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Neil Postman

:: One of the interesting books I read this year is Amusing Ourselves To
Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business
, by Neil Postman, a professor at the Department of Culture and Communication, Steinhardt School of Education, NYU, and a well known critic and analyst of media and pop culture and their effect and impact on society. Despite having been published in 1985, pre-Internet days, I found “Amusing” to be quite relevant in 2003. In the book, Postman discusses the impact of television on society, and believes that, as one reviewer put it, “TV teaches us to live a decontextualized life.” Postman is the author of 17 books, including Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology, and The Disappearance of Childhood.

While driving home tonight, I was channel flipping on my car radio, and when I changed the station to the CBC program As It Happens, I realized I was listening to a segment of a speech Postman gave in Toronto a few years ago at a conference. I knew it was him because I recognized about what he was talking. When the segment ended, the announcer said that Postman passed away last week from lung cancer.

Here’s the weird part: despite my best efforts, I can’t find a single web site or news item on the Internet to verify this. Even Postman’s departmental web pages make no mention of his passing, although I noticed that the faculty page from his department removed the hotlink from his mini-bio. I searched CNN and NYTimes – nothing. Yet on the As It Happens web site for today, Oct 7, 2003, you can hear the complete segment, a short tribute to Postman, and an extract from his keynote address at a May 1998 conference sponsored by the North American National Broadcasters Association. (Note the entry at the bottom of the page: “FTR-NEIL POSTMAN (MU) Duration: 00:03:06.”) The program can be heard here, requiring Real Player (the file is a .ram file). The segment about Postman begins at 42:30 minutes, or so.

This is one of those mysteries of the Internet – for someone so well known in the media itself, that there would be no mention his passing anywhere on the web is, well, bizarre.

:: Ahnuld is the new governor of California. Happy Tuesday!

4 Responses to “Neil Postman”

  1. jenB Says:

    awww, this makes me sad. Neil Postman was one of the reasons I wanted to study Communications.

    And did you see Michael Moore on The Daily Show? He was fabulous, I thought of you as I watched him….

  2. Murph Says:

    He died on Sunday. I have several of his books, and he was often right on the money.


  3. randy Says:

    Thanks Derryl. I see the Toronto Star piece was posted three hours ago, so I can take small comfort knowing that I didn’t miss it yesterday when I was searching for information about his passing.

  4. Counterfactually Speaking Says:

    Neil Postman

    I have just learned of the death of renowned media critic and scholar Neil Postman, the Paulette Goddard Professor of Media Ecology at New York University. His book “Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business,”…

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