Andy Rooney

In 1967 I managed to get into China during the Cultural Revolution to film a documentary. When I got back, I got a telegram from Andy Rooney, who died Nov. 4 at 92. It was a really sweet, generous accolade, and I met him the next day for the first time. As a writer, he had a remarkable eye for finding that one word or one detail that resonates with a large audience. That really was his gift--the ability to write or speak to people--that struck a chord, even if they disagreed with him.

When most of us write, there's a...