Schechter in 2009
June 27, 1942|
New York City
March 19, 2015 (aged 72)|
New York City
|Alma mater||Cornell University, London School of Economics|
|Occupation||television producer, filmmaker, media critic, author, professor|
|Organization||African National Congress, Artists United Against Apartheid|
|Movement||Northern Student Movement, anti-apartheid|
|Awards||see awards and honors|
Daniel Isaac "Danny" Schechter (June 27, 1942 – March 19, 2015) was an American television producer, independent filmmaker, blogger, and media critic. He wrote and spoke about many issues including apartheid, civil rights, economics, foreign policy, journalistic control and ethics, and medicine. While attending the London School of Economics in the 1960s Schechter became an anti-apartheid activist and made trips to South Africa on behalf of the African National Congress (ANC). Later he would help musician Steven Van Zandt assemble other performers to form Artists United Against Apartheid who released the album Sun City in 1985. Schechter produced and directed six nonfiction films about Nelson Mandela from the time Mandela was a political prisoner to his election and service as President of South Africa.
Schechter's first job in media was with WBCN-FM in Boston, Massachusetts during the 1970s where he became known as "Danny Schechter, the news dissector", a nickname that stuck throughout his life. He continued to work in media with ABC and the start-up cable television news station CNN until he abandoned corporate media and founded TV and film production company Globalvision with his friend and longtime associate Rory O'Connor. Globalvision produced South Africa Now which was a television show that focused on the anti-apartheid struggle and news and culture from South Africa. He authored over 14 books.
Early life and education
Schechter was born in New York City, in 1942. His mother, Ruth Lisa Schechter (née Lubin), was a secretary and a published poet; his father, Jerry Schechter, was a garment center pattern maker and a sculptor. Grandson of Russian Jewish immigrant socialists, Schechter grew up in the Bronx, in the garment union-sponsored Amalgamated housing cooperative development. He attended DeWitt Clinton High School, and graduated in 1964 from Cornell University, where he wrote for the Cornell Daily Sun and was a member of the Quill and Dagger society. He later received a master's degree from the London School of Economics and an honorary doctorate from Fitchburg State University.
During his time in London, Schechter met Ruth First and other anti-apartheid activists. He joined the African National Congress (ANC) as a part of the organization's "London Recruits", who were tasked with entering South Africa undetected by authorities and conveying communication between exiled members of the ANC and members still in South Africa. While in South Africa Schechter attended the funeral of Albert Lutuli who was the President of the African National Congress from 1952 to 1967.
Schechter was a civil rights worker and the communications director of the Northern Student Movement, and served as a community organizer in a War on Poverty program. He also worked as an assistant to the Mayor of Detroit in 1966.
His media career began at Boston radio station WBCN-FM where he would start his show with the line, "This is Danny Schechter, your news dissector". The nickname was given to him by accident as he was introduced on-air by a colleague as "the news inspector, the news digester, the news dissector". Schechter recalled, 'news dissector' that sounded pretty unique and good, so I basically latched onto it". He would eventually rise to the position of news director for WBCN-FM. Dissecting the news to Schechter meant he reported on the facts of a story, laid the background for the issue and then asserted why media outlets failed to accurately report on the story. Schechter described himself as "a participatory journalist, a down-with-the-movement reporter, a manic media maven." Among his many interviews was one with John Lennon and Yoko Ono in June 1973.
Schechter joined the start-up staff at CNN as a producer and later was a producer for the ABC newsmagazine 20/20, responsible for 50 segments of the program; he won two Emmy Awards and was nominated for two others including for a 1983 investigation of President Reagan's plans to fight and recover from all-out nuclear war co-produced with Bill Lichtenstein.
Schechter assisted musician Steven Van Zandt and record producer Arthur Baker in creating Artists United Against Apartheid, which was a group of musicians who released a protest album in 1985 entitled Sun City.
After working in corporate media Schechter decided to found Globalvision, a New York City-based television and film production company, with Rory O'Connor. There Schechter created and executive-produced the series South Africa Now. According to O'Connor the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) declined to distribute the program because of its anti-apartheid advocacy. However, Globalvision circumnavigated PBS and went directly to individual public television stations where it was carried in over 150 markets. Crew for South Africa Now were banned from South Africa itself, which made production of the show more difficult.
