Jack Newfield

Article excerpt

Our friend Jack Newfield, who died on December 20, was a fight fan. Although his heart was with the peace movement, his love for this violent sport was appropriate in a number of ways. First and foremost because he was himself a fighter--for the dispossessed, the underdog, the underclass; against racism, anti-Semitism, corruption, the powers that be.

Second, he wasn't merely a fighter; he was an infighter. He called himself an advocacy journalist, which meant he considered himself a participatory journalist who believed in participatory politics. He investigated and reported, but he also conspired and connived on behalf of his causes, his friends, his heroes (from Bobby Kennedy to Muhammad Ali), against his public enemies (the ten worst judges, Don King, Rudy Giuliani).

Third, even as he held his own fight nights showing grainy tapes of boxing classics on the ground floor of his Charlton Street home in Manhattan, he crusaded for reform, writing a piece in this magazine that set forth practical proposals to clean up the sport he called "my guilty pleasure."

Jack was principally known for his career at the Village Voice and his later columns and investigations for the Daily News (which he quit in 1990 because he refused to cross a picket line) and the New York Post (from which he was fired) and for his many books. But The Nation is proud to have played a modest role in the launching of his book-writing career. As he tells it in his memoir, Somebody's Gotta Tell It, in 1965 Nation editor Carey McWilliams invited him to lunch and asked him to cover the upcoming march in Washington against the Vietnam War. …