The Broadcasting Board of Governors today paid tribute to David Burke, the first chairman of the agency’s governing board and a veteran news executive, who died late last week at age 78.
“David Burke was a media giant and a leading figure in advancing freedom of the press worldwide,” said Jeff Shell, the BBG’s current chairman. “His name is synonymous with journalistic excellence. And he is remembered in the hallways of our agency as an inspirational figure.”
President Bill Clinton named Burke to chair the first BBG board in 1995; he served as its chairman until 1998. He was known for staunchly defending the journalistic integrity and independence of the agency. Each year, the BBG honors high achievement with the David Burke Distinguished Journalism Award, which recognizes courage, integrity, and professionalism of individuals in reporting the news among the five BBG-supported networks. The board announced this year’s Burke Award winners earlier this month.
“David brought out the best in the people who answered to him, along with his colleagues on the Board,” said former U.S. Ambassador Tom Korologos, a member of the bipartisan BBG board who served with Burke from 1995 until 2001. “He provided steady guidance as the agency went through some important transitions in its initial years.”
Former U.S. Senator Ted Kaufman, who served on the Board from 1995 to 2008, said, “David was a great leader and uncompromising in his commitment to the firewall between the U.S. government and the agency’s news operations, and to the independence of all BBG journalists.”
Burke brought significant expertise in broadcast journalism to his role at the BBG. He was named vice president of ABC News in 1977 and went on to serve as executive vice president. He is credited with an instrumental role in launching several of the network’s best-known news programs, including “20/20” and “Nightline.” After ABC, he served as the head of CBS News from 1988-1990, overseeing coverage of some of the biggest international stories at the time, among them the Tienanmen Square protests and the first Gulf War.
Before his news career, Burke worked for Senator Edward M. Kennedy, first as a legislative aide in 1963 and later as chief of staff. He joined the administration of New York Governor Hugh Carey in 1971.
Burke graduated from Tufts University and earned a Masters of Business Administration at the University of Chicago. He is survived by his wife of 55 years, Trixie, five children and 10 grandchildren.