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Posts Tagged ‘William Safire’

FishbowlNY’s 2009 Lists: In Memoriam

cronkite.jpgOur favorite part of any award show is the memorial montage commemorating the lives of all those who passed away in the past year. While this year’s headlines were populated by the tragic deaths of celebrities and other bold-faced names — from Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett to Patrick Swayze and Senator Ted Kennedy — our industry lost quite a few of its prominent members in 2009 as well. Here, a look back at some of the media’s brightest stars we said goodbye to this year:

Former anchorman Walter Cronkite was perhaps the biggest name in the media world to pass away in 2009, and he was honored by a star-studded memorial in September.

A number of famous columnists also left us without their prolific narratives about politics, celebrities and the English language in 2009. Conservative columnist Robert Novak died in August from a brain tumor, Vanity Fair‘s Dominick Dunne passed away later that month after a battle with bladder cancer. The New York Times‘ “On Language” columnist, William Safire, died in September from pancreatic cancer. Another columnist who we had the pleasure of working with last year, men’s wear expert Stan Gellers, died suddenly last winter, just a few months after the publication he had contributed to for more than 50 years, DNR, folded.

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Remembering William Safire

saffire.jpgYesterday morning saw the memorial service for The New York TimesWilliam Safire, the former Nixon speechwriter who became an Op-Ed columnist for the paper in 1973. Katherine Rosman was scoping the scene The Wall Street Journal and she got all the dirt:

Present at the memorial was Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr., who recounted how Safire had been hired by his father after a dinner party for Nixon where the elder Timesman had originally been insulted to sit “next to the flack!”

Safire wasn’t all dark suits and grammar lessons though, as Barbara Walters recounted how while working at at a PR firm that he managed, Safire had given her a Christmas present of a see-through nightgown with lace panties. She got the joke, though admitted that today, “I’d have to report it to human resources.”

The service also included speeches from Mort Zuckerman, Bill Janklow, Bob Menschel, Julie Eisenhower (Nixon’s daughter), and William’s son Mark Safire.

William Safire, RememberedWall Street Journal

Previously: William Safire, NYT Columnist, Dies At 79, Paying Tribute To Safire

Paying Tribute To Safire

safire.jpgSince his death yesterday, William Safire‘s colleagues have been offering tribute. Here’s a few of our favorites:

Former New York Times columnist Leslie H. Gelb writes on about advice Safire offered him on column writing many years ago:

“Half the columns you write will be no better than C+. Write them and go home…And make sure that at least twice a year you make somebody bleed in your column.”

In its obituary, The Washington Post called the former Nixon speech writer “rapier-witted”:

“His catchy turns of phrase often outlived the context in which they were delivered. Perhaps the most memorable was the acidic and alliterative putdown he crafted for Vice President Spiro T. Agnew to describe those in the press who opposed the Vietnam war. They were, Agnew said, ‘nattering nabobs of negativism.’”

In its short and sweet tribute, The Wall Street Journal lauded Safire for as a conservative and a wordsmith:

“Unlike many columnists, Safire did not soar at 35,000 feet bemoaning what fools these mortals be. He did his own reporting, digging up stories and anecdotes that embarrassed politicians who deserved to be embarrassed. He was a master of his craft, a student of the English language who loved the playful use of words.”

But no one can be quite as eloquent as the man himself, who is best paid tribute to through his own work, like this tongue-in-cheek column from 2005, reprinted by the Times today, that instructs readers who to digest a political column with 12 simple rules. Like number 10:

“Resist swaydo-intellectual writing. Only the hifalutin trap themselves into ‘whomever’ and only the tort bar uses the Latin for ‘who benefits?’ Columnists who show off should surely shove off. (And avoid all asinine alliteration.)”

Earlier: William Safire, NYT Columnist, Dies At 79

(Photo by Fred R. Conrad)

On The Menu: Assessing “60 Minutes”


Today on the media- Morning Media Menu podcast, Los Angeles Times reporter Matea Gold joined hosts Jason Boog of GalleyCat and AgencySpy‘s Matt Van Hoven to discuss her recent article about CBS News‘ “60 Minutes.”

