Class of 1953
Marvin Kitman has spent much of his life watching television. For most people, this might not exactly qualify as a blueprint for success, but Kitman is decidedly not most people. As the media critic for Newsday for more than 35 years and as the author of books ranging from “George Washington’s Expense Account” (he shared authorship honors with the nation’s first president, the only living writer to make that claim) to “The Man Who Would Not Shut Up: The Rise of Bill O’Reilly,” Kitman has been an iconoclastic, irreverent, and always perceptive observer of the American cultural landscape. And, oh yes. In 1964, he ran for president of the United States as “a Lincoln Republican.” He said he was against slavery and declared, “I would rather be president than write.” As a television critic, he arrived at what he called Kitman’s Law: “On the TV screen, pure drivel tends to drive off ordinary drivel.”
|Kitman campaign button, 1964|
Kitman was born on Nov. 24, 1929 in Pittsburgh, but his family moved to Brooklyn, where he graduated from Brooklyn Tech High School. Once at the College, he joined the staff of Observation Post and wrote a column modestly called “I’m Never Wrong.” After two years in the Army, during which he was a writer for the base newspaper at Fort Dix, N.J., he held a variety of jobs, including writing copy for Carl Ally, a Madison Avenue ad agency. He also freelanced for publications such the Saturday Evening Post and Monocle, a politically impudent humor magazine.
He found the right channel for his talents in 1967, when he was hired as a TV critic for New Leader Magazine. He claims he had never watched television until someone paid him to do it.
“I may be crazy,” he said, “but I’m not stupid.”
In 1969, Kitman was named media critic for Newsday and his first column appeared on Dec. 7, 1969. It ran three times a week for 35 years and was syndicated by the Los Angeles Times Syndicate. The column was entitled “The Marvin Kitman Show” and lasted longer than most of the programs he had written about. From 1981 to 1987, Kitman himself appeared on television as a media commentator on “The Ten O’Clock News” on WNYW (formerly WNEW) in New York. His commentaries were also heard on the old RKO Radio Network. His final column for Newsweek was published on April 1, 2005.
His honors include a Folio Award in 1988, a Humor Writing Award from the Society of the Silurians in 1991, and a Townsend Harris Medal from the College in 1992.
In his post-print media days, Kitman’s observations have appeared on his blog (marvinkitman.com), where he has commented on everything from websites run by multimillionaires who exploit writers by underpaying them to political scandals involving the people who run his state. It should be noted that Kitman lives in Leonia, N.J., just over the bridge that was named for one of his co-authors.