If you’ve ever wanted to find solace in a piece of journalism, lend your eyes to the lovable Steve Hartman of CBS Evening News. He’s a reporter who currently, and has for many years now, travels around America in search of moving stories on his weekly feature, “On the Road,” which airs on Friday nights. His series is based on the segment of the same name by Charles Kuralt, a late newsman.
I came across his show one night on the couch with tea in hand. Scott Pelley said, “And now, another special journey for Steve Hartman, “˜On the Road,'” and then the clip rolled. I heard Steve Hartman’s friendly voice on the screen and was hooked. His interviews start off with people who appear ordinary, but turn out to be much more than that.
Hartman crafts interviews such that the outcome is unexpected. There’s the story of a corrupt ex-cop who now works at the same diner as the man he wrongly arrested “” the two have become great friends through a long process of forgiveness. There’s Chris Rosati, a marketing executive who quit his job after being diagnosed with ALS and spent as many of his dwindling days giving away free donuts with his daughters to their community as he could. There’s Charles Evans, who created a museum of love for his deceased wife that contains photos and memorabilia plastered over the walls of his house to celebrate their 60 years of marriage. There’s the man who walked up and down Anderson, South Carolina with a “Need Kidney 4 Wife” sign over his chest in search of a donor for his dying wife. And there’s the little girl who adopted a duckling and, three years later, has a beaked best friend named Snowflake with a diaper who accompanies her to sleepovers and soccer games. These are just a few of the hundreds of stories Steve Hartman has found residing in the heart of America.
Hartman has these warm puppy-dog eyes that smile naturally. He chuckles often and creates a comfortable area for people to divulge their tales. He gets to the root of things, and evokes empathy every time he does. Somehow he manages to portray the friendliness of people in ways that feel so inspiring. Each segment is like a three-minute fairy tale that can take you to the pits of despair and then deliver a wonderful, heartwarming conclusion. Seeking meaning and finding hope is so generously communicated through these interviews that it’s hard not to watch without teary eyes. I’m pretty sure I’ve caught Scott Pelley regain his composure before he signs off for the night after “On the Road” airs.
What I love about “On the Road” is that it seeks out the goodness of the American people. Each segment leaves me feeling more restored in humanity, encourages me to be more understanding and nourishes the warm, fuzzy portion of the human soul, not in a cheesy, fake kind of way, but in a real way that only a viewer and an earnest reporter can know is true. This is the America I wish got more coverage, the America that I wish wasn’t just aired nationally once a week.
In an age when the famous are asked for guidance and advice, maybe we should look around to find who else knows a thing or two.