Martin Agronsky

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Martin Agronsky (January 12, 1915 – July 25, 1999) was an American journalist and host of the television program Agronsky & Company.

Early years[edit]

Agronsky was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on January 12, 1915; the son of Russian Jewish immigrants. He moved to Atlantic City, New Jersey, as a young child and graduated from Atlantic City High School in 1932 and from Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, in 1936.[1]

Years as a correspondent[edit]

In 1936, Agronsky became a reporter for the Palestine Post, precursor to today's Jerusalem Post, which had been founded by an uncle, Gershon Agron. In 1937, he left the newspaper to become a freelance journalist. During this period he covered the last days of the ill-fated League of Nations and the Spanish Civil War of 1936–39. During his time in Europe, he freelanced for various American, British, and other newspapers and various wire services around the world including a freelance piece he wrote for Foreign Affairs magazine on the rise of anti-Semitism in Mussolini's Italy. In 1940, Max Jordan, the NBC bureau chief for all of Europe, was scrambling to put together an NBC presence throughout Europe to cover Hitler's war with Britain in the Balkans. Jordan tapped Agronsky to be the NBC bureau chief in the Balkans. At first Agronsky covered the war from all over the Balkans and much of Eastern Europe. Eventually, he opened a permanent NBC bureau in Ankara, the capital of neutral Turkey.

Although based in Ankara, Agronsky spent most of his time in Istanbul. In Europe and North Africa Agronsky became a foreign correspondent for NBC, providing war coverage from the Balkans and Eastern Europe. Eventually Agronsky was transferred to Cairo and accredited to cover the British 8th Army in North Africa. When Pearl Harbor was bombed by Japan on December 7, 1941, Agronsky was sent to Australia. His journey to Australia to cover General Douglas MacArthur's arrival in Melbourne from Corregidor took several months and took him through several countries. Agronsky arrived in Singapore as the city was being bombed into submission by the Japanese air force while the Japanese Army began circling the city with ground troops. After a week in Singapore, Agronsky was lucky to catch literally one of the last airplanes out of Singapore.

In 1943 NBC consisted of the Blue and Red networks. NBC was forced to spin off one of the networks, which became ABC, and Agronsky went with the new network. He became an ABC correspondent based in Washington, D.C., and did "The Daily War Journal" until the end of World War II. In 1948 he helped to pioneer television coverage of American political conventions. He also covered hearings on what purported to be communist infiltration of the United States, chaired by Senator Joseph McCarthy. Agronsky also did a one-on-one interview show at ABC, "At Issue".

Return to NBC[edit]

In 1957 Agronsky returned to NBC, again as a correspondent. From 1957 through 1964, starting with the Dave Garroway-hosted Today show, he did all the interviews out of Washington. He also hosted the one-on-one interview show "Look Here", where he interviewed, among others, Senator John F. Kennedy and a young Martin Luther King Jr.[2] He covered the trial of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann in Israel in 1961 for eight months from start to finish. On November 27, 1963, five days after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Agronsky conducted an interview with Texas governor John Connally. The governor was riding in the seat ahead of Kennedy and was also wounded. Fellow journalists considered the interview a great success.

CBS Paris bureau chief, Face the Nation[edit]

After several months at the CBS Washington bureau, Agronsky was named the CBS bureau chief in Paris in March 1965. After six months, CBS recalled Agronsky from Paris and made him the new moderator of Face the Nation. He hosted the show from Washington and around the world.

==Agronsky & Company, Martin Agronsky's Evening Edition, Agronsky At Large==

Agronsky became a news anchor for WTOP-TV in Washington, D.C., in 1969, but in the same year became host of the political discussion television program Agronsky & Company, produced by the same station. Agronsky introduced a short segment on the news with political reporters. Shortly afterward, Agronsky left the evening local news and Agronsky & Company became a stand-alone weekly show produced and syndicated by Post-Newsweek stations (owner of WTOP-TV). The show was syndicated nationally by Post-Newsweek to local and national stations, including those of the PBS nationally, including WETA in Washington. He hosted the show until he retired in January 1988, and it proved to be one of the biggest successes of his career.[3]

