Pioneering TV Journalist Dies at 84

Nov 15, 2013  •  Post A Comment

A journalist who was one of the first to cover television and who created a TV encyclopedia has died. The New York Times reports that Les Brown died after battling lung cancer. He was 84.

"When Mr. Brown became an entertainment reporter for Variety in 1953, his television duties were subordinate to covering radio. That quickly changed as TV became dominant," the story notes.

Brown went on to write for The New York Times, covering the industry as it grew from just a few networks into the expanding universe of cable channels in the 1980s, the piece adds.

"He brought a narrative sweep and life to network thinking in the executive office, but then after that he took a step back and looked from a longer perspective," Ron Simon, curator of television and radio at the Paley Center for Media, told The Times.

In 1981, Brown created Channels of Communications, one of the earliest publications to cover the industry with an analytic viewpoint. While there, he recruited journalists including Michael Pollan, James Traub and Walter Karp, the piece notes.

His output included seven books, including 1971’s "Televi$ion: The Business Behind the Box."

Commenting on "Les Brown’s Encyclopedia of Television, The Times notes, "His most ambitious project was his TV encyclopedia, the first edition of which was published in 1978 under the auspices of The Times. (Two more followed.) The books provided deeply researched profiles of the networks, entries on major and minor stars and industry figures, and definitions of insider argot like ‘cume’ (for cumulative audience) and ‘pocketpiece’ (‘the definitive weekly network rating report’ that ‘was designed to fit in the inside coat pocket of the network salesmen’)."

Brown also foresaw the expansion of the cable industry, which he worried would give too much power to cable companies. In 1982, he wrote, "They’re like tines of a rake. They all meet at the handle. And the handle is the guy who owns the cable system.”

les brown-NY Times.jpgLes Brown

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