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Vocapedia > Media > Television


TV journalists, hosts, broadcasters,

shows, series, networks





Steve Sack


The Minneapolis Star-Tribune



24 May 2006


















My cousin Matheus fell asleep as he was eating dinner.


My stepdad, Cesar, in the background,

talks about how as a child he learned to be a fast eater

because the one who ate the fastest would eat the most tortillas.


In the background,

Matheus’s sister, Salara, ran around.


Photograph: Iaritza Menjivar


Honoring a Debt to Immigrant Parents


May. 11, 2016

















television        UK















television        USA












daytime TV        UK





podcast - Guardian podcast








Newton Norman Minow    1926-2023        USA


On May 9, 1961,

almost four months after

President Kennedy called upon Americans

to renew their commitment

to freedom around the globe,

Mr. Minow, a bespectacled bureaucrat

who had recently been put in charge

of the Federal Communications Commission,

got up before 2,000 broadcast executives

at a luncheon in Washington

and invited them to watch television

for a day.


“Stay there without a book, magazine, newspaper,

profit-and-loss sheet or rating book to distract you,

and keep your eyes glued to that set

until the station signs off,” Mr. Minow said.


“I can assure you

that you will observe a vast wasteland.”


The audience sat aghast as he went on:

“You will see a procession of game shows, violence,

audience participation shows, formula comedies

about totally unbelievable families,

blood and thunder, mayhem,

violence, sadism, murder,

Western bad men, Western good men,

private eyes, gangsters,

more violence and cartoons.


And endlessly, commercials

— many screaming, cajoling and offending.


And most of all, boredom.”


He added,

“If you think I exaggerate, try it.”










3-D television        USA










viewer        UK










TV        UK



















televised football        UK










football commentator        UK


john-motson-a-life-in-pictures - Guardian pictures gallery






















What The Hell Happened This Week?

Week of 12/05/2022    The Daily Show

10 December 2022





What The Hell Happened This Week? Week of 12/05/2022

Video    The Daily Show    10 December 2022


















USA > Late-night TV        UK























cable TV        USA






USA > cable news        UK






internet vs. television        UK






British TV        UK






small screen        UK






television and newspaper baron in Washington        USA






Public Broadcasting Service    PBS        USA






Death on TV: assisted suicide to be screened        UK        December 2008






prime-time TV















Terry (Michael Terence) Wogan    UK    1938-2016        UK


Hugely popular radio and TV broadcaster

loved for the wry sense of humour he brought

to his Radio 2 show, Blankety Blank

and the Eurovision Song Contest













Michael Gordon King    USA    1948-2015        USA


Michael King (...)

with his brother transformed King World Productions,

a modest company they inherited from their father,

into a syndicator of television megahits

like “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” “Jeopardy!”

and “Wheel of Fortune”




On a typical day in the late 1980s,

90 million people watched at least one

of the company’s three biggest shows

— “Wheel of Fortune,” “Jeopardy!”

and “The Oprah Winfrey Show.”











Peggy Charren    USA    1928-2015        USA


 (born Peggy Sandelle Walzer)


Peggy Charren ('s) advocacy

of higher-minded television programming for children

took the issue to government agencies

and the halls of Congress

and led to landmark legislation











toddlers and TV        UK

















ratings        UK






TV / broadcasting pioneer > Frank Stanton        USA





TV producer
























Paul James O'Grady    UK    1955-2023

TV presenter and comedian


Born in Birkenhead in 1955,

O’Grady moved to London in his 20s

and worked as a social worker for Camden council.


By 1978,

he was developing his drag act Lily Savage

in gay clubs,

basing the loud-mouthed single mother

and occasional sex worker on female relatives.


O’Grady came to mainstream attention in 1991

when he was nominated for the Perrier award,

the UK’s most prestigious comedy prize,

and began appearing on radio and television as himself.


O’Grady retired Savage

– to “a convent in Brittany” – in 2004.


During his career,

he hosted Bafta-winning talkshow The Paul O’Grady Show,

Blankety Blank,

celebrity gameshow Paul O’Grady’s Saturday Night Line Up

and the reboot of Blind Date,

taking over the reins from the show’s long-running presenter

and his close friend Cilla Black, who died in 2015.


























Rob Rogers



July 17, 2016
























cover        USA










coverage        USA










news broadcasts        USA










mainstream news        USA










USA > news        UK


























Anne Patricia Beatts    USA    1947-2021


Anne Beatts (...) wrote for “Saturday Night Live”

from its beginning in 1975 until 1980,

a raucous, innovative period that established the show

as a central feature of the American cultural landscape




Ms. Beatts had written

for National Lampoon and other outlets

when the producer Lorne Michaels signed her

for a new late-night sketch show to be aired live

on NBC on Saturdays.


“I was lucky that when Lorne Michaels

came looking for women comedy writers

there weren’t too many in New York at the time,”

she told The Orange County Register in 2013.

“I was at the top of a very short list.”


The show’s early years featured cast members

who quickly became household names,

like Gilda Radner, Chevy Chase and John Belushi.


The show’s writers often worked in pairs,

and Ms. Beatts frequently wrote with Rosie Shuster,

creating sketches like the “Nerds” series,

which featured Lisa Loopner (Ms. Radner)

and Todd DiLaMuca (Bill Murray),

a spectacularly awkward couple.























Ms. Morris in 1975 at WBBM-TV in Chicago,

where she worked on daily sports reports,

produced series and documentaries

and hosted a show with her husband

and the football coach Mike Ditka.


Photograph: Chicago Sun-Times


Jeannie Morris, Trailblazing Chicago Sportscaster, Dies at 85

She was a rare woman in broadcast sports journalism

when she began her career in the late 1960s,

but she helped pave the way for the many women who followed.


Published Dec. 24, 2020

Updated Dec. 25, 2020    11:55 a.m. ET
















Alice Jean Myers    1935-2020

— known first as A.J., then Jeannie —


Trailblazing Chicago Sportscaster


She was a rare woman

in broadcast sports journalism

when she began her career

in the late 1960s,

but she helped pave the way

for the many women who followed.


















Michael Valentine (Val) Doonican    1927-2015


singer and instrumentalist


Val Doonican


had a string of middle-of-the-road hits

and was at the heart of family

weekend television viewing

in the 1960s and 70s.


With an easygoing, homely charm

that enchanted middle England,

he sang and played

through two decades of his own TV show

and more than 60 years in show business.











Joe Franklin    1926-2015    USA


Joe Franklin


became a New York institution

by presiding over

one of the most compellingly

low-rent television programs in history,

one that even he acknowledged

was an oddly long-running parade

of has-beens and yet-to-bes

interrupted from time to time

by surprisingly famous guests











Dominick George Pardo    1918-2014    USA


Don Pardo


literally introduced television viewers

to some of America’s biggest stars

and soon-to-be-stars

as the longtime announcer

for “Saturday Night Live”











Joyce Brothers (born Joyce Diane Bauer)    1927-2013    USA


former academic psychologist who,

long before Drs. Ruth, Phil and Laura,

was counseling millions over the airwaves











Robert Lewis Teague    1929-2013    USA


Bob Teague


joined WNBC-TV in New York in 1963

as one of the city’s

first black television journalists

and went on to work as a reporter,

anchorman and producer

for more than three decades











Richard Wagstaff Clark    1929-2012    USA


perpetually youthful-looking television host

whose long-running daytime

song-and-dance fest,

“American Bandstand,”

did as much as anyone or anything

to advance the influence of teenagers

and rock ’n’ roll on American culture











Gilbert Edward Nobl    1932-2012    USA


television journalist who hosted “Like It Is,”

an award-winning Sunday

morning public affairs program in New York,

one of the longest-running in the country

dedicated to showcasing black leadership

and the African-American experience



























Walter Cronkite    1916-2009    USA


Walter Cronkite


pioneered and then mastered

the role of television news anchorman

with such plain-spoken grace that he was called

the most trusted man in America







story.php?storyId=106770499 - July 18, 2009












television presenter / prankster > Jeremy Beadle    1948-2008    UK










John William Carson    1925-2005    USA


droll, puckish, near-effortless comedian

who dominated late-night television for 30 years,

tucking millions of Americans into bed

as the host of the "Tonight" show




Mr. Carson took over the "Tonight" show

from Jack Paar on Oct. 1, 1962,

and, preferring to retire at the top of his game,

voluntarily surrendered it to Jay Leno

on May 22, 1992.


During those three decades,

he became the biggest,

most popular star American television

has known.


Virtually every American

with a television set

saw and heard a Carson monologue

at some point in those years.


At his height,

between 10 million and 15 million Americans

slept better weeknights because of him.


Mr. Carson was often called

"the king of late night,"

and he wielded an almost regal power.











newsreader > Carol Barnes








newsreader    UK

Nan Winton

BBC's first female TV newsreader    1925-2019


















Devoted to Rural America

NYT    26 August 2014





Devoted to Rural America

Video        The New York Times        26 August 2014


Patrick Gottsch,

founder of the rural cable channel RFD-TV,

is taking up the fight against big media mergers.


Produced by: Axel Gerdau

Read the story here: http://nyti.ms/1ztEJO5

Watch more videos at: http://nytimes.com/video

















network / television network        USA










CBS        USA















- the nation’s liberal television network        USA


























MTV        USA


















TV show        UK












show        USA










1948-1971 > The Ed Sullivan show        USA


The Ed Sullivan Show

was an American television variety show

that ran on CBS from June 20, 1948,

to March 28, 1971,

and was hosted

by New York entertainment columnist Ed Sullivan.


It was replaced in September 1971

by the CBS Sunday Night Movie.













game show > Jeopardy!        USA










talk shows        UK










Robert William Barker    1923-2023        USA


game show host


He hosted CBS's The Price Is Right,

the longest-running game show

in North American television history,

from 1972 to 2007.


He also hosted Truth or Consequences

from 1956 to 1975.




















television talkshow host        UK / USA










USA > Piers Morgan - host of CNN's primetime talkshow        UK




































program        USA


















The Only Thing

Spreading Faster Than Covid Variants

Is Covid Misinformation

23 July 2021





The Only Thing Spreading Faster Than Covid Variants Is Covid Misinformation

Video        23 July 2021


Stephen takes a look at Facebook's efforts

to hunt down and remove groups

that present misleading or sensationalized information

about the covid vaccines



























































The Late Show with Stephen Colbert        USA






























political satire program > The Daily Show        USA






























Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

satirical current events show

Last Week Tonight > HBO > John Oliver's Show        USA




https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DnpO_RTSNmQ - 28 February 2016










“Saturday Night Live”    1975-1980 period        USA


a raucous, innovative period

that established the show

as a central feature

of the American cultural landscape




The show’s early years featured cast members

who quickly became household names,

like Gilda Radner, Chevy Chase and John Belushi.


The show’s writers often worked in pairs,

and Ms. Beatts frequently wrote

with Rosie Shuster,

creating sketches like the “Nerds” series,

which featured Lisa Loopner (Ms. Radner)

and Todd DiLaMuca (Bill Murray),

a spectacularly awkward couple.










NBC game shows

“Card Sharks”, “$ale of the Century”        USA        1970s and ’80s










show > Deal Or No Deal        UK







show > Secret Millionaire        UK






psych-show        UK






teatime chat show





'mind candy'        UK






phone-in contest        UK






Open University        UK


















British Broadcasting Corporation    BBC        UK

























BBC Television Centre: 60 years of history in pictures










BBC1 Breakfast Time: 30 years of cereal TV        2013


Britain's first breakfast television show

began three decades ago,

featuring Frank Bough,

Selina Scott and the green goddess










BBC > 'Crowngate'        UK


















Channel 4        UK





















 ITV’s This Morning        UK


podcast - Guardian podcast















Al Jazeera

















box        UK








on the box





turn on / off





watch TV        UK










binge-watch        USA






binge-watching        USA
















news        USA
















last updated





keep N up to date with the very latest news





latest news





breaking news        USA






current affairs programme        UK











breaking news report





twenty-four hour TV news





TV violence > bullies        UK

















USA > Aaron Spelling    1923-2006        UK


one of the most powerful

cultural figures of the television age,

whose influence - like his programmes -

spread across the globe


The man behind hits

such as Charlie's Angels, Dynasty,

Starsky and Hutch, Hart to Hart,

antasy Island and Beverly Hills 90210,

Spelling made it

into the Guinness Book of Records

as the 'most prolific TV producer of all time'.

















taste and decency rules





watershed        UK






9pm watershed        UK






the 9pm 'watershed'





watchdog        UK
















over the airwaves        USA











broadcast television > misinformation        USA







unbroadcastable        UK











broadcasting executive





broadcasting institution





broadcasting regulator / Ofcom        UK






broadcaster        USA








broadcaster        UK






televangelist        USA






International Emmy Awards / Emmys




















600 million people

watched Neil Armstrong walk on the moon.


In the U.S., 94 percent of all people

watching television on July 20

watched the landing.


Photograph: CBS Photo Archive

Getty Images


The Apollo 11 Mission Was Also a Global Media Sensation

The satellites were finally ready to beam images back to Earth in 1969.

And some 600 million people watched the event live.


