Thursday, September 16, 2010

R.I.P. Edwin Newman

Former NBC News correspondent Edwin Newman has passed away, that cantankerous guardian of proper English. He was the kind of newsman who would never use the words "de-plane" or "go missing." I remember him appearing on The Tonight Show complaining about the term "head butt." He compared it to saying "foot kick" or "fist punch."

I also read in the Washington Post where he once dismissed a Today show guest for a wisecrack:
Mr. Newman's most memorable appearance on "Today" came in 1971, when he banished comedian George Jessel from the studio. In a rambling interview, the 73-year-old Jessel likened The Washington Post and New York Times to Pravda, the official Soviet newspaper.

"You are a guest here," a steely Mr. Newman told Jessel. "It is not the kind of thing one tosses off. One does not accuse newspapers of being Communist, which you have just done."
When he came back on the air, Mr. Newman said television had a responsibility to uphold "certain standards of conduct."

"It didn't seem to me we have any obligation to allow people to come on to traduce the reputations of anyone they want," he said, "to abuse people they don't like."
If that happened today on Today, Newman could have found himself tossed off.

So it's with irony I remember him anchoring news updates before a studio audience on the 1980 daytime version of The David Letterman Show or mock newscasts on TV series.

You would think he would've dodged allegations of selling out in his retirement. Apparently that phrase wasn't in his lexicon.

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