Ken Bode, Erudite ‘Washington Week’ Host on PBS, Dies at 83
Ken Bode, a bearded, bearish former political aide and television correspondent who, armed with a Ph.D. in politics, moderated the popular PBS program “Washington Week in Review” in the 1990s, died Thursday in Charlotte, NC. He was 83.
His death, at a care center, was confirmed by his daughters, Matilda and Josie Bode, who said the cause had not been determined.
From 1994, Mr. Bode (pronounced BO-dee) conviviality and know-how leading a Friday night discussion among a rotating panel of reporters about the issues of the day coming out of Washington. His role, as he saw it, was to “bring in people who are really breaking the news to clear their notebooks and provide perspective, not to argue with each other,” he told The Washington Post in 1999.
Hosting the program, now called “Washington Week,” he succeeded Paul Duke, who had led the roundtable of polite talking heads for 20 years, and preceded Gwen Ifill, a former NBC News correspondent who turned 61 in 2016. age died. , which debuted in 1967, is billed as television’s longest-running prime time news and public affairs program. The current host is Yamiche Alcindor.
The program’s loyal and generally older viewers were so addicted to the program in the 1990s that when Mr. Bode took over, even his beard proved to be controversial. He went on to introduce videotaped segments and remote interviews with correspondents and brought more diversity to his panel of reporters.
He also took more liberties with language than his predecessor.
At the end of an interview with Bob Woodward of The Washington Post about President Bill Clinton’s economic policies, Mr. Bode quoted a British newspaper’s snappy prediction that the president’s imminent visit to Oxford, England, would give people the chance to “focus on one of the lesser-known organs: his brain.” He described a vacancy in the Supreme Court as “one-ninth of a third in government”.
Still, Dalton Delan, then the newly minted executive vice president of WETA in Washington, which continues to produce the program, wanted to bolster the format. He suggested incorporating college journalists, surprise guests, and people-on-the-street interviews and replacing Mr. Bode with Ms. Ifill (she said she initially turned down the offer)—changes that prompted Mr. Bode to jump, or not having been pushed so gently, from the host’s chair in 1999.
Kenneth Adlam Bode was born on March 30, 1939 in Chicago and grew up in Hawarden, Iowa. His father, George, had a dairy farm and then a dry cleaning business. His mother, June (Adlam) Bode, kept the books.
The first member of his family to attend college, Mr. Bode studied philosophy and government at the University of South Dakota, graduating in 1961. He then earned a doctorate in political science from the University of North Carolina, where he was active. in the civil rights movement.
He taught briefly at Michigan State University and the State University of New York at Binghamton, before being drawn to liberal politics.
In 1968, Mr. Bode served in the presidential campaigns of Senators Eugene McCarthy and George S. McGovern. He became director of research for a Democratic Party committee led by Mr. McGovern and Representative Donald M. Fraser of Minnesota, which advocated reforms in the selection process for delegates to the 1972 Democratic National Convention. He later led a liberal-oriented organization called the Center for Political Reform.
His marriage to Linda Yarrow ended in divorce. In 1975, he married Margo Hauff, a high school social science teacher who wrote and designed educational materials for children with learning disabilities. He is survived by her, in addition to their daughters, as well as by a brother and two grandsons.
After working in politics, Mr. Bode began writing for The New Republic in the early 1970s and became its political editor. He moved to NBC News in 1979, encouraged by the network’s newsman, Tom Brokaw, a friend from college, and eventually became the network’s national political correspondent. In that role, he hosted “Bode’s Journal,” a weekly segment of the “Today” show, which explored issues such as voting rights violations, racial discrimination, and abuse of patronage, as his longtime producer Jim Connors recalled in an interview.
Mr. Bode left the network a decade later to teach at DePauw University in Indiana, where he founded the Center for Contemporary Media. While at DePauw, he commuted to Washington from 1989 to 1998 to host “Washington Week in Review” and wrote an Emmy-winning CNN documentary, “The Public Mind of George Bush” (1992).
Beginning in 1998, he was dean of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University for three years and remained a professor there until 2004.
Mr Bode said he retired from broadcast journalism for family reasons. “I raised my kids from 100 airports a year,” he said. As he told The New York Times in 1999, “I knew then my problem was, I have the best job, but I also have one chance to be a father, and I’m losing it.”