July 15, 2019



























live on air        UK






air time





on the air























subscription TV




























host        UK


podcast - Guardian podcast








TV host        USA










Bob Schieffer


TV anchor

host of the public affairs show “Face the Nation”        USA




























Larry King (Lawrence Harvey Zeiger)    USA    1933-2021


Larry King (...) shot the breeze

with presidents and psychics,

movie stars and malefactors

— anyone with a story to tell

or a pitch to make —

in a half-century on radio and television,

including 25 years as the host of CNN’s

globally popular “Larry King Live”



















William Blanc Monroe Jr.    USA    1920-2011


television journalist

whose long career with NBC

included stints

as the network’s Washington bureau chief

and moderator of its Sunday interview program,

“Meet the Press”











Gordon Arthur Kelly    Canada, USA    1912-2010


Arthur Gordon Linkletter

(born Arthur Gordon Kelly, or Gordon Arthur Kelley)




























USA > Newsmax TV        USA




















Clay Bennett

political cartoon


May 13, 2023

























USA > Cable News Network    CNN        UK / USA











































USA > One America Network        USA

















talk show








USA > talk shows > Oprah Winfrey        UK / USA




















USA > talk shows > David Letterman        UK / USA
















USA > talk shows > Jay Leno        UK










USA > The  “The Tonight Show”        USA

















TV anchor        USA








anchor    USA











news anchor        USA






anchor        USA






anchorman        USA








anchorwoman        UK / USA













TV host

























stringer        USA

































BBC schedules








UK > BBC > Question Time        UK

















Digital channel More4        UK /USA



















youth channel





aimed at a youth audience





infantile audience





tune in to watch










audience share





a peak audience of N





draw an average audience of N















be fronted by N

























prime-time comedy









gag        UK






quick oneliners





TV light entertainment










Bruce Forsyth    1928-2017    UK











entertainment formats















so-called reality television > Big Brother        UK



































reality show / TV        UK










podcast - Guardian podcast






















reality show / TV        UK






reality TV show star        USA






Channel 4 show > Sex Box        UK






The X Factor        UK





C4        UK










reality TV        USA










reality television shows > Channel 4 / C4 > Big Brother        UK












































Channel 4 / C4 > reality show  > Shipwrecked        UK










reality genre > The Murder Game        UK

















Strictly Come Dancing        UK










fly-on-the-wall show








make an undercover documentary
























TV impressionist





reality soap opera        UK






sitcom        UK






canned laughter
















Private Eye


added c. 2003

http://www.private-eye.co.uk/default.htm - broken link















Corpus of news articles


Media > Advertising, Ads, Marketing




Joe Allbritton,

TV and Banking Titan,

Dies at 87


December 12, 2012

The New York Times



Joe L. Allbritton, a Texas financier who at age 50 became a television and newspaper baron in Washington, then climbed the city’s social hierarchy as he transformed himself into the foremost banker to Embassy Row, died on Tuesday in Houston. He was 87.

The cause was a heart ailment, said Frederick J. Ryan Jr., the president of Allbritton Communications, which is based in Arlington, Va. Mr. Allbritton lived in Houston in his retirement.

After early success in the banking business in the Southwest, the diminutive Mr. Allbritton — he stood barely 5 feet tall — expanded in 1974 with the purchase of The Washington Star, the city’s feisty, conservative-leaning No. 2 paper after The Washington Post. The deal included the local ABC television affiliate.

His foray into the Washington publishing scene — he had never before stepped into a newspaper office — was short-lived. In 1978, he was forced to sell The Star after the Federal Communications Commission barred common ownership of broadcast and newspaper properties in the same market. (The buyer was Time Inc., which closed the paper in 1981.)

But keeping the TV station, WMAL, proved a bonanza. It became highly profitable as WJLA — he changed the call letters, using his initials — and it was the foundation of Allbritton Communications, which today has TV outlets in Harrisburg, Pa.; Little Rock, Ark.; and a half-dozen other cities, as well as other media properties.

His son, Robert, now heads the company and in 2007 founded Politico, the news Web site and newspaper devoted to politics.

Briefly retired after selling The Star, Mr. Allbritton found himself bored and decided to return to banking.

A friend invited him to invest in the venerable Riggs National Bank, Washington’s biggest financial institution and one with a rich history. It had provided financing for Samuel F. B. Morse’s telegraph and the gold used to purchase Alaska. Some two dozen presidential families had banked there. Mr. Allbritton wound up with a 40 percent controlling interest.

Riggs became his fief, its board larded with relatives and friends, and the vehicle for his frequent travels to exploit his top-level foreign connections, including a close one with Augusto Pinochet, the Chilean dictator.

He transformed Riggs from a traditional deposit-and-loan institution into a niche asset manager and private banker to the carriage trade. It boasted of being “the most important bank in the most important city in the world.”

Its fortunes waned, however, as competition increased and Riggs became enmeshed in money-laundering investigations. One resulted in a $25 million fine for what the authorities called “willful and systemic” violations of laws governing cash reporting. Federal regulators said the bank had failed to actively monitor transfers through Saudi Arabian and Equatorial Guinean accounts, which were considered possible conduits for terrorist funds or the proceeds of graft.

Mr. Allbritton refused numerous offers to buy Riggs, but under pressure from an investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission involving oil money from Equatorial Guinea, he succumbed and sold the bank in 2005 to the PNC Corporation.

Besides his son, Robert, who at one time was chief executive of Riggs, Mr. Allbritton is survived by his wife, the former Barbara Jean Balfanz, whom he married in 1967, and two grandchildren.

Joe Lewis Allbritton was born in D’Lo, Miss., near Jackson, on Dec. 29, 1924, to Lewis A. Allbritton and the former Ada Carpenter. As a youngster during the Depression he stirred orange juice for $1 a day at a local bottling plant. While in junior high school he moved with his parents to Houston, where he worked after school each day in the cafe opened by his father.

In high school he was a champion debater. He left Baylor University after a year to serve in the Navy from 1943 to 1946.

Mr. Allbritton returned to take a law degree at Baylor and opened a small office, but after a few years he discovered that he did not like what he called “the environment of practicing law” and gravitated toward business.

He made a killing in real estate selling land for a freeway between Houston and Galveston. He then organized and ran the San Jacinto Savings and Loan. Within 15 years he had acquired and merged his way to Texas banking eminence as the biggest shareholder in First International Bancshares of Dallas.

His reach extended as far as Los Angeles, where he acquired Pierce National Life Insurance and Pierce Brothers, a regional chain of 60 funeral homes, the largest in the area.

Having made a fortune and deciding that prospects for Texas banking were limited, Mr. Allbritton sold his shares and turned his attention in the early 1970s to Washington, where he found what he considered an undervalued TV property whose profits he figured could be used to support The Star.

“Opportunities in a community are rarely seen by the people who grew up there,” he later told Washingtonian magazine.

Mr. Allbritton also owned The Hudson Dispatch in New Jersey from 1977 to 1985; it was eventually merged into The Jersey Journal.

Mr. Allbritton’s chief avocation was racehorses. His Lazy Lane Farms in Upperville, Va., produced Hansel, winner of the 1991 Preakness and Belmont Stakes, the final two-thirds of thoroughbred racing’s Triple Crown.

But none from his stable ever won the Kentucky Derby, a goal he called “one great ambition yet unfulfilled.”


Daniel E. Slotnick contributed reporting.

Joe Allbritton, TV and Banking Titan, Dies at 87,






TV Emperor of Rock ’n’ Roll

and New Year’s Eve Dies at 82


April 18, 2012

The New York Times



Dick Clark, the perpetually youthful-looking television host whose long-running daytime song-and-dance fest, “American Bandstand,” did as much as anyone or anything to advance the influence of teenagers and rock ’n’ roll on American culture, died on Wednesday in Santa Monica, Calif. He was 82.

A spokesman, Paul Shefrin, said Mr. Clark had a heart attack at Saint John’s Health Center on Wednesday morning after entering the hospital the night before for an outpatient procedure.

Mr. Clark had a stroke in December 2004, shortly before he was to appear on the annual televised New Year’s Eve party he had produced and hosted every year since 1972. He returned a year later, and although he spoke haltingly, he continued to make brief appearances on the show, including the one this past New Year’s Eve.

With the boyish good looks of a bound-for-success junior executive and a ubiquitous on-camera presence, Mr. Clark was among the most recognizable faces in the world, even if what he was most famous for — spinning records and jabbering with teenagers — was on the insubstantial side. In addition to “American Bandstand” and “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve,” he hosted innumerable awards shows, comedy specials, series based on TV outtakes and the game show “$10,000 Pyramid” (which lasted long enough to see the stakes ratcheted up to $100,000). He also made guest appearances on dramatic and comedy series, usually playing himself.

But he was as much a businessman as a television personality. “I get enormous pleasure and excitement sitting in on conferences with accountants, tax experts and lawyers,” he said in an interview with The New York Times in 1961. He was especially deft at packaging entertainment products for television.

Starting in the 1960s, Mr. Clark built an entertainment empire on the shoulders of “Bandstand,” producing other music shows like “Where the Action Is” and “It’s Happening.” He eventually expanded into game shows, awards shows, comedy specials and series, talk shows, children’s programming, reality programming, and movies. His umbrella company, Dick Clark Productions, has produced thousands of hours of television; it also has a licensing arm and has owned or operated restaurants and theaters like the Dick Clark American Bandstand Theater in Branson, Mo.

But none of it would have been possible without “American Bandstand,” a show that earned immediate popularity, had remarkable longevity and became a cultural touchstone for the baby-boomer generation. It helped give rise to the Top 40 radio format and helped make rock ’n’ roll a palatable product for visual media — not just television but also the movies. It was influential enough that ABC broadcast a 40th-anniversary special in 1992, three years after the show went off the air, and a 50th-anniversary special 10 years later. Mr. Clark, who had long since been popularly known as “the world’s oldest teenager,” was the host of both, of course.


Philadelphia Roots

“American Bandstand” was broadcast nationally, originally from Philadelphia, from 1957 to 1989, and the list of well-known performers who were seen on it, many of them lip-syncing their recently recorded hits, spanned generations: from Ritchie Valens to Luther Vandross; from the Monkees to Madonna; from Little Anthony and the Imperials to Los Lobos; from Dusty Springfield to Buffalo Springfield to Rick Springfield. Mr. Clark was around for it all.

“It meant everything to do Dick’s show,” Paul Anka said in telephone interview on Wednesday. “This was a time when there was no youth culture — he created it. And the impact of the show on people was enormous. You knew that once you went down to Philadelphia to see Dick and you went on the show, your song went from nowhere to the Top 10.”

“American Bandstand’s” influence waned somewhat after it changed from a weekday to a weekly format, appearing on Saturday afternoons, in 1963 and moved its base of operations to Los Angeles the next year. And as the psychedelic era took hold in the late 1960s and rock ’n’ roll fragmented into subgenres, the show could no longer command a central role on the pop music scene.

Indeed, the show was criticized for sanitizing rock ’n’ roll, taking the edge off a sexualized and rebellious music. But it was also, in important ways, on the leading edge of the culture. Mr. Clark and his producer, Tony Mammarella, began integrating the dance floor on “American Bandstand” early on; much of the music, after all, was being made by black performers.

“I can remember, a vivid recollection, the first time ever in my life I talked to a black teenager on national television; it was in what we called the rate-a-record portion of ‘Bandstand,’ ” Mr. Clark recalled. “It was the first time in a hundred years I got sweaty palms.”

He was fearful, he said, of a backlash from Southern television affiliates, but that didn’t happen. From that day on, he said, more blacks began appearing on the show. And as time went on, the show’s willingness to bridge a racial divide that went almost entirely unacknowledged by network programming was starkly apparent, “providing American television broadcasting with the most visible ongoing image of ethnic diversity until the 1970s,” according to an essay about the program on the Web site of the Chicago-based Museum of Broadcast Communications.

“We didn’t do it because we were do-gooders, or liberals,” Mr. Clark said. “It was just a thing we thought we ought to do. It was naïve.”

The right man at the right time, Mr. Clark was a radio personality in Philadelphia in 1956 when he stepped into the role of host of what was then a local television show called “Bandstand” after the regular host was fired. By the following October, the show was being broadcast on ABC nationwide with a new name, “American Bandstand,” and for the next several years it was seen every weekday afternoon by as many as 20 million viewers, most of them not yet out of high school, eager to watch a few dozen of their peers dance chastely to the latest recordings of pop hits, showing off new steps like the twist, the pony and the Watusi, and rating the new records in brief interviews.

“It’s got a good beat and you can dance to it” became a national catchphrase.

Handsome and glib, Dick Clark was their music-savvy older brother, and from that position of authority he presided over a grass-roots revolution in American culture in the late 1950s and early ’60s. “American Bandstand” was the first show to make use of the new technology, television, to spread the gospel of rock ’n’ roll. In its early years it introduced a national audience to teen idols like Fabian and Connie Francis, first-generation rockers like Bill Haley and Jerry Lee Lewis, and singing groups like the Everly Brothers. Even more, it helped persuade broadcasters and advertisers of the power of teenagers to steer popular taste.

“At that moment in time, the world realized that kids might rule the world,” Mr. Clark said. “They had their own music, their own fashion, their own money.”

By early 1958, “American Bandstand” was so big a hit that network executives installed a new show in a concert format in its Saturday night lineup, calling it “The Dick Clark Show.” In June, ABC sent it on the road to broadcast from a number of cities. In October, when “The Dick Clark Show” originated from Atlanta, both black and white teenagers were in the audience — amounting to one of the first racially integrated rock concerts — and with National Guard troops present, it weathered threats from the Ku Klux Klan. The nighttime show lasted only until 1960.


Opportunities Abound

In spite of his success, Mr. Clark, who never hid his desire for wealth, had not been getting rich as a network employee. But he had been investing, shrewdly and voluminously, in the businesses that “American Bandstand” supported — talent management, music publishing, record distribution and merchandising, among others — and his bank account ballooned.

