Rome Hartman, Executive Producer and Emmy Award Winner

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
Default image

In 2007, Rome Hartman was hired by the British Broadcasting Company to develop and serve as executive producer of a new one-hour nightly newscast aimed at U.S. audiences. A multiple Emmy Award winner, Hartman was previously executive producer of the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric and a producer for 60 Minutes.

Rome, why did you agree to do this interview?

I have a policy of saying yes to just about anything Howard Butt and the folks at Laity Lodge ask me to do. I'd cut Howard's grass if I thought it would make him smile. Howard's Laity Lodge Leadership gatherings have been a real gift to me. They've helped me figure out what the higher calling of daily work means, and how to live it out.

So what have you learned about "glorifying God in your everyday life?"

I think God gave me the tools to be a journalist, and I hope in putting these skills to use, I'm honoring him. It's about trying to be good at what I do, whatever the professional setting, trying to treat people well, and trying to tell the truth. But we're all "works in progress," aren't we? I've met a few people in my life who do seem to naturally radiate God's grace. But for me, it's a never-ending journeyan aspiration that I fail at pretty regularly.

How difficult was it leaving CBS after not being able to move the Evening News out of 3rd place?

It's hard anytime results don't live up to expectations. And it's frustrating to see your efforts misunderstood. But it's a tough business. I knew that going in. It's also good to have a regular reminder: "Hey, you. Yes, you. Remember, you're not in control." I also felt a wonderful outpouring of affection and appreciation from friends and colleagues at the very moment that I was knocked off the high-wire. I really felt like during that time of professional loss, I was reaping what I had sown. There was one note that rang through some of the 500 emails I received that first day. People felt that I had cared about them, tried to help make them better, that I had served them in some way. That was cool for me to hear.

What have you learned about God in the midst of all that you have experienced in broadcast journalism?

I find God in the people he's createdin their smiles, their kindness, in their God-given gifts, in their passion to accomplish. My jobs have allowed me to meet thousands of fascinating, inspiring people. One of the first stories I did as a producer for 60 Minutes was a profile of Thoralf Sundt, who was a neurosurgeon at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. He was able to fix aneurisms in the brain that other doctors wouldn't touch. People came from around the world to see him after their doctors had said to them, "I'm sorry." Dr. Sundt would routinely fix them and save their lives. I remember thinking as I stood there in his operating room, this man has truly found what it is God had equipped him to do and is honoring God by doing it day in and day out.

Any other stories stand out in your memory that reflect the kind of person you are?

In 1996, I produced a story about a program called STRIVE. It's a three-week-long work-readiness training program, which attempts to prepare some of the hardest-to-employ people in the countryfolks with welfare, prison, and/or drugs in their pastfor the world of work. This was just as federal welfare reform was taking effect. We filmed for three weeks in a classroom in the basement of a housing project in Spanish Harlem. Every day, these folks with problems that would have kept me from even getting out of bed came down those steps ready to learn and to improve their lives and their kids' lives. I've never been more inspired and never seen God at work more directly.

You've been incredibly busy launching this new world news program for the BBC. How do you find the right balance for your spiritual life in the midst of everyday challenges that work and family bring?

I'm afraid that often I don't find the right balance. I've been meeting with a group of guys for almost 20 years. When we started out, we spent a lot of time talking and praying about this issue: work-life balance. All these years later, we're still talking about that. We'll never get it right, but we'll keep trying. It helps to have a wife who supports your professional aspirations, but can also give you regular reality checks when you let things get out of whack or lose perspective.

I worked in New York for two years while my family lived in Washington, DC. We handled it and stayed strong, but only since it's been over have we been able to reflect on how hard it was on all of us. Home is just where I'm needed, and my wife, Amy, is whom I'm meant to be with. That has become really clear to me. I'm home now. It's so nice to see Amy, to sleep in my bed. It's exciting to enter into that phase of life with both of our sons in college, to watch them grow and learn and find themselves and become men.

At this stage of lifehow thrilling it is to be engaged in providing a newscast at the BBC for an American audience?

It's an incredibly exciting opportunity, and a big challenge. The BBC is profoundly ambitious. It really does aspire to be the best, to cover the world better than any other organization. Americans need to know more about the world . . . to see smart and sophisticated coverage of places and people and issues and events all around the world. What could be better than to be in the middle of an effort to provide that?


One of the questions Rome Hartman has heard the most over the years from Christians is this: How do you manage to be a believer in the mainstream media? Here's just part of his answer from "Christ in the Workplace," a labor day sermon he delivered at Falls Church in 2007:

"I think that it's hard to be God's person or a follower of Christ no matter what one's profession. There's a current danger all of us face. We can choose to construct our lives now in such a way as to almost never see or hear or read about anything that we disagree with. We can find television and radio shows and newspapers and commentators and websites and blogsespecially websites and blogsthat all pretty much reinforce our view of the world. It's the function of technology and the marketplace. There's an explosion of media outlets of all kinds. But fewer and fewer of them aspire to offer diverse points of view or inspire to balance and objectivity. Instead they preach to the choir, reinforcing the viewpoints and sometimes the prejudices of the core audience and demonizing the other side. I think we need to resist the temptation to retreat into these information bubbles, where we only listen to those who reinforce our own point of view and tell us what we want to hear."