NORMAN EUGENE. WOODRUFF, HPHS Summer 1957

Norman Eugene Woodruff, a graduate of Huntington Park High School Summer Class 1957, left an indelible mark on the broadcast industry.

His work in the news and broadcast industry is considered to be among the foremost pioneers in the advent of talk radio.  He had thirty year career as a preeminent network newscaster.

** Norm was considered by many to be the “Lou Grant of radio” -- gruff but loveable and with news in his blood. His proudest achievement was probably the success of CBS-owned KCBS Newsradio in the highly-competitive San Francisco radio market. Under his stewardship in the 1970s, KCBS reached No. 1 in the ratings and stayed there for several years. The station had personable-yet-aggressive news coverage and took seriously the slogans “The News Authority” and “What goes on is on right now.” Norm was famous for calling news editors from his car if he heard sirens and didn’t quickly hear the reason why on the air. After Hearst newspaper heiress Patty Hearst was kidnapped by domestic terrorists in 1974, he had a telephone jack installed on a tree outside the Hearst estate gates so reporters could conduct live remote broadcasts throughout the months-long drama.

** It was while Norm consulted Bonneville’s Kansas City station KMBZ in the early ’80s that he encountered Rush Limbaugh, who had recently been a public relations exec for the Kansas City Royals. Rush’s opinionated radio commentaries often made KMBZ’s conservative Mormon owners nervous. Norm counseled Rush and helped to focus his talents -- and even advised him on his wardrobe and other trappings of the potential stardom Norm envisioned. In 1984, Norm recommended Rush to Group W’s Sacramento station as a replacement for the recently-fired Morton Downey, Jr. Four years later, EFM Media and WABC/ New York combined to bring Limbaugh east and, soon, to the nation.

** Norm was involved with “satellite radio” decades before the arrival of Sirius and XM. In 1979, his consulting firm initiated a pioneering nationwide project to find acceptable sites for hundreds of satellite receiving dishes for affiliates of the Mutual Broadcasting System. Mutual was the first network to phase out expensive telephone lines and opt for delivering programming to stations via satellite, beginning in the early ’80s.

** Norm’s consulting company, The Woodruff Organization, consulted several news and talk radio stations owned by Gannett, Bonneville, Combined Communications, Mutual, Group W and included broadcast properties KIRO, Seattle, Wash., KXRX, San Jose, Calif., KCBS & KXLU, both of San Francisco, Calif., The Woodruff Organization also operated Woodruff Pacific Network, which provided daily newscasts to West Coast-only radio stations as well as “Coast to Coast,” one of the first independently syndicated radio talk shows. The company had a small radio station of its own, in Fortuna , California .

** Norm took news and ethics very seriously, but refused to take himself as seriously. When he and several friends bought a communal mini-yacht, they dubbed it the “HMS Pretense.” When the group pooled a small airplane, they labeled it “TWA” -- Teeny-Weeny Airlines.

** When you hear Rush Limbaugh refer to “adult beverages,” that’s a “Woodruff-ism” that Rush picked up. Rush even says it in the same theatrical way Norm said it. It’s not known if Norm ever referred to Jesse Jackson the way Rush does (“The….REVerand….JACKson”), but that’s the way Norm would have done it if he was in the mood to take a poke.

Norman Woodruff passed away December 2, 1987 at the age of 48.

 

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