His finances were dealt a blow, and his clean-cut image was tarnished, however, when Congress convened hearings into payola, the record company practice of bribing disc jockeys to play their records on the air. In late 1959, with the hearings pending, ABC insisted that Mr. Clark divest himself of all his record-related businesses, which he did. He was called to testify before the House Special Subcommittee on Legislative Oversight in April 1960, and though he denied ever taking money to play records, he acknowledged a number of actions that exposed what many in Congress considered a too-cozy relationship between the music industry and D.J.s, Mr. Clark in particular.

For an investment of $125 in one record company, for example, Mr. Clark received $31,700 in salary and stock profits over two years. He admitted that some songs and records may have been given to his publishing and distribution companies because of his affiliation with “American Bandstand.” He also acknowledged accepting a ring and a fur stole from a record manufacturer.

Mr. Clark, who was never charged with a crime, said that having to comply with the network’s divestiture request cost him millions.

“I never took any money to play records,” Mr. Clark said in his 1999 Archive of American Television interview. “I made money other ways. Horizontally, vertically, every which way you can think of, I made money from that show.”

Over half a century, Mr. Clark made millions as a producer or executive producer, shepherding projects onto the airwaves that even he acknowledged were more diverting than ennobling: awards shows like the Golden Globes, the Academy of Country Music Awards and the American Music Awards; omnibus shows like “TV’s Bloopers & Practical Jokes,” featuring collections of clips; and television-movie biographies and dramas that targeted devotees of camp, kitsch or B-list celebrities.

He excelled in signing up top acts for his shows, and had to be especially creative on his New Year’s Eve show. Top acts often had lucrative bookings that night, so Mr. Clark worked around that by taping the dance party portion of the show at a Los Angeles studio in August.

“You would go out there and see all these people in their New Year’s Eve outfits getting a smoke outside in 100-degree heat,” said Ted Harbert, then an ABC program executive and now chairman of NBC Broadcasting. “That’s how he got the stars to turn up on a New Year’s Eve show. He taped them in August. It was genius.”

Mr. Clark wasn’t high-minded about his work. “I’ve always dealt with light, frivolous things that didn’t really count; I’m not ashamed of that,” he said during a 1999 interview for the Archive of American Television. “There’s no redeeming cultural value whatsoever to ‘Bloopers,’ but it’s been on for 20 years.” He added: “It’s a piece of fluff. I’ve been a fluffmeister for a long time.”

Richard Wagstaff Clark was born on Nov. 30, 1929, in Bronxville, N.Y., and grew up nearby in Mount Vernon, the second son of Richard A. and Julia Clark. His father was a salesman who commuted to New York City until he was hired to manage a radio station in Utica, N.Y. The older brother, Bradley, was killed in World War II, and young Dick, who had greatly admired “Brad,” a high school athlete, was devastated and depressed afterward, his father once said in an interview.


An Early Love of Radio

As a boy Dick listened often to the radio, and at 13 he went to see a live radio broadcast starring Jimmy Durante and Garry Moore. From then on, he wanted to be in broadcasting. His first job, at 17, was in the mailroom of his father’s station. He often said he learned the most important lesson of his career from listening to Arthur Godfrey.

“I emulated him,” Mr. Clark said. “I loved him, I adored him, because he had the ability to communicate to one person who was listening or watching. Most people would say, in a stentorian voice, ‘Good evening, everyone.’ Everyone? Godfrey knew there was only one person listening at a time.”

Mr. Clark studied business administration at Syracuse University, where he was a disc jockey on the student radio station. After graduating he worked briefly as an announcer for his father’s station before getting a job in television, at WKTV in Utica, as a news announcer.

In 1952 WFIL in Philadelphia gave him his own radio show, “Dick Clark’s Caravan of Music,” an easy-listening afternoon program. A few months later, the station’s television affiliate began an afternoon show called “Bandstand,” with Bob Horn and Lee Stewart. At first it showed films of musical performances for studio audiences, Mr. Clark recalled, but it evolved into a dance show when teenagers, bored with the films, started dancing to the music. As the show grew in popularity, the station changed the name of Mr. Clark’s radio show to “Bandstand” as well, even though his playlist remained uncontroversial fare for a relatively small middle-aged afternoon audience.

It was in the summer of 1956 that Mr. Horn, by then the show’s sole host, was fired and the station turned to young Dick Clark.

“I was 26 years old, looked the part, knew the music, was very comfortable on television,” Mr. Clark recalled. “ ‘They said, ‘Do you want it?’ And I said, ‘Oh, man, do I want it!’ ”

Mr. Clark’s first two marriages ended in divorce. He is survived by his wife, Kari Wigton; three children, Richard, Duane and Cindy; and two grandchildren.

He won five Emmy Awards, including a Daytime Emmy lifetime achievement award in 1994, and in 1993 was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He owed his success, he said, to knowing the mind of the broad audience.

“My greatest asset in life,” he said, “was I never lost touch with hot dogs, hamburgers, going to the fair and hanging out at the mall.”


Bill Carter and Ben Sisario contributed reporting.

TV Emperor of Rock ’n’ Roll and New Year’s Eve Dies at 82,






Mike Wallace,

CBS Pioneer of ‘60 Minutes,’

Dies at 93


April 8, 2012

The New York Times



Mike Wallace, the CBS reporter who became one of the nation’s best-known broadcast journalists as an interrogator of the famous and infamous on “60 Minutes,” died on Saturday. He was 93.

On its Web site, CBS said Mr. Wallace died at a care facility in New Canaan, Conn., where he had lived in recent years. Mr. Wallace, who was outfitted with a pacemaker more than 20 years ago, had a long history of cardiac care and underwent triple bypass heart surgery in January 2008.

A reporter with the presence of a performer, Mr. Wallace went head to head with chiefs of state, celebrities and con artists for more than 50 years, living for the moment when “you forget the lights, the cameras, everything else, and you’re really talking to each other,” he said in an interview with The New York Times videotaped in July 2006 and released on his death as part of the online feature “The Last Word.”

Mr. Wallace created enough such moments to become a paragon of television journalism in the heyday of network news. As he grilled his subjects, he said, he walked “a fine line between sadism and intellectual curiosity.”

His success often lay in the questions he hurled, not the answers he received.

“Perjury,” he said, in his staccato style, to President Richard M. Nixon’s right-hand man, John D. Ehrlichman, while interviewing him during the Watergate affair. “Plans to audit tax returns for political retaliation. Theft of psychiatric records. Spying by undercover agents. Conspiracy to obstruct justice. All of this by the law-and-order administration of Richard Nixon.”

Mr. Ehrlichman paused and said, “Is there a question in there somewhere?”

No, Mr. Wallace later conceded. But it was riveting television.

Both the style and the substance of his work drew criticism. CBS paid Nixon’s chief of staff H. R. Haldeman $100,000 for an exclusive (if inconclusive) pair of interviews with Mr. Wallace in 1975. Critics called it checkbook journalism, and even Mr. Wallace conceded later that it had been “a bad idea.”

For a 1976 report on Medicaid fraud, the show’s producers set up a phony health clinic in Chicago. Was the use of deceit to expose deceit justified? Hidden cameras and ambush interviews were all part of the game, Mr. Wallace said, though he abandoned those techniques in later years, when they became a cliché and no longer good television.

Some subjects were unfazed by Mr. Wallace’s unblinking stare. When he sat down with the Ayatollah Khomeini, the Iranian leader, in 1979, he said that President Anwar Sadat of Egypt “calls you, Imam — forgive me, his words, not mine — a lunatic.” The translator blanched, but the Ayatollah responded, calmly calling Sadat a heretic.

“Forgive me” was a favorite Wallace phrase, the caress before the garrote. “As soon as you hear that,” he told The Times, “you realize the nasty question’s about to come.”

Mr. Wallace invented his hard-boiled persona on a program called “Night Beat.” Television was black and white, and so was the discourse, when the show went on the air in 1956, weeknights at 11, on the New York affiliate of the short-lived DuMont television network.

“We had lighting that was warts-and-all close-ups,” he remembered. The camera closed in tighter and tighter on the guests. The smoke from Mr. Wallace’s cigarette swirled between him and his quarry. Sweat beaded on his subject’s brows.

“I was asking tough questions,” he said. “And I had found my bliss.” He had become Mike Wallace.

“All of a sudden,” he said, “I was no longer anonymous.” He was “the fiery prosecutor, the righteous and wrathful D.A. determined to rid Gotham City of its undesirables,” in the words of Michael J. Arlen, The New Yorker’s television critic.

“Night Beat” moved to ABC in 1957 as a half-hour, coast-to-coast, prime-time program, renamed “The Mike Wallace Interview.” ABC, then the perennial loser among the major networks, promoted him as “the Terrible Torquemada of the TV Inquisition.”

The show came under attack after a guest, the syndicated columnist Drew Pearson, called Senator John F. Kennedy “the only man in history I know who won a Pulitzer Prize for a book that was ghostwritten.” The book was “Profiles in Courage.” The Kennedys’ lawyers forced ABC to retract, though in fact the senator’s speechwriter, Theodore C. Sorensen, was the book’s undisclosed co-author.

Mr. Wallace’s career path meandered after ABC canceled “The Mike Wallace Interview” in 1958. He had done entertainment shows and quiz shows and cigarette commercials. He had acted onstage. But he resolved to become a real journalist after a harrowing journey to recover the body of his first-born son, Peter, who died at 19 in a mountain-climbing accident in Greece in 1962.

“He was going to be a writer,” Mr. Wallace said in the interview with The Times. “And so I said, ‘I’m going to do something that would make Peter proud.’ ”

He set his sights on CBS News and joined the network as a special correspondent. He was soon anchoring “The CBS Morning News With Mike Wallace” and reporting from Vietnam. Then he caught the eye of Richard Nixon.

Running for president, Nixon offered Mr. Wallace a job as his press secretary shortly before the 1968 primaries began. “I thought very, very seriously about it,” Mr. Wallace told The Times. “I regarded him with great respect. He was savvy, smart, hard working.”

But Mr. Wallace turned Nixon down, saying that putting a happy face on bad news was not his cup of tea.

Only months later “60 Minutes” made its debut, at 10 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 24, 1968. The trademark ticking of the Tag Heuer stopwatch marked the moment.

It was something new on the air: a “newsmagazine,” usually three substantial pieces of about 15 minutes each — a near-eternity on television. Mr. Wallace and Harry Reasoner were the first co-hosts, one fierce, one folksy.

The show was the brainchild of Don Hewitt, a producer who was “in bad odor at CBS News at the time,” Mr. Wallace said in the interview.

“He was unpredictable, difficult to work with, genius notions, a genuine adventurer, if you will, in television news at that time,“ Mr. Wallace said of Mr. Hewitt, who died in 2009.

The show, which moved to Sunday nights at 7 in 1970, was slow to catch on. Creative conflict marked its climb to the top of the television heap in the 1970s. Mr. Wallace fought his fellow correspondents for the best stories and the most airtime.

“There would be blood on the floor,” Mr. Wallace said in the interview. He said he developed the “not necessarily undeserved reputation” of being prickly — he used a stronger word — and “of stealing stories from my colleagues,” who came to include Morley Safer, Ed Bradley, Dan Rather and Diane Sawyer in the 1970s and early 1980s. “This was just competition,” he said. “Get the story. Get it first.”

Mr. Wallace and his teams of producers — who researched, reported and wrote the stories — took on American Nazis and nuclear power plants along with his patented brand of exposés.

The time was ripe for investigative television journalism. Watergate and its many seamy sideshows had made muckraking a respectable trade. By the late 1970s, “60 Minutes” was the top-rated show on Sundays. For five consecutive years it was the No. 1 show on television, a run matched only by “All in the Family” and “The Cosby Show.” In 1977, it began a 23-year run in the top 10. No show of any kind has matched that.Mr. Wallace was rich and famous and a powerful figure in television news when his life took a stressful turn in 1982.

That year he anchored a “CBS Reports” documentary called “The Uncounted Enemy: A Vietnam Deception.” It led to a $120 million libel suit filed by Gen. William C. Westmoreland, the commander of American troops in Vietnam from 1964 to 1968. At issue was the show’s assertion that General Westmoreland had deliberately falsified the “order of battle,” the estimate of the strength of the enemy.

The question turned on a decision that American military commanders made in 1967. The uniformed military said the enemy was no more than 300,000 strong, but intelligence analysts said the number could be half a million or more. If the analysts were correct, then there was no “light at the end of the tunnel,” the optimistic phrase General Westmoreland had used.

Documents declassified after the cold war showed that the general’s top aide had cited reasons of politics and public relations for insisting on the lower figure. The military was “stonewalling, obviously under orders” from General Westmoreland, a senior Central Intelligence Agency analyst cabled his headquarters; the “predetermined total” was “fixed on public-relations grounds.” The C.I.A. officially accepted the military’s invented figure of 299,000 enemy forces or fewer.

The documentary asserted that rather than a politically expedient lie, the struggle revealed a vast conspiracy to suppress the truth. The key theorist for that case, Sam Adams, a former C.I.A. analyst, was not only interviewed for the documentary but also received a consultant’s fee of $25,000. The show had arrived at something close to the truth, but it had used questionable means to that end.

After more than two years General Westmoreland abandoned his suit midtrial, CBS lost some of its reputation, and Mr. Wallace had a nervous breakdown.

He said at the time that he feared “the lawyers for the other side would employ the same techniques against me that I had employed on television.” Already on antidepressants, which gave him tremors, he had a waking nightmare while sitting through the trial.

