You can put ABC’s Bob Woodruff in the pantheon that includes Jerry Lewis, Mary Tyler Moore, Edward R. Murrow, Oprah Winfrey and President Ronald Reagan. This morning, the ABC News anchor received the NAB Distinguished Service Award during the 2016 NAB Show in Las Vegas.
Woodruff’s ABC News colleague Martha Raddatz introduced a moving video tribute, which began with a picture of a college-aged Woodruff wearing too-short shorts.
During his acceptance speech, he thanked his friend, but added, “Why the hell did you lead the story with those disco shorts? They say everything that happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, so please don’t broadcast those shorts again,” Woodruff implored the roomful of broadcasters.
Woodruff said he never aspired “to be in TV.” After beginning his career in corporate law, he and his wife Lee moved to Beijing, where Woodruff taught law. The Tienanmen Square uprising proved to be his inspiration for journalism.
“I was fascinated with putting the words together with the pictures,” he said. “The transition from writing legal docs to 2-minute TV pieces was certainly not easy.” After an inauspicious start at his first TV job in Redding, CA — his landlady called his first live shot “terrible” — Woodruff rose fast through the ranks, joining ABC News in 1996.
10 years ago, then newly installed as World News Tonight anchor, Woodruff and his cameraman Doug Vogt were seriously injured when an IED exploded as they reported from Taji, Iraq.
Not long after the accident Woodruff said his 12-year-old daughter Cathryn came into the room where he was recovering. “My head was swollen, my face was a mess. She stared talking to me, told me about her day. She kissed me and a tear came out of my good eye. This was the very first piece of evidence that her dad was still there.”
Woodruff and his wife Lee co-wrote a bestselling memoir, In an Instant, which chronicles how the family persevered. The Bob Woodruff Foundation has raised more than $30 million for hundreds of military and veterans programs and nearly two million service members.
Woodruff continues to report for ABC News, though he’s cautious about where he goes. “Wars do follow me around, so I have to be careful,” he said.