Categotry Archives: Media


Gary Webb


Categories: Government, Media, Writers/Editors

gwebb.jpgGary Webb, an award-winning investigative journalist, committed suicide on Dec. 10. He was 49.
Born in Corona, Calif., Webb was only 15 when he launched his journalism career as an editorialist for his high school newspaper. He dropped out of college just before graduation, opting to work for The Kentucky Post instead. Webb covered state politics and private sector corruption for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, then moved back to California to write for the San Jose Mercury News.
From 1988 to 1997, Webb wrote about computer software problems at the California DMV and abuses in the state’s drug asset forfeiture program. He contributed to the newspaper’s detailed coverage of the 1989 Bay Area earthquake, which earned the staff a Pulitzer Prize for general news reporting in 1990. Webb also won the H.L. Mencken Award, a Journalist of the Year Award from the Bay Area Society of Professional Journalists and a Media Hero Award.
The biggest story of Webb’s career also lead to his downfall. In August 1996, Webb published “Dark Alliance: The Story Behind the Crack Explosion,” in the San Jose Mercury News. The 20,000-word investigative series claimed that Nicaraguan drug traffickers based in San Francisco had sold tons of cocaine in Los Angeles ghettos during the 1980s and used the profits to fund the CIA-supported Nicaraguan Contras. Webb never accused the CIA of aiding the drug dealers, but he implied that the Agency was aware of the transactions.
Webb used numerous sources for his story, including a 450-page declassified report from the Senate Subcommittee on Narcotics, Terrorism and International Operations. The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the CIA later conducted independent investigations that discredited Webb’s reporting. Nine months after the story’s publication, the San Jose Mercury News issued a public apology and reassigned Webb to cover local news in a suburban bureau. He quit in 1997.
Webb stood by the story, however, and in 1999 he published the book “Dark Alliance: The CIA, the Contras, and the Crack Cocaine Explosion.” He worked for the California Assembly Speaker’s Office of Member Services and for the Joint Legislative Audit Committee before taking a reporting job with the Sacramento News and Review, an alternative weekly newspaper.
On Dec. 10, a moving company arrived at Webb’s Carmichael, Calif., home and found a note on the front door that read: “Please do not enter. Call 911 and ask for an ambulance.” Although rumors spread on the Internet that Webb had met with foul play, the Sacramento County Coroner’s Office reported on Dec. 15 that he died from two self-inflicted gunshot wounds to the head. A handwritten suicide note was found near the body.
Webb’s ex-wife, Sue Bell, told the Sacramento Bee that Webb had been distraught in recent weeks over his inability to land another job at a major newspaper. In the final year of his life, Webb paid for his own cremation, named Bell as the beneficiary of his bank account and sold his house because he could no longer afford the mortgage payments.
Watch an Interview With Webb


David Brudnoy

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Categories: Education, Media, Writers/Editors

dbrudnoy.jpgDavid Barry Brudnoy always believed in maintaining an open and honest relationship with his listeners. For more than three decades, the erudite Boston broadcaster interviewed hundreds of guests and used his talk show on WBZ-AM to civilly discuss books, current events and social issues.

Brudnoy’s candor and intelligence earned him a devoted following. When the station canceled his show in the early 1990s in favor of cheaper, syndicated talk programming, his loyal listeners boycotted the station and its advertisers. Brudnoy was back on the air a few weeks later. “The David Brudnoy Show” eventually became the highest-rated nighttime talk show in town.

The Minneapolis native received a bachelor’s degree in Japanese studies from Yale and a master’s in Far Eastern studies from Harvard. After a short teaching stint at Texas Southern University, a historically African-American school, Brudnoy moved back to Boston where he earned a master’s in the history of American civilization and a doctorate in history from Brandeis University.

In 1971, a friend encouraged Brudnoy to audition for an opening as a commentator at WGBH, Boston’s public television station. He landed the job and became the station’s “token conservative.” Brudnoy worked as a radio talk show host at WHDH and WRKO before he found a permanent home at WBZ. Since 1986, his deep, soothing voice has been heard every weeknight in 38 states and in Canada.

In his spare time, Brudnoy lectured at Boston University and presented opinionated commentaries on Channel 38’s “Nightcast at 10.” A longtime contributor to The National Review, he also wrote articles for The New York Times, TV Guide and the New Republic. Brudnoy penned movie reviews for the Community Newspapers chain, won the National Association of Radio Talk Show Hosts’ Freedom of Speech Award and co-founded both the Boston Society of Film Critics and the Boston Theatre Critics Circle.

Brudnoy nearly died from a viral infection in 1994. When rumors circulated about his illness, Brudnoy decided to end the speculation with a frank, on-air discussion.

He came out of the closet and revealed to his audience that he’d been diagnosed with AIDS. In 1996, he established The David Brudnoy Fund for AIDS Research at Massachusetts General Hospital to raise resources for unrestricted research into treatments and vaccines for the disease. Brudnoy then chronicled his struggles with HIV and AIDS in his 1997 memoir, “Life Is Not a Rehearsal.”

Last year, Brudnoy announced on air that he was suffering from merkel cell carcinoma, a rare form of skin cancer. Normally, the cancer is treatable, but with a lowered immune system, it spread into his liver and kidneys. On Dec. 8, Brudnoy gave a final interview from his hospital bed. He said good-bye to his radio audience and told them he was ready to die.

