahl, Steve Kroft and Bob Simon of the '60 Minutes' anchor team during a taping of 'Larry King Live' on Tuesday, June 8, 2004. The show will air on Monday, June 14, 2004 at 9:00pm ET. (Photo by Lorenzo Bevilaqua/WireImage)
**FILE**Past and present correspondents of "60 Minutes" join Don Hewitt, the executive producer,lower left, on stage for a Lifetime Achievement Award at the annual News and Documentary Emmy Awards held in New York, on, Sept. 3, 2003. Left to right, at rear, Christiane Amanpour, Diane Sawyer, Steve Kroft, Meredith Vieira, and executive editor Philip Scheffler. Middle row, Bob Simon, Lesley Stahl, Ed Bradley, Morley Safer and Andy Rooney. Bradley died Thursday, Nov. 9, 2006, of leukemia at New York's Mount Sinai Hospital. He was 65. (AP Photo/Stuart Ramson)
CBS correspondent Bob Simon joyfully embracing his wife Francoise & daughter Tanya at press conference in Wellington Hospital after he was freed from 40 days of imprisonment by Iraqi soldiers. (Photo by Ian Cook/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)
CBS News television correspondent Bob Simon introduces the winner of the 2010 Loeb Award for Beat Writing at the 2010 Gerald Loeb Awards Dinner at Capitale on June 29, 2010 in New York City. *** Local Caption ***
CBS News correspondent Bob Simon arrives at the Metropolitan Opera 2007-08 season opening gala Monday, Sept. 24, 2007 in New York. The MET season opens with a new production of Donizetti"s "Lucia di Lammermoor". (AP Photo/Evan Agostini)
Bob Simon attends the CBS Upfront presentation in New York on Wednesday, May 19, 2010. (AP Photo/Peter Kramer)
Officials stand by the scene of a fatal collision that killed longtime "60 Minutes" correspondent Bob Simon, Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2015, in New York. Simon, who was 73, covered riots, Academy Award-nominated movies and wars and was held captive for more than a month in Iraq two decades ago. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Officials survey the scene of an accident following a collision in New York, Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2015, that killed longtime "60 Minutes" correspondent Bob Simon. Simon, who was 73, covered riots, Academy Award-nominated movies and wars and was held captive for more than a month in Iraq two decades ago. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
A police officer tows a car following an accident in New York, Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2015, that killed longtime "60 Minutes" correspondent Bob Simon. Simon covered riots, Academy Award-nominated movies and wars and was held captive for more than a month in Iraq two decades ago. He was 73. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
FILE - In this Feb, 1, 2010 file photo, journalist Bob Simon attends the premiere screening of "Faces of America With Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr." at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York. CBS says Simon was killed in a car crash on Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2015, in Manhattan. Police say a town car in which he was a passenger hit another car. He was 73. (AP Photo/Evan Agostini, File)
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NEW YORK (AP) - Bob Simon was kidnapped in Iraq, beaten in Belfast and held at gunpoint in Romania during a nearly 50-year career at CBS News. His bravery made the mundane way he died - in the back seat of a car on Manhattan's West Side Highway Wednesday night - seem all the more tragic.

Simon's work outlives him, and not just on reputation. A story he was working on with his producer, daughter Tanya Simon, about searching for an Ebola cure, is scheduled to air on "60 Minutes" this weekend. The newsmagazine will have a full tribute to Simon on Feb. 22.

He died at age 73.

Simon was a foreign correspondent in the heyday of CBS News and broadcast news in general. He was one of the last to leave Vietnam following the fall of Saigon in 1973, and reported on conflicts in Northern Ireland, Nigeria, Portugal, Cyprus, Argentina, India, Romania, Bosnia and, most indelibly, the Middle East.

He often said he was better known in Israel when he was stationed there than he was in the U.S., something he may have wished was untrue. A story in the late 1980s that showed Israeli soldiers beating Palestinian boys during the Intifada earned him so many threats that he needed to hire security for his home.

During the first Gulf War in 1991, he was taken by Iraqi forces near the Kuwait-Saudi border. He and three colleagues were held and beaten severely for six weeks, after which he said he hoped his interrogators "die soon and painfully."

While he was held, one of his New York colleagues prepared an obituary reel - kind of a reverse psychology, hoping it would never be used. Following his release and return to New York, it was handed to him. It took Simon months to watch.

"When you look at your obit, it sort of reminds you how close you came to being dead," he said.

Jeffrey Fager, then a young producer at CBS News and now executive producer of "60 Minutes," said he was always eager to hear Simon's take on a story, even if many others covered it. Simon would usually notice something others hadn't, he said.

Simon had the hardware, including some 27 Emmy Awards. His impact may be better felt in the words of younger correspondents who followed his path. Anderson Cooper nearly broke down speaking about his death on CNN Wednesday night, saying he felt intimidated walking the same hallways with Simon.

"When I try to write really well, I listen for Bob's voice," said NBC News correspondent Richard Engel, in an email from Iraq Thursday. "Sometimes I can just hear it - the ups and downs, the simple phrase to button up a complex thought - but then when I think I've got it, it's gone too quickly, just like Bob.

"He was a brilliant writer and journalist who had the amazing ability to be brave, intelligent and witty all at the same time and make it look effortless," Engel said. "He was the gold standard. Without him, our profession is diminished."

Simon joined "60 Minutes II" in 1999 and the Sunday night broadcast in 2005. He carved out a new niche with a willingness to travel the world for all manner of stories, given a freedom and budget increasingly rare in the realm of broadcast news today. He found a symphony in the Congo, hunted for jaguars in Brazil, visited monks on a mountaintop in Greece.

The jaguar story displayed his subtle wit: "It was good to be in a car," he said, as the camera showed a crocodile-like creature lurking in a swamp.

"You can tell the difference when a reporter can't wait to get out there and cover a story and one who goes out reluctantly or would rather stay home," Fager said. "You're born with this. You're born with desire and a curiosity about the world. And he was born with an extra gift, with an ability to tell a story that sets him apart."

One of his favorite stories, from 2011, was a visit with the Orthodox Christian monks on Greece's Athos - a place where newspapers, computers, televisions and - for the past 1,000 years, women - are not allowed. After two years of cajoling, he was permitted to bring the first camera crew there in 30 years. With graceful language, Simon captures the rhythm of the place: "On a typical day -and every day is a typical day," he explained the never-deviating routine. One bearded monk, he said, "could have risen from a Rembrandt."

This past Sunday, he profiled "Selma" filmmaker Ava DuVernay. The story had personal touches - DuVernay's father watched the march in Selma that her daughter recreated for the movie - and hit on serious issues like the lack of diversity in Hollywood.

"We think of him as a foreign correspondent, but he could do everything well," Fager said. "He was a brilliant thinker and he could go into any kind of situation and tell it in a way you haven't heard before. I just think he was a master story-teller."

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Follow David Bauder at twitter.com/dbauder. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/david-bauder

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