raskin a hA.H. Raskin

Class of 1931

Inducted 2001

A.H. (Abraham) Raskin, a newspaperman whose authoritative voice on labor and management was heard for more than 40 years in articles and editorials in The New York Times, was a reporter, an editorial writer and an assistant editor of the editorial page. He was noted for his thoroughness of his research and the clarity of his writing, particularly when explaining esoteric and complex economic issues. Raskin covered the desperation of job seekers during the Great Depression, the emergence of trade unions as a powerful force following World War II, and the corruption that infected organized labor in the 1950s. In 1952, his reports about improper and illegal activities in unions prompted the American Federation of Labor to establish a special antiracketeering committee. Raskin’s efforts resulted in a Hillman Prize, a George Polk Memorial Award, a Page One Award from the Newspaper Guild and an Excellence in Journalism Award from the Society of the Silurians. In 1958, the College presented him with a Townsend Harris Medal.

Raskin was born on April 26, 1911, in Edmonton, Alberta. In 1924, as reported in his obituary in The Times, he and his family were living in Seattle when his father, a fur trader, took them all to Europe on a business trip. When they arrived in Berlin, awaiting visas to Russia, the American dollar was worth 1,000 German marks. A few months later, post-World War I hyperinflation had shrunk the value of German currency to almost nothing. A dollar would now fetch 4.2 trillion marks.

“Never in my later career as a labor writer and analyst,” Raskin recalled, “could I accept with equanimity the notion that ‘a little inflation can be a good thing.’”

Upon returning to the United States, the family settled in New York. Young Raskin attended Townsend Harris Hall (as the high school was then known) and entered City College in 1927, majoring in education and government. He became editor of The Campus, the yearbook and the literary magazine. He was president of the senior class and graduated Phi Beta Kappa. He started his association with The Times around that time as its campus correspondent. Raskin joined The Times in 1934, the dark days of the Depression, covering unemployment and work-relief agencies set up by the government. He remained on the labor beat until World War II, during which he was an Army officer in the industrial services division of the Pentagon. He was discharged as a lieutenant colonel in 1946 and returned to The Times and continued covering labor. Raskin joined the newspaper’s editorial board in 1961 and became assistant editor of the editorial page in 1964.

Among his most notable accomplishments during that period was his lengthy account of the 114-day New York newspaper strike of 1962-63, which appeared in print on the first day The Times resumed publishing. It was regarded as a journalistic tour de force. Raskin retired from The Times in 1977, but continued to write. He collaborated with David Dubinsky of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers Union on a memoir, “David Dubinsky: A Life With Labor.” He was editor of The Journal of International Labor Affairs, published by the Department of Labor, and in 1979, he wrote a two-part Reporter at Large series for The New Yorker on the 88-day newspaper strike of 1978.

In that 1979 New Yorker piece, Raskin described the style of Rupert Murdoch, as he saw it in those days: “Murdoch had built up a press empire spanning three continents on a sensationalist foundation of crime news and generous displays of female flesh. Some of his newspapers and magazines are descendents of the old “penny dreadfuls,” but readers have not been driven away by the regularity with which critics deplore their vacuity or the depths of taste to which they often descend . . . Even those who have nothing kind to say about either his publications or his business ethics are constantly astonished at how engaging and unassuming he usually is in personal relations. But where money or power is at stake he battles fiercely.”

Raskin died on Sept. 22, 1993. He was 82.