Truthdigger of the Week: Danny Schechter
Posted on Mar 24, 2015
By Roisin Davis
Every week the Truthdig editorial staff selects a Truthdigger of the Week, a group or person worthy of recognition for speaking truth to power, breaking the story or blowing the whistle. It is not a lifetime achievement award. Rather, we’re looking for newsmakers whose actions in a given week are worth celebrating.
“Facts,” the great investigative journalist I.F. Stone said, “are subversive.”
If this statement belongs to anyone, it is to Danny Schechter, “the news dissector,” who died last week at the age of 72. A remarkable pioneering figure who wore many hats—human rights activist, journalist, author, television producer and independent filmmaker—he lived a huge life and relentlessly spoke back to power.
Schechter grew up in the Bronx, in the union-sponsored Amalgamated Houses, when the New York borough “was the Promised Land for working-class Jews like his parents,” his longtime friend Bill Adler recalled in a post on Schechter’s Facebook memorial page. “He attended a Yiddish summer camp for years. Although not all of Danny’s heroes were Jewish by any means, he was clearly inspired by I.F. Stone and Bob Dylan, among many others.”
Throughout his media activism, Schechter merged Stone’s “stark and serious old-school” style with an “understanding of media power and manipulation with a wild and joyous Yippie-infused determination to rip it up and start again,” John Nichols wrote at The Nation.
A close comrade of Abbie Hoffman and Paul Krassner, Schechter was a self-professed “SDS symp, a Yippie in spirit, and an observer by training.” In August 1963, along with 300,000 mostly black demonstrators, he joined the March on Washington, which he describes in his 2011 book, “Blogothon: Reflections and Revelations From the News Dissector”:
Schechter came of age in the ferment of the 1960s, and was “part of that ferment,” he wrote in “Blogothon”:
In 1971, he began to introduce himself to listeners of Boston’s WBCN radio station as “Danny Schechter, your news dissector.” Rory O’Connor, his business partner for more than three decades, said Schechter found his voice in the media so that he could “do something about the problems of the world.” As Schechter himself once said, “I learned the media was one of the problems of the world.”
Schechter became an Emmy-winning producer at ABC’s “20/20” and helped to launch CNN, but later he left corporate media to found Globalvision, a production company best known for the groundbreaking television series “South Africa Now.” At the London School of Economics in the 1960s, Schechter had become close friends with the legendary South African activists Ruth First, who was murdered by a parcel bomb in 1982, and Joe Slovo, who became a commander of Umkhonto we Sizwe, the armed wing of the African National Congress.
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