“I could see myself up there on the stand, six feet away from the jury, with my hands shaking, and dying to drink water,” he said in the interview with The Times. He imagined the jury thinking, “Well, that son of a bitch is obviously guilty as hell.”

He attempted suicide. “I was so low that I wanted to exit,” Mr. Wallace said. “And I took a bunch of pills, and they were sleeping pills. And at least they would put me to sleep, and maybe I wouldn’t wake up, and that was fine.”

Later in life he discussed his depression and advocated psychiatric and psycho-pharmaceutical treatment.

The despair and anger he felt over the documentary were outdone 13 years later when, as he put it in a memoir, “the corporate management of CBS emasculated a ‘60 Minutes’ documentary I had done just as we were preparing to put it on the air.”

The cutting involved a damning interview with Jeffrey Wigand, a chemist who had been director of research at Brown & Williamson, the tobacco company. The chemist said on camera that the nation’s tobacco executives had been lying when they swore under oath before Congress that they believed nicotine was not addictive. Among many complicating factors, one of those executives was the son of Laurence A. Tisch, the chairman of CBS at the time. The interview was not broadcast.

Mr. Wallace remained bitter at Mr. Tisch’s stewardship, which ended when he sold CBS in 1995, after dismissing many employees and dismantling some of its parts.

“We thought that he would be happy to be the inheritor of all of the — forgive me — glory of CBS and CBS News,” Mr. Wallace said. “And the glory was not as attractive to him as money. He began to tear apart CBS News.” (Mr. Tisch died in 2003.)

Mr. Wallace officially retired from “60 Minutes” in 2006, after a 38-year run, at the age of 88. A few months later he was back on the program with an exclusive interview with the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

“I hear this is your last interview,” the president said.

Mr. Wallace replied: “What do you think? Is it a good idea to retire?” He won his 21st Emmy award for the interview.

And he kept working. Only weeks before his 2008 bypass surgery, he interviewed the baseball star Roger Clemens as accusations swirled that Mr. Clemens had used performance-enhancing drugs. It was Mr. Wallace’s last appearance on television, CBS said.

Myron Leon Wallace was born in Brookline, Mass., on May 9, 1918, one of four children of Friedan and Zina Wallik, who had come to the United States from a Russian shtetl before the turn of the 20th century. (Friedan became Frank and Wallik became Wallace in the American melting pot.) His father started as a wholesale grocer and became an insurance broker.

Myron came out of Brookline High School with a B-minus average, worked his way through the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and graduated in 1939. (Decades later he was deeply involved in two national programs for journalists based at the university: the Livingston Awards, given to talented reporters under 35, and the Knight-Wallace fellowships, a sabbatical for midcareer reporters; its seminars are held at Wallace House, which he purchased for the programs.)

After he graduated from college, he went almost immediately into radio, starting at $20 a week at a station with the call letters WOOD-WASH in Grand Rapids, Mich. (It was jointly owned by a furniture trade association, a lumber company and a laundry.) He went on to Detroit and Chicago stations as narrator and actor on shows like “The Lone Ranger” and “The Green Hornet,” along the way acquiring “Mike” as his broadcast name.

In December 1943 he enlisted in the Navy, did a tour of duty in the Pacific and wound up as a lieutenant junior grade in charge of radio entertainment at the Great Lakes Naval Training Station.

Mr. Wallace married his first wife, Norma Kaphan, in 1940; they were divorced in 1948. Besides Peter, who died in the mountain-climbing accident, they had a second son, Chris Wallace, the television journalist now at Fox News.

Mr. Wallace and his second wife, Buff Cobb, an actress, were married in 1949 and took to the air together, in a talk show called “Mike and Buff,” which appeared first on radio and then television. “We overdid the controversy pattern of the program,” she said after their divorce in 1954. “You get into a habit of bickering a little, and you carry it over into your personal lives.”

Ms. Cobb died in 2010.

His marriage to his third wife, Lorraine Perigord, which lasted 28 years, ended with her departure for Fiji. His fourth wife, Mary Yates, was the widow of one of his best friends — his “Night Beat” producer, Ted Yates, who was killed in 1967 while on assignment for NBC News during the Six-Day War in Israel.

Besides his wife and his son, Chris, Mr. Wallace is survived by a stepdaughter, Pauline Dora; two stepsons, Eames and Angus Yates; seven grandchildren, and four great grandchildren.

Mr. Wallace and Ms. Yates were married in 1986 and lived for a time in a Park Avenue duplex in Manhattan and in a bay-front house on Martha’s Vineyard, where their social circle included the novelist William Styron and the humorist Art Buchwald.

All three men “suffered depression simultaneously,” Mr. Wallace said in an interview in 2006, “so we walked around in the rain together on Martha’s Vineyard and consoled each other,” adding, “We named ourselves the Blues Brothers.” Mr. Styron died in 2006 and Mr. Buchwald in 2007.

Mr. Wallace said that Ms. Yates had saved his life when he came close to suicide before their marriage, and that their marriage had saved him afterward.

He also said that he had known since he was a child that he wanted to be on the air. He felt it was his calling. He said he wanted people to ask: “Who’s this guy, Myron Wallace?”

    Mike Wallace, CBS Pioneer of ‘60 Minutes,’ Dies at 93, NYT, 8.4.2012,






Gil Noble,

Host of Pioneering TV Show

Focusing on Black Issues,

Dies at 80


April 5, 2012
The New York Times


Gil Noble, a television journalist who hosted “Like It Is,” an award-winning Sunday morning public affairs program in New York, one of the longest-running in the country dedicated to showcasing black leadership and the African-American experience, died on Thursday in a hospital in Wayne, N.J. He was 80.

The cause was complications of a stroke he had last summer, said Dave Davis, president and general manager of WABC-TV, which had broadcast “Like It Is” since 1968.

Though broadcast only in the New York metropolitan area, “Like It Is” attracted guests of national and international influence. Some were controversial. His interviews with figures like Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam drew complaints of one-sidedness. But for Mr. Noble, that was the point:

“My response to those who complained that I didn’t present the other side of the story was that this show was the other side of the story,” he said in 1982.

His interviews comprised a veritable archive of contemporary black history in America: hundreds of hourlong conversations with political and cultural figures like Lena Horne, Fannie Lou Hamer, Bill Cosby, Sammy Davis Jr., Muhammad Ali, Andrew Young, Dizzy Gillespie and Stokely Carmichael.

Mr. Noble viewed “Like It Is” as a platform for ideas and perspectives — especially those of blacks — that were missing from the mainstream news media. He once called his show “the antidote to the 6 and 11 o’clock news.”

His one-on-one exchanges with African and Caribbean heads of state, including Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia, Michael Manley of Jamaica and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, were part of another mission: to report on events affecting people of African descent throughout the world.

“You learned a lot watching Gil,” former Mayor David N. Dinkins of New York said in an interview for this obituary. “You didn’t have to agree with everything he said, but for many of us, he was required watching.”

The deep support Mr. Noble enjoyed among his viewers helped him survive two controversies stemming from interviews with figures considered anti-Semitic, biased against Israel or both. In 1982, the Anti-Defamation League accused Mr. Noble of showing an anti-Israel bias when he broadcast a panel discussion about the Israeli invasion of Lebanon without presenting the Israeli perspective.

Just the rumor of disciplinary action prompted protests outside WABC headquarters, led by the Rev. Calvin O. Butts, pastor of the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, and the Rev. Al Sharpton. No disciplinary action was taken, but Mr. Noble was required to present a program with pro-Israeli guests.

Similar tensions arose in the summer of 1991, when Mr. Noble made plans to broadcast a speech in which a friend, Leonard Jeffries, a City College professor of black studies, was said to have made bigoted remarks. News reports had led to Mr. Jeffries’s removal as chairman of the black studies department.

Mr. Noble argued that only by hearing the speech in full could college officials (and everyone else) decide whether the remarks were cause for discipline or had been taken out of context. (In one remark, Mr. Jeffries said Hollywood movies demeaning to blacks were made by “people called Greenberg and Weisberg and Trigliani.” In another, he said, “Everyone knows rich Jews financed the slave trade.”)

WABC-TV executives shelved the segment, saying it could aggravate racial unrest in the city. As it happened, long-simmering tensions between blacks and Jews in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn exploded into violence the next week.

Protesters again appeared outside the station’s offices. This time, they included a state senator, later to be governor of New York, David A. Paterson.

“It was a spontaneous protest as I recall,” Mr. Paterson said in an interview. “People just showed up. Because ‘Like It Is’ — it was something special in the African-American community, to be protected.” A segment on the Jeffries affair was eventually shown later.

“Some white Americans are repelled by ‘Like It Is,’ but that’s the nature of the program,” Mr. Noble told The Village Voice later that year. “We are witnessing a quarrel between the races in America, and certain opinions in the black community must be heard even if they are revolting.”

After Mr. Noble’s stroke, WABC-TV began broadcasting “Here and Now,” a public affairs show it described as “continuing the legacy of Gil Noble.”

Gilbert Edward Noble was born in Harlem on Feb. 22, 1932, the son of Rachel Noble, a teacher, and Gilbert R. Noble, who owned an auto repair shop. Both parents were born in Jamaica. He attended City College and was drafted into the Army during the Korean War.

Mr. Noble was hired as a reporter for the radio station WLIB in 1962. In 1967, after nationwide race riots that prompted television stations around the country to recruit some of their first black reporters, he was hired by WABC. He worked as reporter, weekend anchor and sometime correspondent for “Like It Is,” a show begun in 1968, before taking over as its host in 1975. He received seven Emmy Awards.

Mr. Noble’s survivors include his wife, Norma Jean; their four daughters, Lynn, Lisa, Leslie and Jennifer; a son, Chris; and eight grandchildren.

Milton Allimadi, a former publisher of the Harlem-based newspaper Black Star News and an occasional guest on Mr. Noble’s show, described the special regard in which Mr. Noble was held in the community he served.

After Mr. Allimadi appeared as a guest on the show, strangers stopped him on the street to shake his hand, he wrote in an online appreciation last August. “When I enter an M.T.A. bus, drivers refuse to accept my fare,” he wrote, “saying they are happy to drive someone who has been on ‘Like It Is.’ ”

    Gil Noble, Host of Pioneering TV Show Focusing on Black Issues,
    Dies at 80, NYT, 5.4.2012,






In New Era of TV,

Rival Hosts Drown Out King


May 26, 2010
The New York Times


The biggest interview on television last week, with the Senate candidate Rand Paul, happened at 9 p.m. But regrettably for CNN’s Larry King, who used to rule that time slot by wooing newsmakers, the interview was booked by his higher-rated competitor, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow.

Next week will be Mr. King’s 25th year on CNN, but these are hard days for the host, and not just because he is being beaten in ratings and bookings.

Although still the linchpin of CNN’s lineup, he has come to embody an enormous problem facing the cable news channel. How can he and CNN compete in prime time when viewers seem to crave partisan political programs and when prominent guests — the lifeblood of Mr. King’s show — would rather burnish their images on other channels?

So far, CNN cannot compete. “Larry King Live” is now struggling in the ratings, as is CNN as a whole. The ratings for the new “John King, USA” political show at 7 p.m. have been disappointing, and Campbell Brown announced last week that she was quitting her 8 p.m. show after concluding that her newscast could not compete with the bombastic opinion-oriented shows on Fox News and MSNBC.

Ratings for Mr. King, 76, are about 20 percent better than those of his lead-in, Ms. Brown, but he ranks a distant third behind the conservative Sean Hannity on Fox and the liberal Ms. Maddow. His audience has been cut in half since the last presidential election, to an average of just 725,000 viewers a night.

CNN executives will not say whether they will renew Mr. King’s contract when it ends next year. There is a growing feeling at the company that a succession plan should be put in place, but there is no evidence that CNN is actually preparing such a plan.

Mr. King was noticeably absent during a presentation for advertisers last month, which heavily featured CNN stars like Anderson Cooper and Soledad O’Brien, but only fleetingly included Mr. King in a video clip.

“Larry King Live” is the last trace of an earlier age of cable TV, one that had little interest in the opinions of its hosts.

“They have this iconic personality who is going to disappear in the not-too-distant future, and they don’t have any clue what they’re going to do,” one senior employee said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he did not have permission from the channel to speak publicly.

Through a spokesman, Mr. King declined to comment. Reached by phone last week, the chief executive of CNN’s domestic network would not answer any questions about Mr. King.

Through a spokeswoman, the chief, Jonathan Klein, said Tuesday: “Larry is one of a kind and a television legend. He delivers the best interviews on cable news, hands down. We’re proud of the work he and his team deliver every night and the consistency with which his show makes news night after night.”

According to CNN employees who would speak only anonymously, Mr. Klein is focused on finding Ms. Brown’s replacement at 8 p.m., and is not planning an imminent change at 9 p.m. (CNN has held talks with Eliot Spitzer, among others, possibly about appearing on a “Crossfire”-style show at 8.)

Mr. King has shown no desire to retire, and he continues to work almost year-round, even coming in to host on weekends when news breaks.

But Mr. King’s contract is up in June 2011, and there has long been speculation that the “CBS Evening News” anchor Katie Couric could slide into his chair. Her contract is up in May 2011, and she sees CNN’s 9 p.m. time slot as a possible new job, according to four of her friends and colleagues.

But two of the people said the time slot was looking less appealing now, given the ratings slide. They requested anonymity because they were describing private conversations.

Mr. King has said in the past that his first choice for a successor is the entertainer Ryan Seacrest.