“I thought it would be a really fascinating time to take a step back and look at what’s going on inside the show because its creator Don Hewitt passed away last month and he had really been a constant presence there even though he retired in 2004,” Gold explained. “’60 Minutes’ is, in some ways, really an anomaly in our new media universe because its an old media show conceived 41 years ago and it still is one of the few that commands regularly and reliably a mass audience every Sunday. And that is a pretty miraculous thing.”

In fact, the show saw viewership grow 10 percent in last season compared to the year before, growth that Gold attributes to the show’s coverage of Barack Obama and the increasing profile of contributor Steve Kroft.

“They also did a lot of really hard-hitting reporting on the financial crisis and in a lot of ways just hewed closely to the formula that Don Hewitt conceived of, which is a really strong mix of newsy features, investigative pieces and fun, lighter take-offs that I think there’s still a really big audience for in this country,” Gold said.

Gold also discussed the aging audience that all television news shows is facing, although she noted that the audience of “60 Minutes” has actually stayed the same age over the years, and it is a year younger than the average age of the audience that watches the evening network news. “60 Minutes” has also stayed fresh by adding correspondents like Katie Couric, Lara Logan, Anderson Cooper and Byron Pitts.

But is there a future for “60 Minutes” and other shows like it? Opined Gold: “I think if programs like ’60′ can evolve enough to provide their content online in an on-demand format, then viewers who are younger will get to know the brand and consistently turn to them. But, it’s a matter of figuring out an economic model that works for that.”

Also discussed: New York Times columnist William Safire‘s death yesterday and his contribution to language and journalism.

Read more of Gold’s article here.

You can listen to all the past podcasts at and call in at 646-929-0321.

William Safire, NYT Columnist, Dies At 79

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The New York Times is reporting that William Safire, a Nixon speechwriter, former Times op-ed columnist and — most recently — the writer of the “On Language” in The New York Times Magazine every Sunday, died today of pancreatic cancer at age 79.

An accomplished, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Safire wrote his twice weekly op-ed column “Essay” for the Times from 1973 until 2005. His last column was entitled, “Never Retire.” He started writing the “On Language” column in 1979, with his last column running on September 13.

Safire also wrote four novels as well as nonfiction books like Safire’s Political Dictionary, which he updated last year. He appeared on “The Daily Show” in April 2008 to promote the book and discuss the election — check out his interview with Jon Stewart above.

Safire had an amazing, lengthy career and undoubtedly left his mark on political opinion writing and language. Today’s Times obituary is moving and personal, an endearing tribute to one of their own. If you liked Safire, you should read it in its entirety, but here is one of our favorite passages:

“He was hardly the image of a buttoned-down Times man: The shoes needed a shine, the gray hair a trim. Back in the days of suits, his jacket was rumpled, the shirt collar open, the tie askew. He was tall but bent – a man walking into the wind. He slouched and banged a keyboard, talked as fast as any newyawka and looked a bit gloomy, like a man with a toothache coming on.”

Jay Carney Departs Time for Biden Post

Carney-J.jpgIs this the media equivalent of going through the looking glass? Jay Carney, Time‘s Washington bureau chief, contributor at Swampland, and regular guest on This Week (along with his wife Claire Shipman. Question: will she be allowed to cover the White House for ABC after his switch?) has announced he is departing the magazine to become Joe Biden‘s communication’s director. Let the liberal media bias claims begin! Actually Carney covered the McCain campaign and was far more criticized by the left-wing chorus than the right.

Over at Politico Michael Calderone has some reactions from the Time camp. Says Joe Klein: “I didn’t even know Jay was a democrat…Really, he has great Republican sources from his days covering the Bush White House and he’s one of those guys who always seemed pretty balanced at editorial meetings when it came to evaluating the latest developments. (Which I guess is a quality you want in a communications director.)” Indeed. Time editor Rick Stengel was quick to point out that this was not a measure of print’s uncertain future. Of course if you had the choice between the Obama administration and an industry that is tanking at alarming rates, what would you do?

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