Jack Newfield

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Jack Newfield
Born Brooklyn, NY
Died December 21, 2004(2004-12-21) (aged 66)
New York, NY
Occupation Journalist
Language English
Nationality American
Notable awards George Polk Award in Journalism (1979) for Political Reporting

Jack Abraham Newfield (February 18, 1938 – December 21, 2004) was a muckraking journalist and columnist who worked for more than 20 years for The Village Voice, and at the Daily News and the New York Post. Beginning in the mid-1960s, he covered the emergence of the New Left and the Civil Rights Movement. He became a close friend of Senator Robert F. Kennedy.[1]

He also wrote several major books about social movements and political figures, beginning with A Prophetic Minority (1966), and including a memoir about Robert Kennedy. His book, The Full Rudy: The Man, the Myth, the Mania, about Mayor Rudy Giuliani, won an American Book Award in 2003.

Career in journalism[edit]

Born in Brooklyn, New York, Newfield attended Boys High School. He graduated in 1961 from Hunter College with a degree in journalism. He was involved with SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) at the time it was founded in 1962, and was an active supporter of anti-war, New Left politics in the sixties.

In 1964, Newfield started work for The Village Voice. His book, A Prophetic Minority (1966), provides an account of early sixties sit-ins and the civil rights movement, including creation of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), the voter registration drives in Mississippi and the expansion of SNCC to include white students, and the rise of the SDS. In 1968, Newfield signed the “Writers and Editors War Tax Protest” pledge, vowing to refuse tax payments in protest against the Vietnam War.[2] In 1968, Newfield covered the Chicago Democratic Convention for the Village Voice.[3]

Newfield continued with The Village Voice until 1988, writing some 700 articles for the newspaper during his 24 years on its staff as columnist, reporter and senior editor. From 1988 to 1990, he served as a columnist at the Daily News (New York) and at the New York Post from 1991 to 2001.[4]

Newfield wrote several books about political figures and major social movements, including Robert Kennedy: A Memoir (1969). It is considered by many[who?] to be the best book ever written about Robert Kennedy. Newfield's memoir was personal and passionate. While Newfield had a close relationship with Kennedy, he was tough-minded and determined to find the man within the myth. Newfield wrote:

[Robert Kennedy] was not ruthless, or an excessively ambitious politician, but a conflicted, vulnerable man, impatient with the small contrivances of politics. And he was not a divisive, unpopular figure, but rather a healing force. The root of my argument is that Robert Kennedy was the one politician of his time who might have united the black and white poor into a new majority for change -- an American liberalism hardly noticed.[5]

In 1988, Newfield was writer, reporter, and co-producer of the acclaimed Discovery Network documentary, Robert Kennedy.[6]

Newfield was politically active in addition to being a journalist. He was traveling with Robert F. Kennedy and his campaign when the senator from New York was assassinated by Sirhan Sirhan in Los Angeles, in June 1968.[7] By 1971 Newfield had become critical of the New Left, writing that "in its Weathermen, Panther and Yippie incarnations, [the New Left] seems anti-democratic, terroristic, dogmatic, stoned on rhetoric and badly disconnected from everyday reality". He also criticized "consensus liberals" like Hubert Humphrey who "ignored the very real problem of street crime. They called it a euphemism for racism, until crime became a menace in their own middle-class neighborhoods", and attributed their "complicity in the Vietnam holocaust" to the 'pay any price, bear any burden' "cold-warrior mentality" in John F. Kennedy's Inaugural Address. He himself was, Newfield wrote, a populist.[8]

Aside from providing exposes of abuse of power by government officials and by businessmen while at the New York Post, Newfield wrote ten books. Among them "Only in America The Life and Crimes of Don King" (1995) was serialized in Penthouse Magazine. It was adapted as the film, Don King: Only in America, co-written by Newfield and Kario Salem, and starring Ving Rhames in the role of King. Newfield's lifelong antipathy toward Don King resulted in numerous local and national television appearances as a commentator on King in particular and boxing in general.

His City for Sale: Ed Koch and the Betrayal of New York (1988), written with Wayne Barrett, was an acidic dissection of the corruption surrounding the mayoralty of Ed Koch, a former friend.

Newfield wrote about the mayoralty of Rudy Giuliani, publishing The Full Rudy (2002), which won the American Book Award in 2003.[9]

Jack Newfield died in New York City, succumbing to kidney and lung cancer on December 21, 2004.

Awards and Recognition[edit]

Newfield was awarded the George Polk in Journalism in 1979 for his reporting of politics at the Village Voice.[10]

Selected bibliography[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Jack Newfield", New York Sun
  2. ^ “Writers and Editors War Tax Protest,” New York Post, January 30, 1968
  3. ^ Norman Mailer, Miami and the Siege of Chicago: An Informal History of the American Political Conventions of 1968 (Harmondsworth, England: Penguin, 1969), 170-171.
  4. ^ Albert Amateau, "Jack Newfield, 66, journalist, Villager, club critic", The Villager, Dec. 22-28, 2004
  5. ^ RFK: a memoir. Nation Books. 2003. ISBN 978-1-56025-531-4. 
  6. ^ [1], Jack Newfield website
  7. ^ Amateau, "Jack Newfield"
  8. ^ Newfield, Jack (1971-07-19). "A Populist Manifesto: The Making of a New Majority". New York. pp. 39–46. Retrieved 6 January 2015. 
  9. ^ American Booksellers Association (2013). "The American Book Awards / Before Columbus Foundation [1980–2012]". BookWeb. Archived from the original on March 13, 2013. Retrieved September 25, 2013. 2003 [...] The Full Rudy: The Man, the Myth, the Mania, Jack Newfield 
  10. ^ "George Polk Awards, Past Award Winners". Political Reporting. Long Island University. Retrieved 2 December 2014. 

External links[edit]