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Chappaqua Resident, Veteran Recalls Life in Army

CHAPPAQUA, N.Y. – For decades, Chappaqua resident Richard Berman traveled the globe, covering stories as a producer, writer and publicist for NBC and other companies. Before that, however, he was traveling the globe for a different reason.

As an Army Security Agency (ASA) member for the United States Army during the Vietnam War, Berman, 68, spent the early 1960s stationed between Italy, Germany and Massachussetts. Berman joined the ASA in 1962 because he was looking for work and already had a friend in the agency who helped Berman prepare for the qualifying tests. Being in the ASA kept Berman off the battlefield and was given top secret clearance.

“I think the reason I was not sent into harm’s way was the fact that, in high school, I was one of only two males who took a typing class,” said Berman. “At that time, typing was still more of a woman’s profession. And the Army needed typists, so going in there and being able to type, I was used in more of an administrative type of work.”

After leaving the ASA in 1965, Berman attempted to further those typing skills that came in so handy during the war. He joined a journalism trade school in Philadelphia, which was sponsored by the Ad Club. Each member of the school received their own individual sponsor, as well. Fascinated by television since he was a child, Berman decided to work with the one sponsor who had experience in that field.

“When I got out of the service, I called [my sponsor] and he got me a job in the ABC station in Philadelphia in the supply room,” said Berman. “I began writing news stories on my own out of the newspaper and bringing them to the news director who finally got so sick of me and hired me.”

From there, Berman bounced around from Grand Rapids and Miami, before winding up in New York in 1979, where he was soon hired by NBC. He moved quickly through the ranks, eventually becoming editor of the weekend Nightly News.

“I wrote the Nightly News for 12 years for the weekend, then during the week I would go around the country and then do feature stories,” said Berman. In 1991, Berman and NBC parted ways when he said General Electric began bringing in younger journalists, which he believes especially hurt the coverage of the Iraq War in 2004.

“I felt that the networks didn’t do their due dilligence in challenging the government in terms of whether they were really reporting fact,” said Berman. “When I was there, a lot of my colleagues were these old, crusty, blue-eyed Associated Press people, and they knew it was their job to do that. But, the networks had fired most of those people because they were the ones that had built up good benefits. There were just a lot of very young people who were overworked and didn’t realize it was their job to challenge.”

After NBC, Berman began to freelance his skills as a writer and publicist to other companies, including IBM, CNN and the Washington Post. Today, he is still freelancing those skills out of his Chappaqua residence as the president of his own PR agency, Berman & Associates.

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