Mount Airy — aka “Mayberry” — will be in the national spotlight this coming weekend via a report by veteran journalist Ted Koppel on the “CBS News Sunday Morning” program.
A segment on the city is to be part of the one-hour show that begins at 9 a.m. Sunday on Channel 2, the area CBS-TV network affiliate in Greensboro.
Koppel visited Mount Airy in June to gather material for the report, meeting with local government and other officials along with special residents including Betty Lynn, who played Thelma Lou on “The Andy Griffith Show.”
It had been unclear as to when the segment would appear on “CBS News Sunday Morning,” a long-running series presently hosted by Jane Pauley with content including news, features and commentary. Dustin Stephens, a producer for the program, recently disclosed that it was scheduled for some time after Labor Day, yet the exact date was unknown.
The answer came during last Sunday’s broadcast of the show, when Pauley announced that next week, “Ted Koppel pays a visit to Mayberry.” The promo for the upcoming telecast was accompanied by the familiar whistled theme music from “The Andy Griffith Show” and scenes outside the Mayberry Replica Courthouse on South Main Street.
It also included footage of Randy Collins, the president and CEO of the Greater Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce, being interviewed by Koppel — with Collins saying that “Mayberry is fictitious and everyone knows that” as the promo ended.
“We spoke a long time,” Collins said Monday of the exchange with Koppel, 81, whose journalistic career began in 1963 and is best known for his time as the anchor of the “Nightline” late-evening news program on the ABC network.
Now that the air date is known, a lingering question mark surrounds the tone of the Mount Airy/Mayberry spot.
The gist of that segment supposedly involves how an idea or concept such as Mayberry is being represented in a small town such as Mount Airy in modern times, Collins said Monday. This is based on the line of questioning from Koppel and the topics explored, he added.
“Of course, you never know how something will be edited and all that,” the chamber official said while pointing out that it is anyone’s guess as to what the final product entails.
“We hope it will be a positive for the community,” Collins said of himself and other interested parties locally. “I’m optimistic.”
During an interview with The Mount Airy News while here in June, Koppel said one focus of the segment would involve exploring the continuing popularity of “The Andy Griffith Show” and the future prospects for that given its aging fan base.
He also asked about the nature of local politics, which Stephens, the producer, has said would be part of the modern Mayberry report.
Collins said he tried to emphasize to Koppel during his interview that while Mayberry is a mythical place, the small-town values it highlights are what is really important.
“Whatever people think of Mayberry, we try to live it out here,” the chamber official said of the message he sought to impress upon Koppel.