In 1971, in addition to doing Agronsky & Company once a week, Agronsky started a five-night-a-week half-hour interview show, Martin Agronsky's Evening Edition, which became the show to watch during the Watergate scandal. It was broadcast out of WETA's studio in Shirlington, Virginia. Evening Edition had the good fortune of airing nightly before, during and after the Watergate break-in hearings broadcast on PBS that led, ultimately, to the resignation of President Richard M. Nixon on August 9, 1974. Evening Edition went off the air in late 1975. Agronsky then did a one-hour interview show weekly on PBS during 1976 titled Agronsky at Large, where he interviewed such guests as Alfred Hitchcock and Anwar Sadat of shortly before the Egyptian leader's assassination. [3] The show generally is credited as having invented the now-common roundtable discussion format for public affairs and political television shows that feature prominent journalists discussing current events and offering their opinions about them. However, Agronsky & Company was low-key and did not have the loud arguments and shouting that came to characterize many of its imitators. Its regular panelists included Hugh Sidey of Time magazine, Peter Lisagor of the Chicago Daily News, and columnists Carl Rowan, James J. Kilpatrick, Elizabeth Drew, and George Will. Although some of the liberal-versus-conservative argumentation now common on American public affairs shows began with pointed arguments between Agronsky & Company panelists, Agronsky himself always exerted a calming influence. The show was held in generally high regard; Senator Edward Kennedy once said, "Everybody who is in public life watches Agronsky."[4]

Awards[edit]

Agronsky received the George Foster Peabody Award in 1952 for his coverage of the Army-McCarthy hearings for ABC. In 1961 he received the Alfred I. DuPont Award for his reporting on the trial of Adolph Eichmann, also while at NBC. He received the Emmy Award while at CBS in 1968 for the first interview of Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black. He also won an award at the Venice Film Festival Award for his one-hour documentary—the first such award granted to a news documentary—on Polaris, Journal of an Undersea Voyage, about a three-week undersea voyage aboard USS George Washington, one of the first U.S. nuclear submarines based out of Holy Loch, Scotland. Agronsky was also the recipient of many other journalism awards throughout his career.

Personal life[edit]

Agronsky married Helen Smathers, a United States Army nurse whom he met while covering General Douglas Macarthur in Melbourne, Australia, in 1942. Agronsky returned to the U.S. in March 1943, whereupon he expedited Lt. Smathers's return to the States. They were married in Baltimore, Maryland, at City Hall, grabbing a stranger off the street to be their best man. They went on to have four children: Marcia, Jonathan, David, and Julie, four grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. The marriage ended with her death in 1969. Agronsky then married Sharon Hines in 1971; the marriage produced one child, Rachel.

Death[edit]

Martin Agronsky died at his Rock Creek Park home in Washington, D.C., on July 25, 1999 of congestive heart failure. He was 84. During his 52-year journalism career—print from 1936 to 1940 and radio and television from 1940 to 1988—Agronsky is believed to be the only broadcast journalist/commentator to have worked for all three American commercial networks. He worked for NBC twice, as a war correspondent for NBC radio from 1940 to 1943 and NBC radio and television from 1957 to 1964; for ABC radio and television as a correspondent in both in the U.S. and overseas from 1943 to 1957; and for CBS radio and television from 1964 to 1968 in both the U.S. and overseas. He also was syndicated by Post-Newsweek stations for Agronsky & Company from 1969 to 1988 and PBS from 1971 to 1976.

Biographical chronology[edit]

Date Event
1915, Jan. 12 Born, Philadelphia, Pa.
1936 B.A., Rutgers University, New Brunswick, N.J.
1936–1937 Reporter, Palestine Post
1937–1940 Freelance newspaper reporter
1940–1943 Foreign correspondent, National Broadcasting Co.
1943 Married Helen Smathers (died 1969)
1943–1957 Correspondent, American Broadcasting Co., Washington, D.C.
1952 Awarded George Foster Peabody Award
1957–1964 Correspondent, National Broadcasting Co.
1961 Awarded Alfred I. DuPont Award
1964–1968 Bureau chief, Paris, France, and moderator of Face the Nation, Columbia Broadcasting System
1968 Received Emmy Award
1969 News anchor, WTOP-TV, Washington, D.C.
1969–1988 Host, Agronsky and Company, WETA-TV, Washington, D.C.
1971–1975 Host, Martin Agronsky's Evening Edition and Agronsky at Large, Public Broadcasting System
1999, July 25 Died, Washington, D.C.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Martin Agronsky, TV Commentator, Dies". Seattle Times. June 26, 1999. Retrieved May 8, 2014. 
  2. ^ Martin Luther King Jr (1) Anti-Violent Actions Interview 1957 on YouTube
  3. ^ a b Robertson, Lori (1999). "One of the Originalsted Agronsky & Company for the five Post Newsweek stations". American Journalism Review (September 1999). Retrieved 2009-10-23. 
  4. ^ AP: The Washington Post (July 26, 1999). "Martin Agronsky, TV Commentator, Dies". Seattle Times. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Paul Niven
Face the Nation Moderator
July 11, 1965 – May 26, 1968
Succeeded by
George Herman