Brudnoy died on Dec. 9 of renal failure caused by carcinoma. He was 64.

Listen to Brudnoy’s Last Broadcast


Pierre Berton

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Categories: Media, Writers/Editors

pberton.jpgPierre Berton, an historian, television personality and obsessed storyteller, died on Nov. 30 of heart failure. He was 84.
Born in 1920 and raised in the Yukon, Berton worked in the Klondike mining camps while at university. After completing four years of military service, he launched a career in journalism. Berton quickly worked his way up the ranks at The Vancouver Sun, and was only 21 when he became the youngest city editor on any Canadian daily. Within a decade, he was the managing editor of Maclean’s.
Berton was an associate editor and daily columnist for The Toronto Star in the late-1950s when he decided to tackle the medium of television. He joined the CBC public affairs program “Close-Up” and served as a permanent panelist on “Front Page Challenge.” In 1962, Berton premiered his own program, “The Pierre Berton Show,” which aired until 1973. He later wrote and hosted “My Country,” “The Great Debate,” “Heritage Theatre” and “The Secret of My Success.” Sporting his trademark bow tie, Berton wowed viewers of the “Monday Report” in October when he offered tips on the best way to roll a joint.
To call Berton a “prolific writer” would be an understatement. At one point, he wrote 15,000 words a day. Berton penned children’s stories, biographical profiles, religious critiques and coffee table collections, but he was best known for chronicling Canada’s past in the books “Klondike,” “The National Dream” and “Pierre Berton’s Canada: The Land and the People.” His 50th book, “Prisoners of the North,” was published in 2004.
Berton received many accolades, including three Governor General’s Awards for nonfiction, two National Newspaper Awards, the Stephen Leacock Medal of Humour and a Companion of the Order of Canada. A library in Vaughan, Ont., bears his name and houses his entire collection of writings. Canada’s National History Society named its annual award for outstanding achievement in popularizing Canadian history after Berton; he was its first recipient as well. Berton was inducted to Canada’s Walk of Fame in 1998, and ranked No. 31 on the CBC’s list of The Greatest Canadians earlier this year.
“You’ll never die, Pierre,” author June Callwood said at Berton’s memorial service. “You’re gone, but you’ll never die.”


John Morgan

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Categories: Media

jmorgan.jpgJohn David Morgan, a popular comedian who starred on the CBC TV show “Royal Canadian Air Farce,” died on Nov. 15 of a heart attack. He was 74.
Born in Aberdare, Wales, Morgan worked as a teacher for a short time before deciding to pursue a career in journalism. He moved to Canada in 1957, freelanced for several Ontario newspapers then landed a job as a general assignment reporter for The Windsor Star. In the 1960s, Morgan relocated to Montreal where he edited a publication called The Montrealer.
A desire to entertain as well as inform led Morgan and his friend Martin Bronstein to write scripts for the CBC TV comedy “Funny You Should Say That!” The pair founded the improvisational theatre revue, The Jest Society, and performed plays in Toronto and Ottawa. Other original members were Patrick Conlon, Gay Claitman and Roger Abbott.
After adding Dave Broadfoot to the group in 1973, they became The Royal Canadian Air Farce and launched a live radio program on CBC Radio. The show remained on the air for 24 years. “Air Farce” made its debut on CBC Television in 1980. The program ran for three seasons, but a change in management at the network forced it off the air. In 1993, “Air Farce” returned to television and became one of the CBC’s highest rated shows.
A witty and prolific comic, Morgan penned half of the show’s scripts (nearly 4,000 sketches) and played many memorable characters, including the opinionated Scotsman Jock McBile, the lascivious socialite Amy De La Pomp and the simpleminded Mike from Canmore. In 2000, he was nominated for a Canadian Comedy Award. The “Air Farce” cast was also inducted into the International Humour Hall of Fame.
Morgan retired from show business in 2001. He spent his final years reading, piloting his own plane and traveling.
Access Audio and Video Clips of Morgan


Norman Rose


Categories: Actors, Education, Hollywood, Media

Norman Rose, a veteran actor whose velvety baritone was often called “the Voice of God,” died on Nov. 12 of pneumonia. He was 87.

The Philadelphia native attended George Washington University before moving to the Big Apple in the 1940s. Rose honed his craft at the Actor’s Studio Drama School, then landed parts in plays on- and off-Broadway. During World War II, he was recruited by the Office of War Information to work as a radio newscaster.

In 1948, Rose co-founded New Stages, an off-Broadway repertory company, with producer David Heilweil. New Stages presented the American debut of Jean-Paul Sartre’s best-known play, “The Respectful Prostitute,” prior to its run on Broadway.

After the war, Rose lent his distinctive voice to radio programs such as “Dimension X,” “The Martian Chronicles” and “CBS Radio Mystery Theater.” He narrated the short film “Harold and the Purple Crayon” in 1959, and provided several of the voices on the CBS cartoon “Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales.” From 1969 to 1974, Rose stepped in front of the camera to portray the same character — psychiatrist Dr. Marcus Polk — on two ABC soap operas (“One Life to Live” and “All My Children”).

A former drama instructor at The Juilliard School, Rose lived up to his reputation in 1975 when he provided the voice of God in the Woody Allen film “Love and Death.” The prolific performer later narrated the 70th anniversary broadcast of the Academy Awards and recorded numerous books for the blind, but he was most famous for giving a voice to Juan Valdez, the long-time advertising spokesman for Colombian coffee.

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