Edwin Newman, long time newsman for NBC and self appointed champion of the English language, passed August 13 at the age of 91. The cause was pneumonia. Mr. Newman's family delayed announcement of his death so the they could grieve privately.
Edwin Newman was born in New York City on January 25, 1919 He graduated from Washington High School in Manhattan and graduated from the University of Wisconsin with a degree in political science.He attended Louisiana State University for a brief period before he decided to enter journalism. His first position was as a "dictation boy" for the International News Service.
Mr. Newman left the International News Service to join United Press. In 1942 he joined the United States Navy. He served as a signal officer in Trinidad and later at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Following World War II he returned to United Press. Afterwards he worked in the Washington Bureau of the New York City newspaper PM, then went to work for the Tufty News Service. It was in 1947 that he joined CBS News where he assisted Eric Sevareid in preparing his nightly commentary. It was in 1949 that he went to work for NBC News as a freelance journalist. It was in 1952 that Edwin Newman joined NBC News full time.
At NBC News Mr. Newman served as the bureau chief of London, Rome, and then Paris before he was based in New York in 1961. Among the stories he covered during this period were the funeral of King George VI to the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II to the Suez Crisis to the Algerian War. From 1961 to 1984 he was one of the correspondents to cover the Democratic and Republican national conventions. He also covered the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, and Martin Luther King Jr. On his programme Speaking Freely he intereviewed everyone from Muhammed Ali to Ingmar Bergman. He also moderated the first Carter-Mondale presidential debate and the second Reagan-Mondale presidential debate. From 1952 to 1984 he regularly appeared on The Today Show. He also appeared regularly on Meet the Press.
Edwin Newman was also a self-appointed champion of the English language. He wrote two books defending the correct usage of the language, Strictly Speaking: Will America Be the Death of English? (1974) and A Civil Tongue (1976). He was well known for his droll wit and his seemingly limitless number of puns.
Mr. Newman retired from NBC News in 1984. Afterwards he appeared frequently as a narrator, interviewer, and moderator on many programmes, particularly on PBS. Over the years he appeared as himself on several television shows and movies. He appeared on such shows as Newhart, Saturday Night Live, The Golden Girls, Wings, and Murphy Brown. He appeared in the films Spies Like Us (1985) and The Pelican Brief (1993).
Edwin Newman was one of the last great television newsman. While he was always genteel and his grammar was always perfect, he always seemed as if he was simply another one of us. As the current anchor of The NBC Evening News, Brian Williams, said of Mr. Newman, "To those of us watching at home, he made us feel like we had a very smart, classy friend in the broadcast news business." Indeed, Mr Newman never took himself too seriously, even serving once as the anchor on "Weekend Update" on Saturday Night Live after he had retired. He defence of the correct usage of the English language is also to be admired. Indeed, if I tend to nitpick at time at the ill use of the language, it is largely because of Edwin Newman. More than any teacher I had in school, my desire for correct grammar stems from Mr. Newman. One of the last great television newsman and a champion of the English language, we will not see the like of Edwin Newman again any time soon.