Big Fish in a Big Pond
I often talk about and post articles by my friend Nell Minow, the combination corporate governance world expert and Movie Mom film critic. But sometimes it's good to know from whence they came.
This is a terrific article here from the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin about Nell's father, Newton Minow. Newton Minow has the rare distinction of being probably the only FCC Chairman in the history of the department who anyone can name -- this includes the current head -- and what makes it all the more impressive is that he was FCC Chairman over a half a century ago, 54 years, That's because of his famous speech, still remembered today, calling television a "vast wasteland." Oddly, as the article points out, Minow had never thought of his speech that way when he was preparing it, but rather as his "public interest" speech, the topic he felt was of most critical concern.
(I particularly loved reading that. Some of you may recall that just last week I wrote a piece here about the sports radio host who went on a ranting sexist smear, and I noted specifically -- because it's always struck me as critical -- that radio stations are licensed to do only three things -- broadcast in the “public interest, convenience and necessity.”)
Left out of the article (understandably, I guess, for a law journal...) is that TV producer Sherwood Schwartz was so bothered by the FCC Chairman daring to call his industry a "vast wasteland" that when Schwartz needed a name for a boat on his new show, he called it, 'the S.S. Minnow.' And so it was that the Captain and his little buddy Gilligan took their passengers on the ill-fated three hour cruise.
Beyond being immortalized on Gilligan's Island, Newton Minow has had an actually-illustrious career, dating back to working with Adlai Stevenson in his runs for the presidency, and then JFK, to being a senior partner and early political adviser to Barack Obama, and being one of the leading organizers of all presidential debates, including the first one with Kennedy and Nixon. And much else politically in between.
That and, of course, being poker-playing buddy with my dad. Actually, one of my dad's favorite stories concerns when Minow had left Glencoe and gone to Washington and the FCC. He had to go on a trip overseas, and so called my father (who had been his doctor) to find out about what shots he needed. "Newt," my dad said with a bit of surprise, "you do know you have the Surgeon General of the United States just down the hall, and the Bethesda Medical Center to check with." But Newt wanted to stick with what he knew and felt comfortable with. My dad liked that.
(And it's from Newton Minow that I was given -- and still have -- two prize possessions. Old 45 RPM singles of campaign songs for Adlai Stevenson running for the White House in 1956 and for John F. Kennedy four years later.)
Anyway, take a look at the article here about a interesting man, who continues to practice law at the age of 88.
11/18/2016 04:01:49 am
Thank you for the story on Mr. Minow. We watched the PBS documentary and thoroughly enjoyed it. ( I was unfamiliar with your rather humorous story about the "S.S. Minnow." I'll have to pass this along to a few who will appreciate it. )
11/18/2016 09:10:00 am
Robert, thanks for your note. When I noted the S.S. Minnow story on Twitter, someone didn't believe me and checked it out. To their shock they wrote back that "Oh, my God, it was true." It is indeed true -- and the hoot is that the attempt to insult Newton Minow backfired because the little ship became a figure of endearment, and the family loves it.
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Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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