Over all, CNN’s ratings in prime time are down about a third compared with a year ago. The channel’s parent company, Time Warner, is growing increasingly impatient.

“We’re not happy with the current ratings,” the Time Warner chief, Jeffrey L. Bewkes, told investors this month, adding that he expects the broader CNN company to post another record year of earnings. Mr. Klein echoed that.

One of the signs that cable news has changed is the effect on the booking wars. During the 1992 election, Mr. King scored spectacular ratings when Ross Perot came on the show and said he would run for president.

Mr. King still secures A-list guests, but is often criticized for a softball style. By contrast, Ms. Maddow’s interview of Mr. Paul was tough and dominated the news cycle for days.

In March, Mr. King had to settle for second place when the outgoing congressman Eric Massa gave a highly sought-after interview to Glenn Beck, before appearing on Mr. King’s show.

Some CNN employees say there is a tone-deafness at 9 p.m., evinced last week when an interview with Mick Jagger was shown on a busy primary election night. This week Mr. King covered Lindsay Lohan’s court case one night and the gulf oil spill the next, so viewers do not know what to expect.

“When we pick a brand, what we’re really doing is picking an element of ourselves that reinforces who we are,” said Tom Dougherty, the president of the branding agency Stealing Share, who says CNN’s brand is in a “quagmire.” “Until they decide who they’re for — which is an amazingly difficult thing to do, and includes deciding who they are not for — they will flounder.”

Some at CNN argue that Mr. King and his program are casualties of the fragmented nature of TV. But Mr. Hannity’s program is down only 2 percent in the 25- to 54-year-old ratings demographic, and Ms. Maddow’s program has declined by about 28 percent, a narrower loss than Mr. King’s 43 percent slide. A new talk show on CNN’s sister network HLN, hosted by Joy Behar, also sometimes beats Mr. King’s show.

Henry Schafer of the Q Scores Company, which measures public perception, said Mr. King showed below-average appeal, and given the age of the show, “it is very difficult at this point in time” to draw new viewers. Steven J. Farella, the chief executive of the advertising agency TargetCast TCM, said that CNN needed to attract younger viewers in prime time. In the advertising industry, he said, “after anybody mentions Larry King and CNN, the next words are ‘Yes, but it’s old,’ ” referring to the 60-plus audience for the program.

“Larry King has a terrific place in cable news history,” Mr. Farella said, “but maybe not a firm place in cable news today.”

    In New Era of TV, Rival Hosts Drown Out King, NYT, 26.5.2010,






Art Linkletter, TV Host, Dies at 97


May 26, 2010
The New York Times


Art Linkletter, the genial host who parlayed his talent for the ad-libbed interview into two of television’s longest-running shows, “People Are Funny” and “House Party,” in the 1950s and 1960s, died on Wednesday at his home in the Bel Air section of Los Angeles. He was 97.

The death was confirmed by Art Hershey, a son-in-law.

From his early days as an announcer on local radio and a roving broadcaster at state fairs, Mr. Linkletter showed a talent for ingratiating himself with his subjects and getting them to open up, often with hilarious results.

He was particularly adept at putting small children at ease, which he did regularly on a segment of “House Party,” a reliably amusing question-and-answer session that provided the material for his best-selling book “Kids Say the Darndest Things!”

Television critics and intellectuals found the Linkletter persona bland and his popularity unfathomable. “There is nothing greatly impressive, one way or the other, about his appearance, mannerisms, or his small talk,” one newspaper critic wrote. Another referred to his “imperishable banality.”

Millions of Americans disagreed. They responded to his wholesome, friendly manner and upbeat appeal. Women, who made up three-quarters of the audience for “House Party,” which was broadcast in the afternoon, loved his easy, enthusiastic way with children.

“I know enough about a lot of things to be interesting, but I’m not interested enough in any one thing to be boring,” Mr. Linkletter told The New York Post in 1965. “I’m like everybody’s next-door neighbor, only a little bit smarter.”

He was also genuinely curious to know what was going on in the heads of the people he interviewed. “You have to listen,” he said. “A lot of guys can talk.”

Gordon Arthur Kelly was born on July 17, 1912, in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. Before he was a month old he was abandoned by his parents and adopted by Fulton John and Mary Metzler Linkletter, a middle-age couple whose two children had died. It was not until he was 12, while rummaging through his father’s desk, that he discovered he was adopted.

In his autobiography, “Confessions of a Happy Man,” Mr. Linkletter recalled his adoptive father, a one-legged cobbler and itinerant evangelist, as “a strange, uncompromising man whose main interest in life was the Bible.” The family prayed and performed on street corners, with Art playing the triangle.

By the time Art was 5 the family had moved to an unpaved adobe section of San Diego. As a child he took on any job he could find. At one point he sorted through lemons left abandoned in piles outside a packing plant, cleaned them off and sold them for 6 cents a dozen.

After graduating from high school at 16, Mr. Linkletter decided to see the world. With $10 in his pocket, he rode freight trains and hitchhiked around the country, working here and there as a meatpacker, a harvester and a busboy in a roadhouse.

“Among other things, I learned to chisel rides on freight trains, outwit the road bulls, cook stew with the bindlestiffs and never to argue with a gun,” he later recalled. A fast typist, he found work in a Wall Street bank just in time to watch the stock market crash in 1929. He also shipped out to Hawaii and Rio de Janeiro as a merchant seaman.

After returning to California, he entered San Diego State Teachers College (now San Diego State University) with plans of becoming an English teacher. He earned a bachelor’s degree in 1934, but in his last year he was hired to do spot announcements by a local radio station, KGB, a job that led to radio work at the California Pacific International Exposition in San Diego and at similar fairs in Dallas and San Francisco.

With microphone in hand and countless programming hours to fill, Mr. Linkletter relied on ad-libbing, stunts and audience participation to get attention and keep listeners entertained. He was once lowered from a skyscraper in a boatswain’s chair, interviewing office workers on every floor as he descended. “It was the forced feeding of a young and growing M.C.,” he later said of his more than 9,000 fair broadcasts.

In 1936 he married Lois Foerster, a college student in San Diego, who survives him. The couple had five children: Jack, who followed his father into television and died of lymphoma in 2007; Dawn, of Sedona, Ariz.; Robert, who died in a car accident in 1980; Sharon, of Calabasas, Calif.; and Diane, who committed suicide in 1969, an event that spurred her father into becoming a crusader against drug use. There are 7 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren.

Mr. Linkletter quickly established himself on local radio in San Francisco, but floundered when he moved to Los Angeles in the early 1940s. A radio show picked up by Shell Oil, “Shell Goes to a Party,” was canceled after Mr. Linkletter, reporting on a nighttime beach party, fell over some driftwood and lost his microphone.

He did have one piece of radio luck. With John Guedel, who would go on to create the quiz show “You Bet Your Life” and the comedy “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet,” Mr. Linkletter made an audition tape for an audience-participation show, with contests and gags, that would rely on his ability to ad-lib and coax humorous material from virtually anyone. Mr. Guedel came up with the name “People Are Funny,” and NBC put it on the air in 1942. Enormously popular, it ran on radio until 1960. The television version, which made its debut in 1954, ran until 1961.

Working without a script, Mr. Linkletter sent audience volunteers on silly assignments outside the studio with instructions to report back on their experience. One man was handed a $1,000 bill and told to buy chewing gum. Another was given $15,000 to invest in the stock market. Mr. Linkletter mingled with the audience, asking questions, setting up gags and handing out prizes like a yard of hot dogs or five feet of dollar bills.

On one show Mr. Linkletter spotted a woman’s enormous purse and began rummaging through it, announcing each item in turn: a can opener, a can of snuff, a losing racetrack ticket and a photograph of Herbert Hoover. The handbag bit became a staple of the show. More ingeniously, Mr. Linkletter set a dozen balls adrift in the Pacific, announcing a $1,000 prize for the first person to find one. Two years later a resident of the Marshall Islands claimed the money.

“House Party,” which ran five days a week on radio from 1945 to 1967 and on television from 1952 to 1969, was a looser version of “People Are Funny,” with beauty tips and cooking demonstrations filling time between Mr. Linkletter’s audience-chatter sessions. The highlight of the show was a segment in which five children between the ages of 5 and 10 sat down to be interviewed by Mr. Linkletter, who sat at eye level with his little subjects and, time and time again, made their parents wish television had never been invented.

After one boy revealed that his father was a policeman who arrested lots of burglars, Mr. Linkletter asked if his mother ever worried about the risks. “Naw, she thinks it’s great,” he answered. “He brings home rings and bracelets and jewelry almost every week.”

Mr. Linkletter assembled replies like that in “Kids Say the Darndest Things!,” illustrated by Charles M. Schulz, the creator of “Peanuts,” and its sequel, “Kids Still Say the Darndest Things.”

In 1969 Mr. Linkletter’s daughter Diane leapt to her death from her sixth-story apartment. Her father said that LSD had contributed to her death, and although an autopsy showed no signs of the drug in her body, the personal tragedy became a national event, suggesting to many Americans that drugs and the counterculture were making inroads even into seemingly model families like the Linkletters.

Mr. Linkletter, rather than retreating from the attention, became a crusader against drug use and an adviser to President Richard M. Nixon on drug policy, although, in 1972, he announced that he had changed his position on marijuana. After much thought and study he had concluded that the drug was relatively harmless and that law-enforcement officials should spend their time concentrating on hard drugs.

Much in demand as a public speaker and a fund-raiser for Republican candidates, Mr. Linkletter spent his subsequent years on lecture tours, appearing in commercials and tending to his far-flung business interests, including oil wells and toys. (One of his companies manufactured a version of the Hula-Hoop.)

A former college athlete, he remained remarkably healthy well into his 90s and the ideal front man for the United Seniors Association (renamed USA Next), a conservative organization formed in opposition to AARP and dedicated largely to privatizing Social Security. In keeping with his new role as a prominent elder American, Mr. Linkletter wrote “Old Age Is Not for Sissies.”

When he was well into his 80s and still going strong, someone asked him the secret of longevity. “You live between your ears,” he replied. “You can’t turn back the clock, but you can rewind it.”

    Art Linkletter, TV Host, Dies at 97, NYT, 26.5.2010,






Frank Magid,

Creator of ‘Action News,’

Dies at 78


February 10, 2010
The New York Times


Frank N. Magid, a marketing consultant who was widely credited, for good or ill, with standardizing the face of local television news, introducing the fast-paced, user-friendly “Action News” format in markets nationwide, died on Friday in Santa Barbara, Calif. He was 78 and had homes in Santa Barbara; Cedar Rapids, Iowa; and Montana.

The cause was lymphoma, his son Brent said.

A former social psychology professor with a penchant for statistics, Mr. Magid (pronounced MAGG-id) founded Frank N. Magid Associates, a market research company, in 1957. Its clients have included major networks, Hollywood studios and more than 100 local television stations.

In 1977, Time magazine called Mr. Magid “the nation’s leading television news doctor.” For decades, TV news directors in search of higher ratings spoke in hopeful tones of having their programs “Magidized.”

Mr. Magid was known in particular for encouraging scores of local stations to adopt the “Action News” format, in which traditional news items are interspersed with a liberal dose of crime coverage and lighter entertainments like human-interest stories. He also inaugurated early-morning newscasts in many local markets.

Nationally, Mr. Magid helped ABC develop “Good Morning America.” First broadcast in January 1975 as “AM America,” it featured youthful hosts delivering the news in lively, conversational style; profiles of celebrities and ordinary people; and features on subjects like beauty and personal finance. All were things, his research had found, that early-morning viewers wanted to see.

“He was a powerful influence,” Richard Wald, the Fred Friendly professor of journalism at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, said in a telephone interview on Monday. “As you go from town to town in America, local stations tend to have a similarity. And a lot of that owes to Frank Magid.”

To advise local news directors on ways to attract bigger audiences, Mr. Magid conducted extensive viewer surveys. The results could radically affect the look and sound of the program, from anchors’ hair and attire to their on-air repartee. (Mr. Magid was an early advocate of the convivial banter among anchors known as “happy talk.”)

They could also alter the structure of the broadcast itself. In the 1960s, most local newscasts centered on a solitary anchor, soberly intoning the day’s events. Magidized, the same show might feature a team of anchors, shorter stories, heftier servings of sports and a welter of weather.

This template was first applied in 1970 with “Action News,” broadcast on WFIL, an ABC affiliate in Philadelphia. As a result, “ratings jump and the format is widely imitated,” the trade publication Broadcasting & Cable wrote in 2007.

In 1997, the trade publication Electronic Media reported that broadcasts by Mr. Magid’s television news clients reached 98 percent of the country.

To his champions, Mr. Magid was a savior of local news, transforming it from something dry and unpalatable into something digestible and profitable. To his critics, he was a homogenizer who turned serious fare into pablum.

“We do recognize that we’re going to incur the wrath of the traditionalists,” Mr. Magid told The New York Times in 1975. “New ideas are always in danger of being beaten to death by those whose apple carts they upset.”

Frank Newton Magid was born in Chicago on Sept. 1, 1931. He earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Iowa in 1956, followed by a master’s in sociology there the next year.

Mr. Magid taught at Iowa and at Coe College in Cedar Rapids before starting Frank N. Magid Associates in Marion, Iowa. (He had no associates to begin with but thought the word lent his fledgling company a certain gravitas, his son said.) His start-up capital was $800, borrowed from his father. Early clients included banks, breweries and motorcycle makers.

