Volume 74, Number 33 | December 22 - 28, 2004

Jack Newfield, 66, journalist, Villager, club critic

By Albert Amateau

Jack Newfield, a prize-winning journalist who made his reputation at the Village Voice and as the author of 10 books on subjects ranging from Senator Robert F. Kennedy to Mayor Edward I. Koch and boxing promoter Don King, died on Dec. 20 at the age of 66. He lived on Charlton St.

He was at Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital being treated for kidney cancer that had spread to his lungs when he died late Monday night, according to Howard Rubenstein, a spokesman for the family and a personal friend of Newfield’s for more than 20 years.

“I met him when he assigned a reporter to do an exposé of me for the Voice and it turned out to be a puff piece,” Rubenstein recalled. “He told me, ‘You’ve just won the Good Housekeeping seal of approval and now we can be friends,’ ” he added.

Tony Hoffmann, a former Democratic district leader, recalled meeting Newfield, a fellow resident of the Village, during Hoffmann’s campaign for the State Assembly. “He hated corruption in government and the influence of special interests,” Hoffmann said. “He was always after the truth, he would dig, dig, dig until he unpacked the truth. The city was his beat and he was unwavering in its defense,” he added.

David Reck, Democratic district leader in the Hudson Sq. neighborhood, recalled Newfield’s exposés on the bar and club scene. “He wrote about Blue Moose, the club on Varick just below Houston St., and then did a great article about Friends of Hudson Sq. and our fight against a club at Spring and Greenwich St.,” Reck said.

City Council Speaker Gifford Miller said, “He was a great voice for New York City and loved the people who lived here. This son of the city spent an honorable careeer and noble life fighting for all New Yorkers through his craft.”

Born in Brooklyn in 1938, Newfield graduated from Boys High School and Hunter College, where he majored in journalism. He was drawn to the civil rights movement efforts in the South where he was arrested in a sit-in in 1963. Newfield spent two days in jail in Mississippi with Michael Schwerner, who was later murdered with James Chaney and Andrew Goodman.

He went to work for the Voice in 1964 and published his first book, “A Prophetic Minority,” in 1966 about his experience in the civil rights movement. He traveled with Senator Robert Kennedy during his presidential campaign and was present when Kennedy was assassinated in June 1968 in the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. His second book, “Robert Kennedy: A Memoir,” came out in 1969.

Newfield was at the Voice as a columnist, reporter and senior editor until 1988. He was a columnist at the Daily News from 1988 until 1990 and at the New York Post from 1991 until 2001. An early supporter of Koch, he became a harsh critic and co-wrote with Wayne Barrett, “City for Sale: Ed Koch and the Betrayal of New York,” in 1980.

He also wrote “A Populist Manifesto” with Jeff Greenfield, “Bread and Roses, Too,” “The Permanent Government” with Paul DuBrui, “Only in America: The Life and Crimes of Don King,” “Somebody’s Got to Tell It: The Upbeat Memoir of a Working-Class Journalist,” and “The Full Rudy: The Man, the Myth and the Mania,” published in December 2002.

Newfield won The George Polk Award for Investigative Reporting in 1980 and an Emmy for the PBS television documentary “Don King, Unauthorized” in 1991. He won the New York State Bar Association Special Award in 1986 for a series of articles that led to the exoneration and release from prison of Bobby McLaughlin, wrongfully convicted of murder.

At his death, Newfield was a member of The Nation Institute and wrote regularly for The Nation, Parade Magazine, New York Sun and a monthly column for several union newspapers, including 1199, U.F.T., T.W.U. Local 100 and Hotel Workers.

His wife of 34 years, Janie Eisenberg, a psychoanalyst, their daughter, Rebecca, 26, and their son, Joseph, 23, survive. The funeral was Wed., Dec. 23, at Riverside Chapel on W. 76th St.

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