Edwin Newman’s death at age 91 is not the end of an era. The broadcast news era that produced Newman ended long ago, as you may have noticed in most of the news programs you watch on television and, particularly, on cable. Newman worked for NBC News. He was of a generation of broadcast news people the best of whom applied the values of the wire services and newspapers where they learned the craft of journalism. He was a splendid reporter who functioned as one of NBC’s most productive, versatile and wise correspondents. He anchored newscasts, delivered commentaries and wrote and hosted documentaries. In his radio and television broadcasts, Newman often devoted segments to defending the correct use of the language and to witty, if unyielding, criticism of its butchery by those who should know better. He was disturbed by what he saw as the deterioration of the average American’s ability to be articulate. He delighted in telling about the man he once interviewed whose answer to a question was, “Well, y’know, you never know, y’know?”
A few video clips exist of Ed Newman at work. YouTube has a series of pieces from the documentary he did about the 1964 World’s Fair in New York and a few audio segments of his interviews with Marshall McLuhan about language. I thought about showing you one of those lighter pieces, but decided to instead use the commentary Newman delivered on the day in 1963 when President Kennedy was assassinated. The elegance of his language and the clarity of his thought are as vivid and pertinent now as they were 47 years ago.
Edwin Newman, RIP
Richard Kamins says
Mr. Newman was a real “newsman” and this is a splendid tribute – his “lectures” on language still reverberate today.
Brian Hope says
Thank you for that, I , of course was expecting jazz comments, but have benefitted from that mightily.
JFK’s murder affected my generation greatly here in the U.K., we couldn’t believe it either, and it shattered what we thought of as a dream come true. Although we were very aware of the actions of his father in W.WQ.2, we thought that JFK, faults and all, heralded a political change to a younger generation. Too bad, the younger ones around now are only a PR presentation fronting the old school, but it was wonderful to listen to such a concise and precise presentation, devoid of “passion” but not emotion, full of universally understandable language, honesty and concentration on reality.
Charlton Price says
This was almost 50 years ago. What has changed in our violence-laced, ill-informed, vainglorious national “community”? We — most of us, and our children — paused briefly that November of ’63 to wonder what had come over us, that such a thing could happen. But assassinations and similar outbursts of violence had happened many times before, and have happened since. Doug’s posting of Ed Newman’s comments forces us to admit that not much has changed.
Svetlana Ilicheva says
I clearly remember the shock we all experienced here having learned of the assasination of president Kennedy. Though the relations between the USSR and the US were not very friendly we took the tragic event very close to heart.I am afraid the world has not changed for the better since then of which we have many a proof.
I think it is useful to remind people of the past events. We forget too soon…