Eric Burns

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For other people named Eric Burns, see Eric Burns (disambiguation).
Eric Burns
Born Eric Burns
Residence Ridgefield, Connecticut[1]
Nationality American
Alma mater Westminster College
Occupation Broadcast journalist, author

Eric Burns is an American author, playwright, media critic, and former broadcast journalist.

Early life[edit]

Burns was born and raised in Ambridge, Pennsylvania, a small steel town approximately 15 miles northwest of Pittsburgh on the Ohio River. He is a graduate of Ambridge Area High School and of Westminster College in Pennsylvania.[1]

Television career[edit]

Burns began his television career at WQED, the PBS station in Pittsburgh, hosting a cultural affairs program in the studio adjacent to the studio in which Mister Rogers' Neighborhood was produced.[1]

After Pittsburgh, Burns went on to make stops in Parkersburg, West Virginia, where he was an anchorman and news director; and Minneapolis, where he was a reporter and anchorman. His work in Minneapolis caught the attention of NBC News executives in New York, and after a year and a half at station KMSP, Burns was hired as a national correspondent for NBC in 1976. Assigned first to the network's Chicago bureau, he was then moved to New York, with occasional overseas postings in Europe and northern Africa. He appeared regularly on NBC Nightly News and on The Today Show.

In 1984, the Washington Journalism Review (now the American Journalism Review) named Burns one of the top writers in the history of broadcast journalism.[2] Other broadcasters on the list include Edward R. Murrow, Walter Cronkite, and Charles Kuralt. Burns was fired in 2008 after 10 years of hosting Fox News Watch on the Fox News Channel.[3][4] The New York Times said Burns acted as "the ringmaster for a relatively even-handed roundtable discussion about the media."[5] Vanity Fair magazine once called Fox News Watch one of only two programs on the network worth watching.

On March 9, 2015, Eric, as a former Fox News Watch host, told CNN's Brian Stelter, “I’m saying that the people who watch Fox News are cult-ish," and that because of "their audience loyalty, ... O’Reilly, as the head of the cult, is not held to the same standards as Brian Williams.”[6]

Literary career[edit]

Burns is an author who has written nine books, two of which won the highest award given by the American Library Association for volumes published by a university press. Named as the "Best of the Best" were The Spirits of America: A Social History of Alcohol, and its companion-piece, The Smoke of the Gods: A Social History of Tobacco. Burns is the only non-academic ever to have won the award twice.

Those two books, and his biggest-seller, Infamous Scribblers: The Founding Fathers and the Rowdy Beginnings of American Journalism, which was a selection of both the Book of the Month Club and the History Book Club, are among five of Burns's book to have been "adopted" by various college curricula for courses in journalism, American history, and American Studies. Infamous Scribblers is considered the definitive work on journalism during the colonial era.[citation needed]

Burns has also written for a number of magazines, including Reader's Digest, The Weekly Standard, Family Circle, Spy, and the pre-Rupert Murdoch version of TV Guide. In addition, he has written for the Los Angeles Times, New York Post, and The Huffington Post, among other print outlets.

Burns is also a playwright. His first play, Mid-Strut, won the Eudora Welty Emerging Playwrights Award in 2010.[1] The play's world premiere was February 2012 at the Pittsburgh Playhouse.


  • Recipient of an Emmy Award for media criticism.[7]
  • His script on the 50th anniversary of Charles Lindbergh's solo crossing of the Atlantic was reprinted in the first few editions of the journalism text Writing News for Broadcast, published by the Columbia University Press. "Burns writes with style," said author Charles Bliss, Jr. "You know an artist is at work from the first line."
  • Was named by the Washington Journalism Review (now the American Journalism Review) as one of the best writers in the history of broadcast journalism.[2]
  • The Spirits of America: A Social History of Alcohol was named one of the one of the best academic press books of 2003 by the American Library Association.[8] The Smoke of the Gods: A Social History of Tobacco won the same award in 2007.
  • Won the Eudora Welty Emerging Playwrights Competition in 2010 for his first play, Mid-Strut.[1]



External links[edit]