Today Frank N. Magid Associates is based in Minneapolis, with offices in New York, Los Angeles, Marion and London. Mr. Magid retired as chief executive in 2002; he remained chairman until his death. Besides television, industries for which the company now consults include online commerce, interactive gaming and wireless communications.

Mr. Magid’s company was also instrumental in the birth of the United States Football League, which began play in 1983. In a survey commissioned by the league’s organizers, the company found that a majority of football fans said they would watch a spring-and-summer professional league. Despite this encouraging sign, which led directly to the league’s creation, the U.S.F.L. lasted just three seasons.

Besides his son Brent, the current president and chief executive of Frank N. Magid Associates, Mr. Magid is survived by his wife, the former Marilyn Young, whom he married in 1956; another son, Creighton, known as Chip; a brother, Gail; and four grandchildren.

Though Mr. Magid was indelibly linked with the phrase “Action News,” he was careful not to take credit for coining it. As he told Broadcasting & Cable in 2007, the term was the brainchild of the manager of the Philadelphia station, now known as WPVI.

“I didn’t like the name,” Mr. Magid said. “But I was wrong.”

    Frank Magid, Creator of ‘Action News,’ Dies at 78, NYT, 10.2.2010,






Television Begins

a Push Into the 3rd Dimension


January 6, 2010
The New York Times


Ralph Kramden can finally buy a television.

It was more than half a century ago, in a 1955 episode of “The Honeymooners,” that Kramden, the parsimonious bus driver played by Jackie Gleason, told his wife, Alice, that he had not yet bought a new television because “I’m waiting for 3-D.”

The wait will soon be over. A full-fledged 3-D television turf war is brewing in the United States, as manufacturers unveil sets capable of 3-D and cable programmers rush to create new channels for them.

Many people are skeptical that consumers will suddenly pull their LCD and plasma televisions off the wall. Beginning at around $2,000, the 3-D sets will, at first, cost more than even the current crop of high-end flat-screens, and buyers will need special glasses — techie goggles, really — to watch in 3-D.

But programmers and technology companies are betting that consumers are almost ready to fall in love with television in the third dimension. In part, it could be the “Avatar” effect: with 3-D films gaining traction at the box office — James Cameron’s “Avatar” surpassed the staggering $1 billion mark last weekend — companies are now determined to bring an equivalent experience to the living room.

Anticipating this coming wave, ESPN said Tuesday that it would show World Cup soccer matches and N.B.A. games in 3-D on a new network starting in June, and Discovery, Imax and Sony said they would jointly create a 3-D entertainment channel next year. The satellite service DirecTV is expected to announce its own 3-D channels at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where every major television manufacturer is planning to announce 3-D televisions and compatible Blu-ray DVD players on Wednesday.

“The stars are aligning to make 2010 the launch year of 3-D,” said John Taylor, a vice president for LG Electronics USA. “It’s still just in its infancy, but when there is a sufficient amount of content available — and lots of people are working on this — there will be a true tipping point for consumers.”

At that point, the question becomes whether consumers — many of whom have only recently upgraded to costly new high-definition sets — will want to watch in three dimensions enough to pay for the privilege. “I think 90 percent of the males in this country would be dying to watch the Super Bowl and be immersed in it,” said Riddhi Patel, an analyst at the research firm iSuppli.

But will the experience translate to other entertainment? Ms. Patel said, “You don’t necessarily want the ladies of ‘The View’ sitting around you when you watch them.”

For most consumers, 3-D is still far in the distance. With the announcement this week, the media companies are trying to place themselves at the forefront of an emerging technology, much as they did for HDTV a decade ago.

It took high-definition television about a decade to catch on — to the point where it has become part of the entertainment mainstream, with an adequate stock of HD programming and the sets now cheap enough to entice middle-class buyers. Analysts expect 3-D television to go through the same curve, initially attracting first adopters for whom price is little or no object and gradually moving out to other affluent and then middle-class homes as sets become cheaper and programmers create enough 3-D fare.

Or, of course, the technology could be a total flop.

For decades 3-D was a gimmick for B-movies and occasionally on television (in bad quality with flimsy paper glasses), but newer technology has largely erased those memories. Peter M. Fannon, a vice president at Panasonic, called the new sets “totally different than what one had seen over the last 20 to 30 years.”

In 3-D, television makers see an opportunity to persuade households that have already bought HDTVs to return to the electronics store. Though television sales jumped 17 percent in 2009, the industry needs new innovations to keep the cash register ringing.

“Three-D is an effort by the industry to come up with something that will motivate consumers to trade up,” said Van Baker, an analyst at Gartner Research.

Jeffrey Katzenberg, chief of Dreamworks Animation, said producers were preparing “an enormous surge in 3-D content, with images that are truly beautiful on these new monitors.”

Leading the charge to television, the pioneering sports network ESPN said it would show at least 85 live events on a 3-D channel starting in June. “The sports genre is probably the best suited to exploit this technology,” said Sean Bratches, an executive vice president at ESPN. The company has held preliminary talks with Comcast and other operators about gaining distribution; the 3-D channel could come at an added cost to subscribers. It will go dark when not showing live events.

The joint venture among Discovery Communications, Sony Pictures Entertainment and the Imax Corporation will be a full-time channel featuring natural history, movies, sports, music and other programming.

New 3-D televisions, like the 3-D screens in theaters, work by dividing picture images into two sets, one for each eye. A viewer must wear special glasses, so each eye captures a different image, creating the illusion of depth. Filming entails two connected cameras, one for the left-eye image and the other for the right.

Manufacturers have developed two technologies for 3-D glasses in the home. In so-called polarized glasses, which can cost under a dollar, each lens blocks a set of images transmitted in certain types of light. “Active” glasses, which are better suited for LCD screens in particular, have battery-powered shutters that open and close rapidly, so each eye sees different views of each frame. These glasses can cost up to $100, but television makers are expected to package at least two pairs with each monitor.

On the horizon is technology that allows people to watch 3-D without glasses, but that has severe limitations, like forcing viewers to sit at a certain distance.

Mike Vorhaus, the managing director of new media for Frank N. Magid Associates, a media consulting firm, said 3-D was many years away from widespread adoption. For now, he said, it is “one more appetizer” for consumers who “already have a lot to digest.”

Indeed, a number of hurdles remain, including a lack of production equipment and dueling 3-D transmission standards. But backers like David Zaslav, the chief executive of Discovery Communications, say 3-D is bound to gain attention because consumers and producers are always striving for what looks “closest to real life.”

    Television Begins a Push Into the 3rd Dimension, NYT, 6.1.2010,






Walter Cronkite, 92, Dies;

Trusted Voice of TV News


July 18, 2009
The New York Times


Walter Cronkite, who pioneered and then mastered the role of television news anchorman with such plain-spoken grace that he was called the most trusted man in America, died Friday at his home in New York. He was 92.

The cause was complications of dementia, said Chip Cronkite, his son.

From 1962 to 1981, Mr. Cronkite was a nightly presence in American homes and always a reassuring one, guiding viewers through national triumphs and tragedies alike, from moonwalks to war, in an era when network news was central to many people’s lives.

He became something of a national institution, with an unflappable delivery, a distinctively avuncular voice and a daily benediction: “And that’s the way it is.” He was Uncle Walter to many: respected, liked and listened to. With his trimmed mustache and calm manner, he even bore a resemblance to another trusted American fixture, another Walter — Walt Disney.

Along with Chet Huntley and David Brinkley on NBC, Mr. Cronkite was among the first celebrity anchormen. In 1995, 14 years after he retired from the “CBS Evening News,” a TV Guide poll ranked him No. 1 in seven of eight categories for measuring television journalists. (He professed incomprehension that Maria Shriver beat him out in the eighth category, attractiveness.) He was so widely known that in Sweden anchormen were once called Cronkiters.

Yet he was a reluctant star. He was genuinely perplexed when people rushed to see him rather than the politicians he was covering, and even more astonished by the repeated suggestions that he run for office himself. He saw himself as an old-fashioned newsman — his title was managing editor of the “CBS Evening News” — and so did his audience.

“The viewers could more readily picture Walter Cronkite jumping into a car to cover a 10-alarm fire than they could visualize him doing cerebral commentary on a great summit meeting in Geneva,” David Halberstam wrote in “The Powers That Be,” his 1979 book about the news media.

As anchorman and reporter, Mr. Cronkite described wars, natural disasters, nuclear explosions, social upheavals and space flights, from Alan Shepard’s 15-minute ride to lunar landings. On July 20, 1969, when the Eagle touched down on the moon, Mr. Cronkite exclaimed, “Oh, boy!”

On the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, Mr. Cronkite briefly lost his composure in announcing that the president had been pronounced dead at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas. Taking off his black-framed glasses and blinking back tears, he registered the emotions of millions.

It was an uncharacteristically personal note from a newsman who was uncomfortable expressing opinion.

“I am a news presenter, a news broadcaster, an anchorman, a managing editor — not a commentator or analyst,” he said in an interview with The Christian Science Monitor in 1973. “I feel no compulsion to be a pundit.”

But when he did pronounce judgment, the impact was large.

In 1968, he visited Vietnam and returned to do a rare special program on the war. He called the conflict a stalemate and advocated a negotiated peace. President Lyndon B. Johnson watched the broadcast, Mr. Cronkite wrote in his 1996 memoir, “A Reporter’s Life,” quoting a description of the scene by Bill Moyers, then a Johnson aide.

“The president flipped off the set,” Mr. Moyers recalled, “and said, ‘If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost middle America.’ ”

Mr. Cronkite sometimes pushed beyond the usual two-minute limit to news items. On Oct. 27, 1972, his 14-minute report on Watergate, followed by an eight-minute segment four days later, “put the Watergate story clearly and substantially before millions of Americans” for the first time, the broadcast historian Marvin Barrett wrote in “Moments of Truth?” (1975).

In 1977, his separate interviews with President Anwar el-Sadat of Egypt and Prime Minister Menachem Begin of Israel were instrumental in Sadat’s visiting Jerusalem. The countries later signed a peace treaty.

“From his earliest days,” Mr. Halberstam wrote, “he was one of the hungriest reporters around, wildly competitive, no one was going to beat Walter Cronkite on a story, and as he grew older and more successful, the marvel of it was that he never changed, the wild fires still burned.”

Walter Leland Cronkite Jr. was born on Nov. 4, 1916, in St. Joseph, Mo., the son of Walter Leland Cronkite Sr., a dentist, and the former Helen Lena Fritsche. His ancestors had settled in New Amsterdam, the Dutch colony that became New York. As a boy, Walter peddled magazines door to door and hawked newspapers. As a teenager, after the family had moved to Houston, he got a job with The Houston Post as a copy boy and cub reporter. At the same time, he had a paper route delivering The Post to his neighbors.

“As far as I know, there were no other journalists delivering the morning paper with their own compositions inside,” he wrote in his autobiography.

When he was 16, Mr. Cronkite went with friends to Chicago for the 1933 World’s Fair. He volunteered to help demonstrate an experimental version of television.

“I could honestly say to all of my colleagues, ‘I was in television long before you were,’ ” he said in an interview with CBS News in 1996.

Mr. Cronkite attended the University of Texas for two years, studying political science, economics and journalism, working on the school newspaper and picking up journalism jobs with The Houston Press and other newspapers. He also auditioned to be an announcer at an Austin radio station but was turned down. He left college in 1935 without graduating to take a job as a reporter with The Press.

While visiting Kansas City, Mo., he was hired by the radio station KCMO to read news and broadcast football games under the name Walter Wilcox. (Radio stations at the time wanted to “own” announcers’ names so that popular ones could not be taken elsewhere.)

He was not at the games but received cryptic summaries of each play by telegraph. These provided fodder for vivid descriptions of the action. He added details of what local men in the stands were wearing, which he learned by calling their wives. He found out in advance what music the band would be playing so he could describe halftime festivities.

At KCMO, Mr. Cronkite met an advertising writer named Mary Elizabeth Maxwell. The two read a commercial together. One of Mr. Cronkite’s lines was, “You look like an angel.” They were married for 64 years until her death in 2005.

In addition to his son, Walter Leland III, known as Chip, Mr. Cronkite is survived by his daughters, Nancy Elizabeth and Mary Kathleen; and four grandsons.

In his last years, Joanna Simon, a former opera singer and sister of Carly Simon, was his frequent companion.

The family said it was planning a private service at St. Bartholomew’s Church in New York.

After being fired from KCMO in a dispute over journalism practices he considered shabby, Mr. Cronkite in 1939 landed a job at the United Press news agency, now United Press International. He reported from Houston, Dallas, El Paso and Kansas City.

The stint ended when he returned to radio and then took a job with Braniff International Airways in Kansas City, selling tickets and doing public relations.

Returning to United Press after a few months, he became one of the first reporters accredited to American forces with the outbreak of World War II. He gained fame as a war correspondent, crash-landing a glider in Belgium, accompanying the first Allied troops into North Africa, reporting on the Normandy invasion and covering major battles, including the Battle of the Bulge, in 1944.

In 1943, Edward R. Murrow asked Mr. Cronkite to join his wartime broadcast team in CBS’s Moscow bureau. In “The Murrow Boys: Pioneers on the Front Lines of Broadcast Journalism” (1996), Stanley Cloud and Lynne Olson wrote that Murrow was astounded when Mr. Cronkite rejected his $125-a-week job offer and decided to stay with United Press for $92 a week.

That year Mr. Cronkite was one of eight journalists selected for an Army Air Forces program that took them on a bombing mission to Germany aboard B-17 Flying Fortresses. Mr. Cronkite manned a machine gun until he was “up to my hips in spent .50-caliber shells,” he wrote in his memoir.

