Bob Simon was a veteran US news correspondent who had reported from conflict zones in 67 countries around the world in a journalistic career that spanned 47 years. He covered some of the most dramatic events in modern history – beginning in 1969 with ‘The Troubles’ in Northern Ireland and then the Vietnam War. Simon was one of the last Americans to leave Saigon by helicopter in 1975. He also reported from Yom Kippur in 1973 and was present during the Chinese student protests of 1989 that centred on Tianamen Square, Beijing. In 1991 he and his TV crew were captured by the Iraqis during the first Gulf War and subsequently held prisoner for 40 days. Simon won three Peabody Awards and 27 Emmys for journalism.
In 1996 Bob Simon joined the team at the CBS News magazine program “60 Minutes” which has been described by the The New York Times as “one of the most esteemed news magazines on American television”.
In 2014, 60 Minutes decided to develop a feature about the island of Islay, with Bob Simon as the correspondent. The style of 60 Minutes leans heavily on the personality of the presenter, being very reporter-centred. The station initially sent a camera crew to cover Bruichladdich Day at Feis Ile, and then a producer, Vanessa Fica, spent a week on the island doing further research. A second camera crew, accompanied this time by Bob Simon and veteran producer Harry Radliffe then came for the main shoot in September.
Tragically, it was to be Bob Simon’s last assignment. He was killed in a car crash while being driven in a limo in New York on February 11th 2015.
The shock to Bob’s colleagues was considerable, and with Harry Radliffe also facing serious health issues which could have prevented his return to work, it was assumed that the Islay piece would be lost.
Happily however, Harry made a good recovery and it was decided to try and make the Islay programme as a tribute to Bob. It was finally broadcast as “Whisky Island” on Sunday 3rd May 2015 with Steve Kroft stepping in to co-narrate the piece with Bob Simon.
The programme features a lot of interesting shots of Islay, of Bruichladdich and of other distilleries. It is perhaps particularly memorable for the evident rapport between Bob Simon and Jim McEwan.
A fitting tribute to one of the finest, and bravest, American journalists of our times. Slainte!