Charles Osgood will end his daily radio program, “The Osgood File,” by the end of the year, and also wrap network broadcasting’s longest running career.
In a statement released to stations Thursday, Osgood said, “Although I was very much looking forward to continuing to see you on the radio, unfortunately my health and doctors will now not allow it. So I will retire from ‘The Osgood File’ and radio at the end of the year with great appreciation for all the success we’ve had together.” Osgood stepped away as host of CBS News’ “Sunday Morning” in 2016.
The announcement was unexpected, given that Osgood — who turns 85 early next month — had recently signed a new contract with the distributor of his program, Westwood One.
In a phone interview on Friday, Osgood said, “I have two different kinds of cancer, and have had them treated at Sloan Kettering. I think they’re doing well, or should say they’re not getting worse. But I do find at my age there is a time for all things to come to an end.”
He also said that by the first of the year, he would lose access to the CBS News resources which have long been a part of the four-minute-long program. Of the 80 shows per month he was under contract to produce, “you have to write them and time then out and look for source material, and at this point, I’m not able to use CBS anymore.”
He said, ”I just had this very strong feeling I was not going to enjoy this next year and my wife, who is pretty sensitive to these things, said ‘you’ve done this long enough.’ ” He noted that he had also recently received an Emmy Lifetime Achievement award, “and I’m like, well, I think they’re trying to tell you something. ‘Alright already — you’ve got your award . . .’”
Essentially an institution unto himself, Osgood has worked in television and radio for 60 years. No one else currently on the air comes close. “The Osgood File” — a four-times daily commentary on life, culture or the news — has aired for nearly 50 years, although an antecedent program at ABC aired long before the CBS version.
For many of those years, “File” has been a model of concision but especially a reflection of a distinctive personality. When Osgood has said — as he has countless times — that “I’ll see you on the radio,” he has meant that almost literally. With a basso voice that enunciates every participle within every word, Osgood himself seemed to emerge from the radio. And while the rest of the media world drifted to more glamorous or profitable distribution models, Osgood happily remained in the relative backwater of commercial network radio.
Born in New York, Osgood began his radio career at Fordham’s WFUV — with which he still maintains ties — and after graduation worked for classical music stations in Washington, D.C. (and later worked as master of ceremonies for the United States Army Band.) He began the TV career in 1962, at a Hartford, CT station, and joined ABC Network Radio the following year. He began the long run at CBS in 1967, first as a drive-time anchor/reporter WCBS (am).
“The Osgood File” had its start at ABC, albeit under a different name. Osgood said that CBS Radio had made a pitch to hire his colleague Ted Koppel but Koppel declined, and recommended that it hire Osgood instead.
Osgood had a voice for radio, but a face for TV too, and after joining CBS News in 1971, became a weekend anchor, then a morning one, while subbing for various other broadcasts. At “Sunday Morning,” he replaced another legend, Charles Kuralt, in 1994.
Osgood conceded that his 22-year run at “Sunday Morning” did not end well. His contract was not renewed by the network, in part, he said, because his interests and those of CBS News had begun to diverge. “They wanted us to do more politics and my own feeling is that the ratings were so good because people don’t like politics. It gets to be very annoying.”
A spokeswoman for Westwood One said Osgood’s last “File” will air Friday, Dec. 29.
In a statement, Suzanne Grimes, president of Westwood One, said, “We congratulate Charlie on his tremendous career and thank him for his numerous contributions to Westwood One and our industry.”