Progressive Community Celebrates Life, Work of Danny Schechter (1942-2015)
Journalist, documentary filmmaker, media critic and social justice activist dies after battle with cancer
The progressive community in the U.S. and beyond is mourning the loss and celebrating the life of friend and colleague Danny Schechter on Friday after news broke that the veteran journalist, filmmaker, and warrior for social justice died on Thursday after a battle with pancreatic cancer.
A note posted late Thursday night on the Mediachannel website, which Schechter co-founded, said simply:
There’s no easy way to say it.
Our friend Danny died earlier today.
He was, and is, loved.
Since his days on local radio in Boston in the 1960s and 70s—where he first became known as the "News Dissector"—Schechter was one of the key U.S.-based journalists and activists speaking out on the issue of Apartheid in South Africa and among the most consistent and insightful voices across the media landscape focused on unjust wars, racism, economic inequality, and the scourge of the corporate-dominated media outlets which persistently refused to cover such issues.
"No one who was in Boston during the days of 'Danny Schechter Your News Dissector' can ever forget the exhilaration of those marvelous broadcasts, their enlightenment and insight and humor, often in dark days. A wonderful person, a valued friend."
—Noam Chomsky"Danny Schechter was a legend," said Jeff Cohen, founder of the media watchdog group FAIR and Ithaca College journalism professor, after hearing about the death of his mentor, friend and colleague. "Danny was a legend in the U.S. movement against South African apartheid and a legend in the independent media community since the late 1960s. He was a mentor to so many of us. He always had time for other journalists and activists. When I think of him, I think of the Jewish word ‘mensch’ – a good person, a person of honor and integrity."
"If there was a Godfather to the modern media-reform/media-democracy movement," Cohen continued, "it was Danny."
Noted social activist and MIT professor Noam Chomsky, in an email to Common Dreams, expressed sadness over the loss and said, "No one who was in Boston during the days of 'Danny Schechter Your News Dissector' can ever forget the exhilaration of those marvelous broadcasts, their enlightenment and insight and humor, often in dark days, a legacy that Danny left behind him when he went on to a remarkable career of critical analysis and breaking through media and doctrinal barriers. A wonderful person, a valued friend."
Annie Leonard, founder of the Story of Stuff project and executive director Greenpeace, declared on Twitter: "The good side is one man down tonight."
Journalist Jeremy Scahill, in a tweet tagged #RIP, called Schechter "one of the great innovators of the indy media movement."
"If there was a Godfather to the modern media-reform/media-democracy movement, it was Danny."
—Jeff CohenDan Kennedy, a friend and fellow Boston-based journalist, in a blog post on Friday celebrated Schechter's dual legacy as both chronicler and participant of contemporary struggles. "He was a giant of journalism and of progressive politics," writes Kennedy, "demonstrating that the two could be combined with passion and integrity. It’s hard to believe that he’s gone."
As Democracy Now! notes:
Schechter got his start as "The News Dissector" in 1970 at WBCN-FM in Boston. He went on to become a prolific television producer who won two Emmys. He was executive editor of MediaChannel.org, co-founder and executive producer of Globalvision production company, and the author of twelve books, including The More You Watch, The Less You Know.
Schechter made six non-fiction films about Nelson Mandela, including "Mandela in America." In January he had just published, When South Africa Called, We Answered: How the Media and International Solidarity Helped Topple Apartheid. In 1988 Schechter created and executive-produced the weekly news program "South Africa Now" that aired on 75 public and cable TV stations. He also co-produced "Rights & Wrongs: Human Rights Television."
Fellow journalist Rory O'Connor, Schechter's closest collaborator and business partner for decades, wrote this on Facebook: "RIP Brother Danny Schechter...What a long, strange trip it was! See you on the other side, partner."
"He was a giant of journalism and of progressive politics, demonstrating that the two could be combined with passion and integrity."
—Dan KennedyAnd in a later statement, O'Connor elaborated:
Danny always used to say that he got into making media because he wanted to do something about the problems of the world. ("It was until later," he would then add, "that I learned the media was one of the problems of the world.") He was the original "jactivist" -- part journalist, part activist, always involved.
And he did "do something" about the world's many problems, or at least tried. From Chile to South Africa to Vietnam to Bosnia and beyond, and from apartheid to human rights to the corporate media to the American economy "before the bubble burst," the world not only often heard it first, it also heard it right -- often years before they heard it anywhere else -- from the News Dissector.
I was proud to be his partner in Globalvision, the fiercely independent media firm we co-founded, and prouder still to be his friend. I'll miss him greatly -- but the world will miss his unique voice even more.
A longtime contributor to Common Dreams, Schechter's columns stretched the gamut but never strayed far from his core vision of cutting through bullshit, advocating on behalf of the vulnerable, and calling out injustice. Among scores and scores of others, some of the articles that stood out on a quick survey include:
- Oh, Ye Masters of War: Marking 9/11 Again With A New Dragon To Slay (9/11/14)
- Back To Iraq and US 'Suicide' Foreign Policy (6/20/14)
- Where Is the American Spring? (5/30/14)
- It’s Time to Occupy a New Year (12/19/11)
- Occupy Wall Street is All Over The Media: But for How Long? (11/28/11)
- Why Wall Street Is Winning (4/26/11)
- Will This Financial Crisis Lead to True Reform or Plunder without End? (5/28/09)
- Pitchforks and Protests: The Fury Down Below (3/21/09)
- Are We On The Verge of The Deluge? (9/26/08)
A Facebook page set up by his daughter, Sarah Schechter, was acting as an online memorial where "people could share their memories of the one and only news dissector."
One contributor wrote, 'Today, we lost a journalist’s journalist, the moral commander of investigative reporters from New York to Johannesburg.' Another said, 'He [knew] how to fight for what's right. He lived and breathed it and the world is a better place because he did. Hamba Kahle Danny. Thanks for everything.'
"One of the great original multi-taskers," wrote Alternet's Don Hazen, "Schechter was an independent filmmaker, author of a number of books, a blogger, and media critic whose insights about the failures of the global media system were incisive and widely appreciated. Later in his career he embraced new technology, creating the Media Channel where he called himself 'blogger-in-chief.' A brilliant speaker and strategist, Schechter was a true a global leader, traveling to dozens of countries, making connections, shooting footage and giving rousing speeches. Schechter was the special kind of leader-activist who had deep cultural roots, weaving music into his quest to improve human rights globally. He will be missed."
On Twitter, the sharing grief and celebrations of life, continued: