Alan Kaul

Posted by - - 1960s, Visionaries

In 1985, Alan Kaul, ’64, provided a first-hand report of the violence in Lebanon for Whitworth’s alumni magazine. At the time, he was the bureau chief-producer for NBC News in Jordan. He described the daily violence as civil war raged between Palestinians and Israelis, Christians and Muslims, leaving civilians to suffer the aftermath. “The editor has asked me for conclusions, but my training has prepared me not to reach any – to present the facts and let the reader decide,” he wrote. “But what must be said about this place is that after 10 years of fighting, there is no liberty and justice for anyone – let alone for all. . . . What can be said of a nation where some of the simplest things Americans take for granted are missing? Where the driver who has the right of way in traffic is the one who is armed? With those options to choose among, what kind of life can anyone live?”

Kaul was born and raised in Spokane, and he studied history and journalism at Whitworth. After graduating, he began his television career at KREM-TV, in Spokane. He moved to Seattle, where he produced evening broadcasts for KING-TV and earned a master’s degree in communications at the University of Washington. Kaul moved to Los Angeles in the 1970s and began his 33-year career with NBC News, for whom he produced the evening news and a medical show for KNBC.

In 1979, Kaul added “technical advisor” and “film actor” to his résumé when he was hired by director James Bridges to consult on The China Syndrome, starring Jane Fonda, Michael Douglas and Jack Lemmon. Kaul wrote, edited and produced all of Fonda’s news copy in the movie, which deals with a nuclear reactor and a television station squelching news of the story. Kaul also played a bit part as broadcast director.

In 1980 Kaul became the West Coast producer for NBC Nightly News with anchor Tom Brokaw. Kaul covered the 1979-81 U.S. hostage crisis in Iran, the 1980 presidential campaign, national political conventions, and several Olympic Games. After working in Jordan beginning in 1985, he returned to Los Angeles in 1990. Three years before his death, in 2007, Kaul, an amateur radio operator, worked on the documentary Amateur Radio Today, with former CBS anchorman Walter Cronkite, covering the role of ham radio during emergencies.

Before the advent of the 24-hour news cycle and the rise of cable networks, Kaul spoke to a Whitworth audience in 1982 about working in television news. “News is a series of judgment calls,” he said. “We can’t get it all on – we’re limited by time, resources, logistics.” But Kaul also envisioned a not-too-distant future when that wouldn’t be the case, as audiences diversified and found news amid hundreds of channels. “Technology has mushroomed,” he said, “and the sky’s the limit.”