After covering the Nuremberg war-crimes trials and then reporting from Moscow from 1946 to 1948, he again left print journalism to become the Washington correspondent for a dozen Midwestern radio stations. In 1950, Murrow successfully recruited him for CBS.

Mr. Cronkite was assigned to develop the news department of a new CBS station in Washington. Within a year he was appearing on nationally broadcast public affairs programs like “Man of the Week,” “It’s News to Me” and “Pick the Winner.”

In February 1953 he narrated the first installment of his long-running series “You Are There,” which recreated historic events like the Battle of the Alamo or the Hindenburg disaster and reported them as if they were breaking news. Sidney Lumet, soon to become a well-known filmmaker, directed the series.

“What sort of day was it?” Mr. Cronkite said at the end of each episode. “A day like all days, filled with those events that alter and illuminate our times. And you were there.”

In 1954, when CBS challenged NBC’s popular morning program “Today” with the short-lived “Morning Show,” it tapped Mr. Cronkite to be the host. Early on he riled the sponsor, the R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, by grammatically correcting its well-known advertising slogan, declaring, “Winston tastes good as a cigarette should.”

When not interviewing guests, he mulled over the news with a witty and erudite puppet lion, Charlemagne. Occasionally he ventured outside the studio — using a tugboat, for example, to meet luxury liners so he could interview celebrities before they landed.

In 1952, the first presidential year in which television outshined radio, Mr. Cronkite was chosen to lead the coverage of the Democratic and Republican national conventions. By Mr. Cronkite’s account, it was then that the term “anchor” was first used — by Sig Mickelson, the first director of television news for CBS, who had likened the chief announcer’s job to an anchor that holds a boat in place. Paul Levitan, another CBS executive, and Don Hewitt, then a young producer, have also been credited with the phrase.

The 1952 conventions made Mr. Cronkite a star. Mr. Mickelson, he recalled, told him: “You’re famous now. And you’re going to want a lot more money. You’d better get an agent.”

Mr. Cronkite went on to anchor every national political convention and election night until 1980, with the exception of 1964. That year he was replaced at the Democratic convention in Atlantic City by Roger Mudd and Robert Trout in an effort to challenge NBC’s Huntley and Brinkley team, which had won the ratings battle at the Republican convention in San Francisco that summer.

In 1961, Mr. Cronkite replaced Murrow as CBS’s senior correspondent, and on April 16, 1962, he began anchoring the evening news, succeeding Douglas Edwards, whose ratings had been low. As managing editor, Mr. Cronkite also helped shape the nightly report.

The evening broadcast had been a 15-minute program, but on Sept. 2, 1963, CBS doubled the length to a half-hour, over the objections of its affiliates. Mr. Cronkite interviewed President Kennedy on the first longer broadcast, renamed the “CBS Evening News With Walter Cronkite.” He also broadcast from a real newsroom and not, as Edwards had done, from a studio set.

At the time the broadcast was lengthened, Mr. Cronkite inaugurated his famous sign-off, “And that’s the way it is.” The original idea, he later wrote, had been to end each broadcast with a quirky news item, after which he would recite the line with humor, sadness or irony.

Richard S. Salant, the president of CBS News, hated the line from the beginning — it ate up a precious four seconds a night — and the offbeat items were never done.

“I began to think Dick was right, but I was too stubborn to drop it,” Mr. Cronkite wrote.

Starting with Herbert Hoover, Mr. Cronkite knew every president, not always pleasantly. A top aide to President Richard M. Nixon, Charles Colson, harangued the network’s chairman, William S. Paley, after Mr. Cronkite’s 14-minute Watergate broadcast. The next segment was shortened.

In 1960, during the Wisconsin primary, Mr. Cronkite asked Kennedy, then a senator, about his Roman Catholic religion. As Mr. Cronkite recalled in his memoir, Kennedy called Frank Stanton, CBS’s president, to complain that questions about the subject had earlier been ruled out of bounds. He then reminded Mr. Stanton that if he were elected he would be appointing members of the Federal Communications Commission. Mr. Stanton “courageously stood up to the threat,” Mr. Cronkite wrote.

By contrast, Mr. Cronkite’s relations with President Dwight D. Eisenhower were so cordial that President Kennedy incorrectly assumed Mr. Cronkite, a political independent, was a Republican.

Mr. Cronkite also enjoyed the company of President Ronald Reagan, with whom he exchanged often off-color jokes. And he whimsically competed with his friend Johnny Carson to see who could take the most vacation time without getting fired.

Mr. Cronkite raced sports cars but switched to sailing so he could spend more time with his family. He liked old-time pubs and friendly restaurants; there was even one in Midtown Manhattan where his regular chair was marked with his initials.

In an interview with The New York Times in 2002, Mr. Cronkite scrunched his eyes and lowered his voice into a theatrical sob when asked if he regretted missing out on the huge salaries subsequent anchors had received.

“Yes,” he said, adding, “I frequently call myself the Mickey Mantle of network news.”

Mr. Cronkite retired in 1981 at 64. He had repeatedly promised to do so, but few had either believed him or chosen to hear. CBS was eager to replace him with Dan Rather, who was flirting with ABC, but both Mr. Cronkite and the network said he had not been pushed.

After his retirement he continued to be seen on CBS as the host of “Walter Cronkite’s Universe,” a science series that began in 1980 and ran until 1982. The network also named him a special correspondent; the position turned out to be largely honorary, though news reports said it paid $1 million a year. But after he spent 10 years on the board of CBS, where he chafed at the cuts that the network’s chairman, Laurence A. Tisch, had made in a once-generous news budget, more and more of his broadcast work appeared on CNN, National Public Radio and elsewhere, not CBS.

By the time Mr. Rather was leaving the “CBS Evening News” in 2005, Mr. Cronkite had abandoned mincing words. He criticized his successor as “playing the role of newsman” rather than being one. Mr. Rather should have been replaced years earlier, he said.

When Katie Couric took over the job in September 2006, Mr. Cronkite introduced her on the air and praised her in interviews.

His long “retirement” was not leisurely. When Senator John Glenn went back into space on the shuttle Discovery in 1998, 36 years after his astronaut days, Mr. Cronkite did an encore in covering the event for CNN. He made some 60 documentaries. And among many other things, he was the voice of Benjamin Franklin on the PBS cartoon series “Liberty’s Kids,” covered a British general election for a British network and for many years served as host of the annual Kennedy Center Honors.

He had already won Emmy Awards, a Peabody and the Presidential Medal of Freedom (in 1981), and he continued to pile up accolades. Arizona State University named its journalism school after him.

In July 2006, PBS broadcast a 90-minute “American Masters” special on Mr. Cronkite’s career. Mr. Lumet, the filmmaker, appeared and said, “He seemed to me incorruptible in a profession that was easily corrupted.”

On his 90th birthday, Mr. Cronkite told The Daily News, “I would like to think I’m still quite capable of covering a story.”

But he knew he had to stop sometime, he allowed in his autobiography. He promised at the time to continue to follow news developments “from a perch yet to be determined.”

“I just hope that wherever that is, folks will still stop me, as they do today, and ask, ‘Didn’t you used to be Walter Cronkite?’ ”



This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: July 21, 2009

Because of an editing error, an obituary Saturday about the CBS newsman Walter Cronkite misspelled the name of the church in Manhattan where his family plans to hold a private funeral service. It is St. Bartholomew’s, not Bartholemew’s.

    Walter Cronkite, 92, Dies; Trusted Voice of TV News, NYT, 18.7.2009,






The TV Watch

Fallon Faces the Camera,

Conscious of the Web


March 6, 2009
The New York Times


He looked nervous, even flustered, at first, and some of the prepared comedy was surprisingly lame. That doesn’t matter. Jimmy Fallon’s first few days don’t really reveal how “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon” will fare.

Monitoring the opening kinks and experiments of a new talk show is a spectator sport, and this entry comes with an added “American Idol” edge: NBC had the last word during the auditions, but Internet users are now expected to comment and cavil interactively and build — or diminish — Mr. Fallon’s television audience.

Mr. Fallon was cute and funny on “Saturday Night Live,” but he is not necessarily the ideal choice for the “Late Night” core audience of young males: his humor is mischievous, not anarchic. (If fans had a call-in vote, they might have elected Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert.)

Still, Mr. Fallon is engaging and has an antic, quick-witted charm. He seemed more confident by the show’s third night and, oddly enough, had better comic chemistry with Cameron Diaz on Wednesday than with Tina Fey, his former “Weekend Update” co-anchor on “SNL,” the night before. Most of his skits and routines, however, seemed written for the Web, not for broadcast.

It’s still too soon to pass judgment on Mr. Fallon’s talents as a talk show host, but it’s a perfectly good time to examine NBC’s latest test of synergy, the marriage of the Internet and a television show.

Almost all shows nowadays have Web sites with extraneous videos, fan blogs and viewer e-mail exchanges. But Mr. Fallon has gone further to co-opt the Internet than either of his two network rivals, Jimmy Kimmel on ABC and Craig Ferguson on CBS, or even cable upstarts like Chelsea Handler, the host of “Chelsea Lately” on E! In the months leading up to his debut on Monday, Mr. Fallon tried to pump up younger viewers’ interest with “Late Night” Webisodes. He has pages on Facebook, Myspace and Twitter.

Perhaps accordingly, many of the routines he worked into the show in its first nights might have been better suited to YouTube. And that youth-oriented material clashes with the highly conventional, even fusty jokes in his opening monologue (“Everybody’s cutting back, everybody: Madonna’s now down to one teenage boyfriend”), as well as with the choice of a veteran actor, Robert De Niro, to be his first guest.

Twitter is so overexposed that it has become a joke, but Mr. Fallon apparently isn’t in on it. He interviewed Ms. Diaz by posing questions submitted via Twitter. Those turned out to be as dull and anodyne as any taken from a live audience. (“If Cameron wasn’t acting, what would her dream job be?” Ms. Diaz didn’t have a ready answer, so Mr. Fallon supplied it: “Forest ranger.”)

Wednesday’s quite funny parody of romance novels, “bromance novels,” came with a link on the show’s Web site (latenightwithjimmyfallon.com) that allows users to watch a video of the shooting of the cover art.

Mr. Fallon consistently tried to incorporate a wackier Web spirit into his on-air performance, even picking random people in the studio audience and assigning them made-up Facebook identities. None were very funny.

Remarkably, given how many months he has had to prepare, many of his supposedly wacky, Web-style pranks were oddly plodding and unimaginative. On the first night three audience members were invited onstage to lick something in exchange for $10. The things were all inanimate objects: a lawn mower, a copier, a fishbowl. The slow-motion “super-sexy replay” was funny once, not three times.

Mr. Fallon does not have a sidekick, but he does have a cool band, the Roots, whose musicians are deadpan and steadfastly underwhelmed by his jokes, and over time that could serve as a comic foil to his eager-to-please persona.

There were other amusing moments, including a random, bizarre video of German soccer players dancing that was found on the Web and a mock charitable appeal for laid-off Wall Street workers, a Save the Bankers Foundation, that could have just as easily been a “Saturday Night Live” skit.

And Mr. Fallon got better, and more relaxed, after his debut, though he joked with Tina Fey about his “flop sweat” moment with Mr. De Niro. (When performers admit to being nervous, it’s a little like a woman on a date bemoaning how fat she is: nobody wants to hear it.)

The first days are tough because large audiences tune in to see what all the prepremiere fuss was about, boosting ratings and expectations, then quickly turn away if not instantly amused. And most hosts go through a trial-and-error period. Mr. Kimmel started out more loutishly and live; now he is more buttoned-down, and his show is taped, even though it is still called “Jimmy Kimmel Live.”

Mr. Ferguson began with a very conventional “Tonight Show” format, then slowly allowed more of his own offbeat storytelling and Monty Pythonesque eccentricities into his act.

NBC picked Mr. Fallon, and he can sometimes seem like an old person’s notion of a hip young comic, but that doesn’t mean that he isn’t funny or that he cannot hold his own on “Late Night.” Only time, not Twitter, will tell.

    Fallon Faces the Camera, Conscious of the Web, NYT, 6.3.2009,






Les Crane,

Talk-Show Host,

Dies at 74


July 15, 2008
The New York Times


Les Crane, a provocative talk-show host who was the first to challenge the primacy of Johnny Carson on late-night television — and lose — died Sunday in Greenbrae, Calif., north of San Francisco. He was 74 and lived in Belvedere, Calif.

Mr. Crane’s daughter, Caprice Crane, confirmed his death.

Personable, cocky and well-attuned to the tenor of the times, Mr. Crane predated Howard Stern as a “king of all media”; his multifaceted career began in radio, moved to television and ended in computer software, with a stop in between as a Grammy-winning recording artist, though even he would have shuddered at calling his recording art.

An early, and by later standards, tame incarnation of a shock jock, Mr. Crane was a radio star in San Francisco in the early 1960s. From a studio in the hungry i, a nightclub that was a launching pad for performers like Mort Sahl, Woody Allen, Barbra Streisand and Lenny Bruce, he took listeners’ calls from all over the West Coast, fielding their questions, sometimes with a celebrity guest, and often dismissing callers’ comments on current events and culture with brusque wit or outright disdain, simply hanging up on some in what was then a startling breach of accepted etiquette.

His station, KGO, was owned by ABC, and the parent company transferred Mr. Crane first to the local television affiliate and then to its flagship station, WABC in New York. The show, initially with the title “Night Line ... With Les Crane” and later as “The Les Crane Show” was first broadcast in September 1963, beginning at 1 a.m. Within two months it was the object of civil rights picketers protesting the appearance on the show of Gov. George Wallace of Alabama.

