Off Beat: Newsman has scoop on 'Mary Tyler Moore Show'

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photoFormer broadcaster Howard Gingold, right

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Howard Gingold was part of a celebration of writing a few days ago at the Clark County Historical Museum.

The veteran Los Angeles newsman was there to provide some insights into journalism. It wasn't the first time his professional world was opened up to outsiders.

In an earlier example, the setting was the news operation of KNXT television in Los Angeles. And the guys checking out the newsroom were in the process of creating "The Mary Tyler Moore Show."

"Two producers came in and hung around for a while to get a sense of how things worked," he said.

As Gingold recalled during the recent museum event, "Mary's aunt was the late Bertie Hackett, who was KNXT's business manager at the time.

"I don't remember much about the producers' visit, probably because they were pretty discreet about their presence," said Gingold, who moved from the Los Angeles Times to the L.A. television station, which now is KCBS.

"Our 6 p.m. newscast — 'The Big News' — had already established itself as the first one-hour TV news shows anywhere and was chalking up huge ratings," Gingold said.

Volunteer of the year

Gingold has been staying busy in his retirement as editor of the Clark County Historical Society's annual publication. He recently was honored as the museum's volunteer of the year.

As far as tracing the roots of characters on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" goes, "Ted Baxter supposedly was patterned after Jerry Dunphy. However, another anchor at another station could have fit the bill."

Murray Slaughter, the writer in the fictional newsroom, likely was based on Mike Daniels, Gingold said. Of all the people on the show, Murray and KNXT's Daniels were the closest match, Gingold said.

"We also had probably the first female TV reporter anywhere, Ruth Ashton Taylor, who had started in the business as an assistant to Ed Murrow. Whether Mary's role was patterned after her, I don't know," Gingold said.-- Tom Vogt

Off Beat lets members of The Columbian news team step back from our newspaper beats to write the story behind the story, fill in the story or just tell a story.