Schechter and O'Connor later co-produced Rights & Wrongs: Human Rights Television, which aired on American public television stations and in over 60 countries from 1992 to 1996. He was the recipient of the Society of Professional Journalists' 2001 Award for Excellence in Documentary Journalism. Schechter's film WMD: Weapons of Mass Deception won the Austin Film Festival's Documentary Film Award in 2004.
From 1999 to 2010, Schechter was also the executive editor and "blogger-in-chief" at the now-defunct MediaChannel.org, for which he wrote a nearly-3000-word daily blog on media and society. Known for his sharp criticism of corporate media, Schechter was just as scathing in his opinions about PBS, who rejected several of his ideas for documentaries including a biography for American Masters on economist John Kenneth Galbraith. In a 2002 column for Current Schechter wrote, "PBS is a land of niches and bailiwicks, a Japanese-style employment system topped with execs who seem to have cushy jobs for life if they play it safe. They are thus very risk-averse and barely accountable to the public in whose name they are paid.”
Awards and honors
- 2001 Award for Excellence in Documentary Journalism from the Society of Professional Journalists (for Falun Gong's Challenge to China)
- 2004 Austin Film Festival Documentary Film Award (for WMD: Weapons of Mass Deception)
- 2008 James Aronson Award for Blogging
- Honorary doctorate from Fitchburg State University
- Nieman Fellowship in Journalism at Harvard University
- Two Emmy Awards, four nominations
Film and television
Schechter produced and directed many television specials and documentary films, including:
- Beyond A Long Walk To Freedom (2014)
- America's Surveillance State (2014)
- DeWitt Clinton HS: The School That Can Teach Them All, on the fight for Public Education (2013)
- Who Rules America? (2012)
- Plunder: The Crime Of Our Time (2010)
- Barack Obama: The People's President (2009)
- Boob Tube: Sex, TV and Ugly George (2008)
- Viva Madiba (2008)
- A Work in Progress: Danny Schechter and the Journalism of Change (2007)
- In Debt We Trust: America Before The Bubble Burst (2006)
- WMD: Weapons of Mass Deception (2004)
- Counting on Democracy (2004), about the 2000 Florida election recount, narrated by Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee
- We Are Family (2002), about a benefit recording of the Sister Sledge song following the September 11, 2001 attacks; shown at the Sundance Film Festival
- Nkosi: A Voice of Africa's AIDS Orphans (2001), narrated by Danny Glover
- Falun Gong's Challenge to China (2001)
- A Hero for All: Nelson Mandela's Farewell (1999)
- Globalization & Human Rights (1998)
- Beyond Life: Timothy Leary Lives (1997)
- The World of Elie Wiesel (1997)
- Sowing Seeds/Reaping Peace: The World of Seeds of Peace (1996)
- Prisoners of Hope: Reunion on Robben Island (1995), co-directed by Barbara Kopple
- Countdown to Freedom: Ten Days that Changed South Africa (1994), narrated by James Earl Jones and Alfre Woodard
- Sarajevo Ground Zero (1993)
- The Living Canvas (1992), narrated by Billy Dee Williams
- Beyond JFK: The Question of Conspiracy (1992), co-directed by Marc Levin and Barbara Kopple
- Give Peace a Chance (1991)
- Nelson Mandela: Free at Last (1991), PBS national broadcast
- Mandela in America (1990)
- The Making of Sun City (1987)
- Student Power (1968)
Schechter's books include:
- Surveillance A to Z (Seven Stories Press, 2015, forthcoming). ISBN 978-1609806439
- When South Africa Called, We Answered: How the Media and International Solidarity Helped Topple Apartheid (Cosimo Books, 2015). ISBN 978-1616409418
- Madiba A to Z: The Many Faces of Nelson Mandela (Seven Stories Press, 2013). ISBN 978-1609805593
- Occupy: Dissecting Occupy Wall Street (Cosimo Books, 2012). ISBN 978-1616407162
- Blogothon: Reflections and Revelations from the News Dissector (Cosimo Books, 2012) ISBN 978-1616406691
- The Crime Of Our Time: Why Wall Street is Not Too Big To Jail (Disinformation Books, 2010) ISBN 978-1934708552
- Plunder: Investigating Our Economic Calamity and the Subprime Scandal (Cosimo Books, 2008) ISBN 978-1-60520-351-5
- When News Lies (Select Books, 2006) ISBN 978-1590790731
- The Death of Media (and the Fight to Save Democracy) (Melville House Publishing, 2005). ISBN 978-0-9766583-6-8
- Media Wars: News At A Time of Terror (Rowman & Littlefield, 2003) ISBN 978-0742531093
- Embedded: Weapons of Mass Deception: How the Media Failed to Cover the Iraq War (Prometheus Books, 2003) ISBN 978-1591021735
- News Dissector: Passions, Pieces and Polemics (Akashic Books, 2001) ISBN 978-1888451207
- Falun Gong's Challenge to China: Spiritual Practice or 'Evil Cult'? (Akashic Books, 2000) ISBN 978-1888451139
- The More You Watch, The Less You Know (Seven Stories Press, 1997) ISBN 978-1888363807
- Schechter, Danny (2011-01-04). The More You Watch the Less You Know: News Wars/(sub)Merged Hopes/Media Adventures. Seven Stories Press. p. 493. ISBN 9781609802639.