Calling him “the bad boy of late night television,” The New York Times described Mr. Crane’s role on the show as “public relations expert, complaint-department chief, psychiatrist and tough hero to the callers.”

The show was well-received, and Mr. Crane, telegenic, blithely confrontational and at least partly hip — he conducted the first American television interview with the Rolling Stones, in June 1964 — was attractive enough that the following summer the network gave him a weeklong tryout in the 11:30 p.m. slot with a more conventional talk show, again called “The Les Crane Show,” which was broadcast in five big cities. The week featured interviews with Richard Burton, Shelley Winters, Melvin Belli and Marguerite Frances Claverie, the mother of Lee Harvey Oswald

“We’re sitting here in the studio of a major broadcasting company in America and we are talking to the mother of a man it is alleged assassinated our President,” he said on the air, adding: “It’s pretty wonderful, isn’t it? Pretty exciting.”

The tryout was successful, but the show was not. On Nov. 9, 1964, Mr. Crane, just 30 years old, went up against Carson, who had taken over NBC’s “Tonight” show from Jack Paar two years earlier. The Crane show was canceled just a few months later, in spite of Mr. Crane’s interview with Bob Dylan, during which Mr. Crane asked Mr. Dylan, then 23, about the songwriters who influenced him and about the overall message of his songs. Hank Williams and Cole Porter were the answers to the first question. To the second, Mr. Dylan said: “Eat?” Mr. Crane returned to the show in June but lasted only until November.

Mr. Crane was born on Dec. 3, 1933, but sources about his birthplace conflict. His name at birth, his daughter said, was Lesley Stein, adding that she thought he was born in New York. According to an ABC biography, he was born in Long Beach, N.Y. The Daily News in New York once reported that he was born in the Bronx, and various Web sites say San Francisco.

Mr. Crane graduated from Tulane University in New Orleans and spent four years in the United States Air Force as a jet pilot and helicopter flight instructor; for years afterwards, he wore a bracelet with his Air Force wings on it, a reminder, he said, “that whatever I’m doing is safer than what I used to do.”

Mr. Crane married five times. His fourth wife was the actress Tina Louise whom he met and married while she was at the height of her popularity as the glamorous sexpot on the 1960s sitcom “Gilligan’s Island.” They divorced in 1971 after a five-year marriage. Besides his daughter, a television writer who lives in Los Angeles, he is survived by his wife of 20 years, Ginger Crane.

After the demise of his Carson challenge, in 1968 Mr. Crane had another short-lived talk show, this time on WNEW-TV in New York. He also worked as an occasional actor on television, appearing on “The Virginian,” “Burke’s Law” and “Love, American Style.”

In 1980, Mr. Crane went into the burgeoning computer software business, becoming chairman of the Software Toolworks, whose successes included “Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing.” But of all his endeavors, the most well-known was one he later wanted to forget.

In 1971, his recording of the inspirational poem “Desiderata” became a cultish hit and even won a Grammy for best spoken-word recording. A cross between flower-child naïveté and New Age dreaminess, it hit a chord at the time, but by 1987, Mr. Crane had changed his tune.

“I can’t listen to it now without gagging,” he told The Los Angeles Times.

    Les Crane, Talk-Show Host, Dies at 74, NYT, 15.7.2008,







Leading article:

An unflattering mirror to our society


Published: 18 January 2007

The Independent


Put a group of self-centred, egotistical, ignorant people in a confined space such as Channel 4's Big Brother household and it is not altogether surprising that something unpleasant emerges. Indeed unpleasantness and bullying are what the programme's makers Endemol - whose very name sounds like an unpleasant medication - set out to provoke. Conflict, however petty, is the essence of "good television", or so contemporary wisdom has it.

But the racist taunting of the Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty by a bunch of neanderthal C-list celebrities in the latest series has descended to new depths, which even Endemol must be beginning to regret. And so it should. Yesterday even the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, currently on a visit to India, was drawn into the row by local people outraged at Britain's treatment of their mega-star. The issue was raised with him so repeatedly that he issued a statement saying that the world should see Britain as "a country of fairness and tolerance".

So, by and large, it is. More than 21,000 British viewers have complained to Ofcom and Channel 4. This is an extraordinarily large number, especially since it is not the result of a hyped-up campaign by a lobby group, but spontaneous revulsion by members of the general public at what they are seeing on their screens. The scale of the protest is a measure of how far Britain has progressed in recent decades in reshaping attitudes to racial prejudice.

Such progress is, however, far from universal. The ugly behaviour being seen on Big Brother is, sadly, still all too common in our society. It is to this pitbull tendency that unscrupulous politicians and populist newspapers play when they obsess about the alleged horrors of immigration - playing to the fear that foreign migrants are here to steal our jobs, homes and women. And yet this barely submerged xenophobia in Britain is a significant phenomenon in our society still.

It is why we should have no truck with those who complain routinely about "political correctness gone mad". Political correctness has proved an effective tool in countering such deep-rooted bigotry in racial and sexual matters. Changing the law, and altering what is acceptable behaviour, is the first step in shifting destructive and warped social attitudes.

The truth is that Big Brother holds up a mirror to contemporary society - albeit a fairground one designed to exaggerate. If we don't like what we see, then we all need to make that clear to those from whom we must expect change. And that means not just Jade Goody and her unattractive companions but the television channel which profits from broadcasting her excesses

    Leading article: An unflattering mirror to our society, I, 18.1.2007,






State of a nation

Snapshot of the US:

65 days in front of the TV

and five months of media

Annual survey published since 1878
shows dramatic changes in American lives


Friday December 15, 2006




Dan Glaister in Los Angeles


If you are reading this as you surf the internet while the TV is on, the radio is playing and you are listening to music on your personal stereo you are already tapping into the American way of media multi-tasking.

Data released by the US census bureau today forecasts that Americans will spend a total of 65 days watching TV next year and 41 days listening to the radio. A week each will be given to reading newspapers and surfing the internet.

All that reading, surfing and listening will occupy 3,518 hours of the average American adult's year - the equivalent of almost five months. But such indolence doesn't come cheap. The average American, says the survey, will spend $936 (£475) on media in the coming year.

The information comes in the 126th statistical abstract, which collates data from census bureau studies as well as international organisations, non-profit-making groups and the private sector. The abstract, which has been published most years since 1878, makes comparisons with previous years as well as providing forecasts.


Internet boom

Thus the survey shows that 97 million adult internet users looked for news online in 2005, 92 million bought a product online and 91 million made an online travel reservation. About 16 million Americans used a social or professional networking site such as MySpace, and 13 million created a blog in 2005, with 39 million reading someone else's blog.

The information on internet usage is based on telephone surveys of 2,500 US adults carried out in September 2005 by the Pew Research Centre. The survey also showed that 25 million Americans downloaded videos to their computers, and 24 million remixed material found online to make their own creation.

Despite much speculation about the death of old media and the rise of the new, reading a newspaper and surfing the internet will each consume the same amount of the average American adult's time next year, the census bureau says.

Nevertheless, a week spent reading the news on the internet represents a significant change in habits. Ten years ago, according to a Pew report in the summer, one in 50 Americans regularly got their news from the internet. Today the figure is one in three. But the figures show that the rate of increase in online news readership has slowed since 2000, suggesting, says the report, that "online news has evolved as a supplemental source that is used along with traditional news media outlets. It is valued most for headlines and convenience."

"This new census bureau material highlights just how dramatically we have moved into the information age," said Lee Rainie, director of the Pew internet and American life project. "Pick any metric you like and you'll see that the volume of information and media in people's lives has grown, the velocity of that information as it circulates in their lives has increased, and the variety of information has exploded."

Elsewhere the census bureau statistics showed that people in US households drank an average of 88 litres of bottled water in 2004, compared with 10 litres each in 1980. But while some were enjoying mountain-fresh water, others were struggling to get enough food. Out of 112m households, 11.9m were deemed "food insecure" in a 2004 survey by the US department of agriculture. Food insecure is defined as having "limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways". The figures do not include homeless people.

The lives of those with homes were often made uncomfortable by nasty smells. In 2005 residents of 3.7m housing units said that they were bothered by odours in the neighbourhood.

At the other extreme, the US has more millionaires than ever before, 3.5 million of them, according to internal revenue service figures published at the end of last year. More than half a million live in California.

And as the ranks of the rich have increased, so the beliefs and aspirations of the young have evolved. In 1970, 85% of university entrants thought abortion should be legalised, 59% thought capital punishment should be abolished and 57% aimed to keep up with political affairs. By 2005, those figures had fallen to 55% in favour of legalised abortion, 33% against capital punishment, and 36% who aimed to follow politics.

And while in 1970, 79% of university entrants said they had a personal objective of "developing a meaningful philosophy of life", by last year 75% defined their objective as "being very well off financially".


· The first survey of 1878: Aliens, postmasters and budding industry

The US census bureau issued its first statistical aggregate in 1878. "Sir," wrote the treasury secretary, John Sherman, in a letter to the speaker of the House of Representatives, Samuel Randall, "I have the honour to transmit ... a statistical abstract ... this abstract embraces tables in regard to finance, coinage, commerce, immigration, tonnage and navigation, the postal service, public lands, railroads, agriculture and mining."

The 160-page document goes on to catalogue a very different world from this week's study.

The lists of Alien Passengers Arrived in the United States from Foreign Countries between 1861 and 1870 shows that the largest group, 1.1 million, came from the British Isles. A further million came from the rest of Europe, mostly from Germany, although three Corsicans and eight Maltese also made it across the Atlantic. Unlike today, Asia and Latin America made modest contributions, with 363,000 arriving from the "Americas" and 68,000 from Asia.

Of the 38.5 million population recorded in the 1870 census, the bulk lived in the eastern states, with New York having the largest population, 4.4 million. Pennsylvania, with 3.8 million, was close behind.

The population figures show the country before the huge expansion to the west. Outside California - misspelled as Caliofrnia in the official table - which had a population of 500,000, the most populous of the western states was New Mexico, with 96,000.

That population relied on the postal service to communicate. In 1790, the data shows, the postal service had 75 post offices in the entire nation, offering 1,875 miles of post routes and taking almost $38,000 in revenue. By 1878 there were more than 39,000 post offices serving 300,000 miles of post routes and taking in $29m.

Some of that mail and much of the population would travel by railway, with the number of miles of railway in the country rising from 22 in 1830 to 79,000 by 1879.

The year also saw the births of a number of figures who would help to define America's transition into the modern age: the poet Carl Sandburg, the African-American boxer Jack Johnson (left), the film actor Lionel Barrymore, the dancer Isadora Duncan and the writer and social activist Upton Sinclair were all born in 1878.

Snapshot of the US:
65 days in front of the TV and five months of media,






February 26 1962


The televised parliament gameshow


From the Guardian archive


February 26 1962

The Guardian


THE SPEAKER : Hi folks! Welcome to another edition of TV Parliament, the party game programme for the family. Remember — the side that gets the highest rating wins the debate, and the Member who is elected most pleasing TV personality by the audience gets a luxury holiday. So away we go with the first Bill — Planning (Special Measures).

Mr CHRISTOPHER SMOOTHE: (Minister of Chance and Speculation) (West Wittering, C.): Let me kick off by admitting that I'm in favour of the Bill.

Mr JOHN BOLSOVER (Screwe, Lab.): What Chris is too modest to mention is that this is Chris's very own Bill. Let's give him a round of applause.

Mr SMOOTHE: John was too modest to mention — it's his birthday today.

(Mr Smoothe leads the House in "Happy Birthday to You." )

Mr BOLSOVER: Thanks, Chris. But to be serious for a moment, Chris, perhaps you'd like to tell us something about the Bill.

Mr SMOOTHE: I'm glad you asked that, John. You see, I believe you've got to have a bit of planning here and there. But no one likes arbitrary planning — being told what's good for them by some so-called expert. So we've approached the matter in a different way. There's nothing your average chap enjoys more than a bit of a flutter, and so we hit on the idea of adapting Ernie [the Premium Bonds prize computer], that friend of every sporting Englishman, to cast random statistics and target figures for our economic plans.

Mr WALTER SPOWTE (Leeds Crematorium, Lab.): Let's give the lad a big hand.

Mr SMOOTHE: Thanks, Walter.

Mr NIGEL SHARPE-GROOMSMAN (Twicester, C.): The most vital economic question of the hour is whether we are producing enough British-made espresso coffee machines.

Mr HERBERT GASWICK (East Shields, Lab.): I think you're being unfair, Nigel. Christopher has an extremely good record on coffee machines.

Mr GASWICK: Christopher Smoothe, this is your record. Almost alone, ignored or laughed at in the House, you set out to persuade the Govern ment to give the manufacturers a generous price support.

Mr SMOOTHE: I don't know what to say (he is overcome with emotion).

THE SPEAKER: Do you want to quit, Christopher, or will you go on to the 64,000 question?

Mr SMOOTHE: I'll ... I'll go on.

Mr GEORGE SNUGG (Isle of Dogs, Lab): Will the Minister give the House the names of the first six kings after William the Conqueror?

Mr SMOOTHE : I am looking into that question ... and it would wrong to anticipate my findings.

THE SPEAKER: That's the correct answer!

(Wild applause.)

That's all, folks, but we'll be with you tomorrow night
for "Juke Box Select Committee."

From the Guardian archive > February 26 1962 >
The televised parliament gameshow,
Republished 26.2.2007,
p. 32,










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