NEW YORK (AP) — Edwin Newman, who brought literacy, wit and energy to NBC newscasts for more than three decades, and battled linguistic pretense and clutter in his best sellers “Strictly Speaking” and “A Civil Tongue,” has died. He was 91.
NBC News did not immediately say on Wednesday where or when Mr. Newman had died, or the cause of death.
At NBC from 1952 until his retirement in 1984, Newman did political reporting, foreign reporting, anchoring of news specials, “Meet the Press,” ”Today,” ”The Nightly News,” midday news and a variety of radio spots. He announced the death of President Kennedy on radio and analyzed the Vietnam War.
He also narrated and helped write documentaries, back when they were an influential staple of network programming. They included “Who Shall Live?” — a 1965 study of the difficulties of deciding which kidney disease should receive lifesaving dialysis — and “Politics: The Outer Fringe,” a 1966 look at extremism.
“I think I worked on more documentaries than anybody else in TV history,” he once said.
Mr. Newman, with his rumpled, squinting delivery, impressed his audience not so much with how he looked as with the likelihood that what he’d say would be worth hearing. And his occasional witty turn of phrase might be accompanied by a mischievous smile. The New York Times wrote in 1966 that Mr. Newman “is one of broadcasting’s rarities… . NBC’s instant renaissance man speaks with the distinctive growl of a rusted muffler. He makes no concessions to the charm boy school of commentator.”
In his series “Speaking Freely,” he had hourlong, uninterrupted conversations with notables in many fields.
“People had an opportunity to put forward ideas,” he said in a 1988 Associated Press interview. “You could get people to come on who wouldn’t normally have been on TV.
“NBC, and I mean this to its credit, never tried to sell a minute of commercials and never interfered with the choice of people. The producer and I chose them.”
His contributions to the radio show “Emphasis” won him a 1966 Peabody Award; judges cited “his wit and depth of understanding, both conspicuous rarities to be cherished and honored.”
He turned to writing books in the 1970s, taking on the linguistic excesses of Watergate, sportscasting, academics, bureaucrats and other assorted creators of gobbledygook with wit and indignation.
Chapter titles of “A Civil Tongue” give an idea of his targets: “A Fatal Slaying of the Very Worst Kind,” ”A Real Super Player With Good Compassion,” ”Paradigm Lost” and “Myself Will Be Back After This Message.”
“A civil tongue … means to me a language that is not bogged down in jargon, not puffed up with false dignity, not studded with trick phrases that have lost their meaning,” he wrote.
“It is direct, specific, concrete, vigorous, colorful, subtle and imaginative when it should be, and as lucid and eloquent as we are able to make it. It is something to revel in and enjoy.”
For a time, he was also a theater reviewer for NBC’s New York station, drawing upon all his skills to sum up productions in one minute flat. Of one show, he wrote, “As with so many recent musicals, none of the principals can really sing.”View Entire Story
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