- Roberts, Sam (March 23, 2015). "Danny Schechter, 'News Dissector' and Human Rights Activist, Dies at 72". The New York Times. Retrieved 24 March 2015.
- Hedges, Chris (December 29, 2004). "Biting the Media's Hand, and Demanding Air Time". The New York Times. Retrieved 24 March 2015.
- "RIP Danny Schechter, "The News Dissector," Author, TV Producer, Made Six Films on Nelson Mandela". Democracy Now!. March 20, 2015. Retrieved 20 March 2015.
- "RIP Danny Schechter: Media Pioneer Who Covered Apartheid South Africa, Occupy & Kissinger". DemocracyNow.org. Democracy Now!. 23 March 2015. Retrieved 24 March 2015.
- Nichols, John (20 March 2015). "Danny Schechter Was Our News Dissector". thenation.com. The Nation. Retrieved 22 March 2015.
- The American Revolution (October 10, 2012). "WBCN's Danny Schechter interviews John Lennon and Yoko Ono, June 3, 1973, a rare "Give Peace a Chance," and the National Lampoon's Lennon". Weebly. Archived from the original on March 24, 2015. Retrieved 24 March 2015.
- Slattery, Denis (20 March 2015). "Author, human rights activist Danny Schechter dies aged 72". NYDailyNews.com. New York Daily News. Retrieved 22 March 2015.
- Hazen, Don (19 March 2015). "Danny Schechter, the News Dissector, Dies in NYC at 72". Alternet.org. AlterNet. Retrieved 23 March 2015.
- “SPJ Names Winners of the 2000 Sigma Delta Chi Awards for Excellence in Journalism,” April 23, 2001, http://www.spj.org/news.asp?ref=132.
- "WMD: News sidebar". Cinema Libre Studios. 2004. Retrieved 17 May 2018.
- "2004 Winners - Austin Film Festival". Austin Film Festival. Retrieved 17 May 2018.
- "Plunder bio". Archived from the original on May 8, 2012. Retrieved November 1, 2012.
- Sefton, Dru (20 March 2015). "Danny Schechter, filmmaker and outspoken media critic, dies at 72". Current.org. Takoma Park, Maryland: Current. Retrieved 23 March 2015.
- "Past Winners". brie.hunter.cuny.edu. Hunter College’s Department of Film & Media. Archived from the original on November 3, 2014. Retrieved March 23, 2015.
|America’s Surveillance State (2014)|
|Who Rules America? (2012)|
|In Debt We Trust: America Before the Bubble Bursts (2006)|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Danny Schechter.|
- The News Dissector podcast
- Interview with Schechter by JK Fowler for The Mantle, 2011
- Danny Schechter on IMDb
- Remembering the News Dissector, by Bill Lichtenstein, April 24, 2015. Boston Globe
- Remembering Danny Schechter, "The News Dissector": Pioneering Journalist, Filmmaker & Activist, March 20, 2015, Democracy Now!
- Danny Schechter (1942-2015), March 19, 2015, by Greg Palast
- The African Activist Archive Project website includes a description and documents of the Africa Research Group (ARG) of which Schechter was a founder; some of the ARG documents are from a collection he donated to Michigan State University Libraries. The website also includes a description and material of vision%20%28producer%20of%20South%20Africa%20Now%29 Globalvision (producer of South Africa Now) including documents and video of the television show South Africa Now of which he was the Executive Producer.