You wonder if a guy as gifted and rumpled as Edwin Newman could find a job in television these days. He might be considered too erudite, too wordy for the small screen that these days is crowded with graphics, crawls and, often, vacuous, but handsome talking heads.
Ed Newman, whose death was reported yesterday, was a television journalist in the days before “caw-caw,” what we used to call the bells and whistles of TV, the spinning graphics, the split screens, etc. His reporting was of the old school. He was a master of language. He wrote good books, asked tough, fair and informed questions and seemed to have an interest in everything. Put another way, the guy was no Bill O’Reilly.
The great NBC News anchor John Chancellor said Newman style was a triumph of “content over presentation,” and he could do it all – interview, moderate a presidential debate, report an arts piece or analyze an foreign policy development. The guy was a reporter. After retiring, he even even once hosted Saturday Night Live.
Newman was in the same class with a Cronkite and a Schorr, two other recently departed broadcast icons whose work and style can’t be replaced and whose quality is essentially not to be found on the tube these days. Newman’s passing makes me long for the old school – news first, from real journalists, with entertainment or mere diversion left for the sitcoms.