Danny Schechter "the news dissector", longtime media critic and activist, filmmaker, author, and friend and ally of Chicago Media Action, died on March 19th at the age of 72.
Danny ran the gamut of media production and media activism. He was a filmmaker "on the inside" having been part of CNN during its early days, and as part of the ABC news program "20/20" when that show still committed occasional acts of journalism. (I can remember seeing his name in the opening credits of 20/20 segments that he produced.) Danny even won two Emmys for his work at 20/20.
He also was very active "on the outside" having founded and served as executive producer of Globalvision, an independent film production company. Globalvision produced the acclaimed TV series "South Africa Now", which chronicled anti-apartheid efforts in South Africa, and the TV series Rights & Wrongs: Human Rights Television. Both of those shows got airplay on PBS stations, but Danny and Globalvision had to do an end-run around PBS national which steadfastly refused to pick up. They resorted to shopping the series one by one to local PBS stations, and got the show on upwards of 150 stations.
Danny was a strident critic of the media. On this topic Danny was decidedly passionate and active, having founded the media organizational coalition MediaChannel. He served as MediaChannel’s “blogger in chief” and was astoundingly prolific as a blogger, writing upwards of 3,000 words per day. That blog, in the days when it ran, served as a connective glue for a lot of progressive media efforts and initiatives. Danny gave generously of his space in the blog to many media-themed causes and efforts, and reported widely on efforts small and large.
It was in that capacity of challenging the major media that Chicago Media Action had the honor to co-present Danny’s film WMD: Weapons of Mass Deception. And that continuing challenge of the major media that was all but whitewashed in the New York Times’ obituary of Danny Schechter.
On top of all of that, Danny somehow found the time to write books — a dozen to his credit, certainly on media including the acclaimed The More You Watch, The Less You Know. He changed the focus of his work in later years to that of the economy, writing about the debt bubble, the Great Recession of 2008, and the rise of Occupy Wall Street.
Some more personal recollections: I notified Danny of the critique of the film WMD that was published in the Chicago Reader, and before you could say Jack Roosevelt Robinson, Danny had emailed an reply to the Reader which I got copied in on. I had the good fortune to appear on a panel with Danny Schechter at the 2004 Chicago Underground Film Festival. And I got to hang out with Danny for a week at the 2005 Z Media Institute; he was funny, always ready with a quick riposte at nearly every headline he read. And my goodness did he read a lot: when I asked him what was his media diet he read so much that he couldn’t give a reply. I also had the honor of starting Danny Schechter’s Wikipedia page, and having a two-part interview with Danny on my radio program on WHPK.
There are tributes to Danny Schechter at Democracy Now! and at CommonDreams among many other places. The world is poorer for having lost such an active and supportive voice, and we owe it to ourselves to carry on his work. Rest In Power, Danny Schechter.
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