Larry Bensky in 2005
|Born||May 1, 1937|
Larry Bensky (born May 1, 1937) is a literary and political journalist with more than forty years experience in both print and broadcast media, as well as a teacher and long-time political activist. He is well known for his work with Pacifica Radio station KPFA-FM in Berkeley, California, and for the many nationally broadcast hearings he anchored for the Pacifica network.
A native of New York City, Bensky graduated from Stuyvesant High School in 1954 and, with departmental honors, from Yale University, where he was managing editor of the Yale Daily News. He is married and has one daughter.
Career as journalist
Prior to his broadcasting career (and continuing throughout), Bensky worked as a print journalist and editor. He worked at the Minneapolis Star-Tribune after college, while attending graduate school at the University of Minnesota. He then worked as an editor at Random House, before moving to France, where he was Paris editor of The Paris Review from 1964 to 1966. He then returned to New York, as an editor of The New York Times Sunday Book Review, and also wrote daily book reviews. But his views on the war in Vietnam were not well received by editors of the Times, and several of his reviews and features were rejected. In 1968, he moved to the San Francisco Bay Area to take over as managing editor of the radical, anti-war publication, Ramparts magazine, working closely with editor-in-chief Robert Scheer.
After leaving Ramparts, Bensky worked for a time at San Francisco radio station KSAN-FM, before joining the staff of KPFA-FM in Berkeley. In 1972, he anchored and produced Pacifica Radio's coverage of the Democratic and Republican national conventions, both held in Miami, along with the attendant massive anti-war protests, dubbed "The Siege of Miami".
Bensky served as station manager for KPFA from 1974-77. After returning to KSAN as a news anchor, reporter, and talk show host, he narrowly missed accompanying Congressman Leo Ryan to investigate conditions at the Jonestown colony in Guyana in 1978. (Ryan and four journalists were shot to death on an airstrip, precipitating the mass murder-suicide of over 900 people.) In the early 1980s, Bensky turned his attention to the revolutions and American interventions in Nicaragua and El Salvador. He produced the PBS documentary, "Nicaragua: These Same Hands" in 1980.
National affairs correspondent
Perhaps best known as national affairs correspondent for Pacifica Radio from 1987-1998, Bensky covered numerous national and international events for Pacifica, including the Iran-Contra hearings in 1987, the confirmation hearings for four Supreme Court justices, the 1990 elections in Nicaragua, and numerous demonstrations and protests in Washington and elsewhere. Most recently, he anchored Pacifica's live coverage of the September 11 Commission hearings, and co-anchored Pacifica's coverage of the 2004 Democratic and Republican conventions, as well as the Presidential debates. He was anchor for Pacifica's extensive coverage of the post 2004 election controversy in Ohio, as well as several Congressional hearings about the misuse of executive power in the Bush administration.
He recently retired as host of a weekly two-hour radio talk show, Sunday Salon, originating at KPFA in Berkeley. The broadcasts are archived at SundaySalon.org. Among his guests were numerous literary and political luminaries, including the late Senator Paul Wellstone, Paul Krugman, Manning Marable, Bernie Sanders, Jane Smiley, Calvin Trillin, and Gary Shteyngart.
Bensky has written for The Nation, magazine, and was a regular contributor to the Los Angeles Times Sunday Book Review. A longtime resident of Berkeley, he was a political writer and columnist for the East Bay Express for fifteen years.
He has also appeared as a guest journalist on C-SPAN, CNN, The Today Show, and The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour, as well as on San Francisco KQED-FM's "Forum" and KQED-TV's "This Week in Northern California." In addition, he was founding managing editor (1999-2000) of the web site Mediachannel.org.
Bensky won the prestigious George Polk award for his coverage of Iran-Contra, and has won five Gold Reel awards from the National Federation of Community Broadcasters. He has won a career achievement award from the Society of Professional Journalists, and the Golden Gadfly award from Media Alliance.
Educator and activist
In addition to his work as a journalist, Bensky has had a continuing role in the classroom. For twelve years he taught broadcast journalism classes at Stanford and courses in mass communication, journalism, broadcasting, and political science at California State University (CSU), East Bay in Hayward, California. He currently teaches media criticism and analysis at Berkeley City College and political science at CSU, East Bay.
Bensky has been a political activist since the 1960s, working with nuclear disarmament and anti-war groups in New York, Paris, and San Francisco during the Vietnam War. In 1968, he signed the “Writers and Editors War Tax Protest” pledge, vowing to refuse tax payments in protest against the Vietnam War. He co-designed and wrote numerous successful direct mail appeals for Modern progressive organizations, including Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, and the United Farm Workers. He is a devout pacifist and an outspoken opponent of capital punishment.
Since retiring from regular broadcasting in 2007, Bensky has returned to a lifetime avocation, French language and literature. He is producer and host of "Radio Proust," a web site which he's developing as a fellow of the Bard College Center. He has also developed and is teaching classes about Proust for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of California, Berkeley.
- "About Larry", Sunday Salon website
- Judith Scherr, "Larry Bensky, Activist-Journalist, Cancels KPFA Show", Berkeley Daily Planet, May 4, 2007
- "The George Polk Awards for Journalism". Retrieved August 21, 2007.
- "Society of Professional Journalists Northern California Chapter". Retrieved August 21, 2007.
- “Writers and Editors War Tax Protest” January 30, 1968 New York Post
- Lilley, Sasha KPFA: A Tribute to Larry Bensky at the Wayback Machine (archived July 17, 2012) KPFA Radio, May, 2007.