C.J.: Hattie Kauffman knows the power of words

  • Article by: C.J. , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 2, 2013 - 4:54 PM

 

Who bet­ter than Hat­tie Kauff­man, the first A­mer­i­can Indian to re­port on a na­tion­al news­cast, to en­light­en Dan Snyder a­bout the BIG PROB­LEM with the name of his D.C.-ar­e­a NFL team.

Kauff­man, a U and WCCO-TV alum and mem­ber of the Nez Perce Tribe of Idaho, re­turned to the Twin Cities last month while on tour for her book “Fall­ing into Place: A Mem­oir of Over­com­ing.”

It’s a sad book a­bout her im­pov­er­ished upbring­ing. When I in­formed her that I no long­er read books a­bout chil­dren and women in per­il, Kauff­man, the mid­dle child of seven, stressed: “But it has a re­demp­tive as­pect. That’s a mes­sage that comes out of my book. We hung to­gether, we had like a sib­ling bond; by the end of my book I’m look­ing back at what had seemed hor­rible and it doesn’t seem so hor­rible. I see how we were pro­tect­ed. I see how our love kept us there. I pay trib­ute to a be­lov­ed aunt, who checked in on us.”

Kauff­man has been carry­ing these stor­ies around for a long time: “When I was 25 I wrote a table of con­tents, but it took an­oth­er 25 years be­fore I did an­y­thing.”

A mul­ti-Emmy win­ner, Kauffman was a special cor­res­pond­ent for ABC’s “Good Morn­ing Ameri­ca” before joining CBS, where she worked for near­ly 22 years until her departure in 2012. I re­mem­ber Kauff­man as the warm spot on the set during the rein­car­na­tion of the CBS morn­ing news show that in­clud­ed Paul­a Zahn. Kauffman reported from many CBS platforms including “CBS This Morn­ing,” “The Ear­ly Show,” “CBS Eve­ning News with Kat­ie Cou­ric” (and Dan Rather) and “48 Hours.” De­spite how Kauff­man ra­di­at­ed warmth to me, she said she didn’t be­come a tru­ly giv­ing, caring per­son un­til “my com­ing to God, my con­ver­sion ex­peri­ence.”

She talks a­bout it at length in the book, a­bout which she razzed me twice on vid­e­o for not read­ing.

When asked to make a pitch that might open the eyes and heart of the own­er of the team whose nick­name I stopped using in print in 1992, Kauffman said, “Well, I have to just cut in here for a se­cond be­cause ac­tu­al­ly the visu­al of the [form­er mas­cot of the Cleve­land] base­ball team is more of­fen­sive to me. That big grin­ning visu­al …” is repellent to Kauff­man, who can be seen re­coil­ing on my startribune.com/vid­e­o. The name of the D.C. NFL team, how­ever, wins the ver­bal con­test for of­fen­sive­ness. “Words,” said Kauff­man. “On the Wash­ing­ton team you have a team that’s named af­ter ‘skin,’ ” she said, hold­ing up the backs of her hands on cam­er­a. “Could you do that with any oth­er skin color in Ameri­ca?”

And it’s es­pe­cial­ly hurt­ful and dis­res­pect­ful that it’s OK to do so with the peo­ple I con­sider the Ori­gi­nal Ameri­cans.

 

 

Q What is some­thing you keep in a­bun­dance at your home be­cause of your im­pov­er­ished child­hood?

A Oooooh. Du­pli­cates. [Laugh­ter] I have to change that a­bout my­self. Hav­ing not had en­ough, you can get the sense that you’re nev­er going to have en­ough. So you get two of this. Some of that’s changed in re­cent years. I think part of it ac­tu­al­ly fueled a ca­reer. You know what it’s like to work in this busi­ness. It’s a com­peti­tive busi­ness, jour­nal­ism. Es­pe­cial­ly tel­e­vi­sion jour­nal­ism. When your face is on the air, some­bod­y else’s face is not on the air. El­bow­ing. Get out of the way, it’s mine. I think I had a lot of that be­cause of my child­hood, be­cause of the hun­ger and scar­ci­ty.

 

Q You are some­one who spent a lot of time try­ing to be liked, a mind-set that is for­eign to me and many reporters. What is something you once did to get some­bod­y to like you that you wouldn’t do to­day?

A Wow, that’s a good ques­tion. I was on my way to a sto­ry just as an ac­ci­dent on the free­way hap­pened. I thought this cam­er­a per­son I was work­ing with didn’t want to stop. That per­son said, We don’t need to do this, do we? I said, No, and yet once we got to our lo­ca­tion the ex­ec­u­tive pro­duc­er called and said, You stopped and got that didn’t you? You were right there. And we didn’t. That’s one tiny ex­am­ple that’s not going to hurt anybody’s feel­ings, I don’t think.

 

Q You’re still trying not to hurt feelings?

A There you go-o-o-o-o-o. You’re very good.

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