Student lucks out with Sully interview | February 13, 2009 | Danville Express | |

Danville Express

Newsfront - February 13, 2009

Student lucks out with Sully interview

Bonus high school story includes iconic Katie Couric

by Dolores Fox Ciardelli

When Danville's hero pilot Capt. Chesley Sullenberger III and his wife Lorrie granted their first interview to Katie Couric of CBS, they invited along a student journalist from Dougherty Valley High School in San Ramon.

Jega Sanmugam, 15, interviewed both the Sullenbergers and Couric at the Sullenberger home on Jan. 30.

"I was greatly honored and humbled when I was chosen to be the first person to interview Captain Sullenberger for a print article since the historic landing on the Hudson," wrote Sanmugam in the Feb. 7 special edition of the school newspaper, Wildcat Tribune.

"When '60 Minutes' first learned of the Caption and Lorrie's desire to offer an early interview to a student journalist, they not only embraced the idea, but further granted that young journalist an interview with Katie Couric about the current state of journalism," said Alex Clemens, Sullenberger family spokesman.

"I was pleased by Couric's down-to-earth, energetic and enthusiastic personality," wrote Sanmugam. "Her friendly and lively nature put me at ease and enabled me to have an open discussion with her."

He asked questions about her start in journalism and famous people she has interviewed. She told him the most memorable political leader she's interviewed was probably Ross Perot when he was running for president.

Sanmugam's stories can be found at the school's Web site:

Couric's interview with the pilot of US Airways Flight 1549 was aired on "60 Minutes" on Sunday night. Sullenberger, 58, spoke publicly for the first time about the event Jan. 15, recalling the loud thumps when the plane hit the birds, the engine failed, and he realized he might not make it to an airport.

"It was the worst, sickening, pit-of-your-stomach, falling-through-the-floor feeling I've ever felt in my life," he told Couric.

Sullenberger was feted by the Town of Danville three weeks ago at a celebration that drew 5,000 people. Sullenberger and his crew were also scheduled to appear on "Good Morning America," "World News Tonight," "Larry King Live" and the "Late Show with David Letterman."

CBS would not allow other journalists to interview the Sullenbergers prior to Couric's interview airing on "60 Minutes," so they were pleased when CBS agreed to include Sanmugam.