Bill's Eye: Cousin Julian

Jul 4, 2012

One of the best pieces of career and life advice I ever received came from my cousin Julian Goodman, a journalist and former president of NBC, who died July 2 at his home in Florida. He told me to go home.

Julian had been made president of the network in 1965. He had begun his journalism career years earlier in our hometown of Glasgow, earning $3 a week as a reporter for the Daily Times. After serving in the Army, he moved to Washington and began working for the night news desk at NBC News. It was there Julian met another reporter named David Brinkley.

Julian didn’t stay on the news desk long. He quickly rose through the ranks to become executive vice-president of the news division and was responsible for pairing Brinkley with Chet Huntley to cover the 1956 Democratic and Republican conventions. The two went on to anchor the nightly news for more than a decade and to do battle with their rival at CBS, Walter Cronkite.

As network president, Julian negotiated a million dollar contract with Johnny Carson, became a target of the Nixon administration, and took pride in his staunch defense of the First Amendment.

In my early 20s, having worked in radio and completed most of my communications course work at Western Kentucky University, I felt like I was ready for the big time. My cousins had worked as interns at NBC. I thought it was time for my job interview with Cousin Julian.

A friend and I drove to New Jersey, parked, and caught a Greyhound into Manhattan, where we checked into our accommodations at the YMCA. Thirty Rockefeller Plaza loomed as tall as Mt. Everest as I made my way up to the top floor and Julian’s office.

He greeted me warmly, asked about my mom and dad and the latest news from Glasgow. He couldn’t have been nicer. I don’t recall if I ever got the nerve to actually ask him for a job at NBC; I do remember he very graciously suggested I return to Kentucky, finish college, get a job and work my way back to New York.

I left his beautifully decorated office, overlooking skyscraper after skyscraper, knowing at least I had tried.

Julian was 90 and died in Juno Beach, Florida, where he lived after retiring as chairman of NBC’s board in 1979.