Robert Beers, 1946-2013

An award-winning television correspondent and producer-turned-academic has died

April 11, 2013

Robert Beers was born on 25 November 1946 in Seattle, Washington and studied for a BA in international relations, followed by an MSc in journalism and mass communication, at Florida State University. Much influenced by his uncle Bill Baggs, editor of The Miami Herald, he worked there as an intern during his summer holidays and cut his teeth on political news. He would go on to encourage his students to acquire similarly practical experience as soon as possible.

After university, Mr Beers began his career at CBS, working between 1972 and 1987 as a correspondent, producer and the youngest-ever bureau chief in Miami, with a particular focus on the Caribbean and Central and South America. Yet reporting assignments took him to more than 60 countries, including four papal trips with John Paul II and special reports from the Middle East. He would also cover several US elections, travelling aboard the presidential plane Air Force One and interviewing both Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan.

His success at CBS led Mr Beers in 1987 to take up the roles of executive vice-president and senior producer at Beber Silverstein Partners, a Miami- based advertising company that made many documentaries for PBS. He would later act as a consultant to the Gleaner newspaper group in Jamaica (2001- 02), the Bermuda Broadcasting Company and the BBC World Service (both 2003-04).

Mr Beers won more than 100 awards for his work, among them a New York International Film Festival gold medal for Lebanon: After the War, Before the Peace and an Emmy for a series of reports on Russia in transition. In 2004 he joined the University of Central Lancashire as course leader of the MA in international journalism.

“Like many journalists,” recalls Delwyn Swingewood, course leader of the MA in newspaper journalism at Uclan, “Robert had a mistrust of authority and spin, a dislike of bureaucracy and paperwork.” Although he was “a kind, gentle, down-to-earth man who adored travel, films and writers such as Steinbeck, Hemingway and Le Carré”, he was also a “consummate professional…admired and cherished by students who benefited from his wisdom, humour and insight. It is a fitting tribute that many [of his students] now work for media organisations all over the world.”

Mr Beers co-authored a chapter on UK television news in The Future of Journalism in the Advanced Democracies (edited by Peter Anderson and Geoff Ward, 2007).

He died unexpectedly in Istanbul on 11 February, where he was staying en route to India on business for Uclan, and is survived by his wife Melanie Francis, daughter Carrie, stepdaughter Freya and granddaughter Juliette.

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