- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 16, 2001

LOS ANGELES — Talk to Roger Mudd about gold, and soon you'll find yourself discussing other subterranean commodities, including diamonds, silver and tulip bulbs, which were so valued in 17th-century Holland that just one of them could make up the dowry of a rich man's daughter.

Mr. Mudd is the anchor for the History Channel's "History Alive" series, which is presenting "Gold" — a four-hour miniseries that explores the greed and exploitation surrounding the estimated 130,000 to 140,000 tons of gold mined since antiquity.

The miniseries will be presented in four segments: "The Gold Wars," "Gold Fever," "The Stuff of Dreams" and "Cold Hard Cash."

The segments will air Tuesday through Aug. 24 at 9 p.m.

Mr. Mudd, 73, has been with the History Channel, a division of A&E Television Networks, since its inception six years ago. During that time, it has grown from 1 million subscribers to 73 million in the United States and 124 million worldwide.

Abbe Raven, executive vice president and general manager of the History Channel, first approached Mr. Mudd when "we just had a vision of what we hoped the channel would be."

Miss Raven knew of the many events Mr. Mudd had covered in his long career at CBS, NBC and PBS. She called him, and he arranged to call back the next day.

By that time, she found that he not only had done his homework about plans for the project, but "it was no longer me telling him, but him interviewing me."

She loves his dry humor and his "ability to communicate in such a precise way."

His association gave the History Channel instant credibility, she says, describing Mr. Mudd as "a remarkable storyteller" — the perfect conduit for the cable network's stated goal of "making the past come alive, making it exciting."

He also has been the host of the 1998 series "Great Minds of American History," for which he did all the research and conducted the interviews.

"The idea of doing history on television always attracted me," Mr. Mudd says in a telephone interview from his home in Virginia.

Most television doesn't do history, he says, because "the cycle is such that there isn't time to go back and look at things; it's always on to the next deadline."

He says his fears with television are always that "the picture will be the tail that wags the dog — that pictures dictate the flow and angle and emphasis."

"I'm happier at the History Channel than I ever was toward the end of my time at commercial television, where values got so skewed," he says. "Standards got lower and lower."

To fulfill his duties as the host of "History Alive," Mr. Mudd watches the edited programs, takes many notes and uses the resources of research libraries and the Internet. Then he travels to New York City to record the introductions.

The task is straightforward.

"What you are trying to do in 45 to 50 seconds is to get people ready for what is coming so they understand the context of the next hour and prepare them to think about what is coming so it doesn't take them by surprise. And then at the end, you try some little summary, or you might fill in some blank that the documentary didn't cover."

He's fascinated by the era between the Civil War and World War I, which he says has been overlooked by historians.

Mr. Mudd, who has a master's degree in history from the University of North Carolina, is on the board of the Virginia Historical Society.

Presidential politics, though, is his area of greatest expertise — firsthand knowledge gleaned from his long career.

During his 19 years at CBS, he was congressional and national affairs correspondent.

Later, at NBC, he was chief Washington correspondent and chief political correspondent as well as co-anchor of the "Nightly News" before he moved on after seven years to bring his expertise to "The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour" on PBS.

Mr. Mudd began his career as a summer replacement on the rewrite desk of the Richmond News Leader.

When not working, he likes to spend time with his wife, Emma Jeanne, and their extended family, which includes 11 grandchildren.

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