Danny Schechter, the News Dissector, Dies in NYC at 72

Schechter was a renaissance progressive with a long list of achievements and creative endeavors.

Danny Schechter, one of America’s best known, most talented and effective progressive leaders renowned for his activism and ground-breaking media-making, died Thursday, March 19 in New York City, of pancreatic cancer.

Known as the “News Dissector” from his days at Boston radio station WBCN, Schechter was truly a renaissance progressive -- with a long list of achievements and creative endeavors.  He is probably best known for his passionate relationship with Nelson Mandela, fighting apartheid in South Africa, and the brilliant TV series South Africa Now produced by Globalvision, the New York City-based television and film production company he created with his longtime business partner Rory O’Connor. South Africa Now was followed by Rights & Wrongs: Human Rights Television shown on domestic public television and more than 60 other countries from 1992–1996. Schechter was also a producer for ABC’s news magazine 20/20, where he won two Emmys and was part of the startup team that created CNN.

As Rory O’Connor, his business partner for more than three decades explains, "Danny always used to say that he got into making media because he wanted to do something about the problems of the world." ("It wasn't until later," Schechter would then add, "that I learned the media was one of the problems of the world.") He was the original "jactivist"—part journalist, part activist, always involved.

And he did "do something" about the world's many problems, or at least tried. From Chile to South Africa to Vietnam to Bosnia and beyond, and from apartheid to human rights to the corporate media to the American economy "before the bubble burst," the world not only often heard it first, it also heard it right—often years before they heard it anywhere else—from the News Dissector.

I was proud to be his partner in Globalvision, the fiercely independent media firm we co-founded, and prouder still to be his friend. I'll miss him greatly, but the world will miss his unique voice even more.

Another longtime friend and collaborator, David Fenton, called Schechter “a brilliant activist and journalist who spoke truth to power and was my friend for 40 years. Thank you for all you did for us Danny. RIP."

Schechter, born June 27,1942 was a graduate of Cornell University. He later received a master's degree from the London School of Economics. He was a Nieman Fellow in Journalism at Harvard University, and an adjunct professor at the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University.  

One of the great original multi-taskers, Schechter was an independent filmmaker, author of a number of books, blogger, and media critic whose insights about the failures of the global media system were incisive and widely appreciated. Later in his career he embraced new technology, creating the Media Channel where he called himself “blogger-in-chief.”

A brilliant speaker and strategist, Schechter was a true global leader, traveling to dozens of countries, making connections, shooting footage and giving rousing speeches. Schechter was the special kind of leader-activist who had deep cultural roots, weaving music into his quest to improve human rights globally. He will be missed.

Check in later at Rory O’Connor's or David Fenton’s Facebook pages for information about a memorial service or visit Danny's memorial page on Facebook.

Don Hazen is the executive editor of AlterNet.

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