Class of 1951
Marvin Kalb is a 30-year veteran of broadcast television news, an author and one of the nation’s most astute commentators on the role of the press, but he learned a crucial lesson about journalism while still a student at City College. In 1951, during his senior year, the entire school was still besotted with the basketball team’s triumphs in 1950, when it won the NIT and NCAA tournaments, a feat never accomplished before or since. As sports editor of The Campus, Kalb chronicled that season. In 1951, the euphoria evaporated when CCNY, and many other schools, were caught up a betting scandal that tarnished everything that had happened earlier. More to the point, it shocked most people — including Kalb — that such a thing was even possible. The lesson it taught him? Be skeptical. Don’t be “a cheerleader with a typewriter.”
“For the rest of my life, this basketball scandal would taint my memory of what was otherwise a rich and rewarding college experience,” Kalb wrote in a 2013 article in The Atlantic, “and it also taught me important lessons in journalism helpful many decades later in my coverage of wars and political upheavals around the world.” He went on to say that “a dash of skepticism has always been an essential tool of journalism,” and if more news organizations had used it well when reporting on the activities of government, “we might have been able to avoid Vietnam and Watergate.”
|With Tom Friedman|
Journalism has been a calling for Kalb since he was a student and his older brother and future Hall of Famer, Bernard Kalb was a reporter at The New York Times. (The brothers would later work together for many years at CBS News and NBC News, and as co-authors.) Born in New York on June 9, 1930, Kalb went to George Washington High School before entering City College. Following his graduation, he studied Russian language and literature at Harvard, where he got his M.A. In 1956, he was working on his Ph.D. in Russian history when he was hired by the State Department as a translator and interpreter at the American Embassy in Moscow. A year later, he was the last correspondent recruited by Edward R. Murrow to join CBS. Assigned to the Moscow bureau and later to Washington, Kalb became a familiar television presence. In 1980, he moved to NBC News as chief diplomatic correspondent and as host of “Meet the Press.”
In 1987, Kalb left the world of daily journalism to become founding director of the Shorenstein Center for the Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard. He remained there until 1999. He is a James Clark Welling Fellow at George Washington University and a member of the Atlantic Community and Advisory Board, as well as a guest scholar at The Brookings Institution. He is a senior adviser at the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. He hosts “The Kalb Report,” a monthly discussion of media ethics at the National Press Club in Washington and is the Edward R. Murrow Professor Emeritus at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and a contributing news analyst for National Public Radio and Fox News Channel. He is a frequent lecturer and television guest on matters concerning the press and government.
Kalb has written or co-written 11 non-fiction books and two novels. In 2013, he published “The Road to War: Presidential Commitments Honored and Betrayed,” on how the power to make war has shifted from the Congress to the White House. Other books include “Haunting Legacy: Vietnam and the American Presidency From Ford to Obama,” co-written with his daughter, Deborah, a freelance writer and editor; “Kissinger,” with
|Marvin and Deborah Kalb|
Bernard Kalb; “Roots of Involvement: The U.S. in Asia, 1784-1971,” with Elie Abel; “The Nixon Memo: Political Respectability, Russia and the Press”; and “One Scandalous Story: Clinton, Lewinsky, & 13 Days That Tarnished American Journalism.” His novels, both bestsellers, are “In the National Interest,” with Ted Koppel, and “The Last Ambassador,” with Bernard Kalb.
The many honors he has received include two Peabody Awards, the DuPont Prize from Columbia University, the 2006 Fourth Estate Award from the National Press Club, and more than half a dozen awards from the Overseas Press Club. The College awarded him a Townsend Harris Medal in 1988.