Neil Postman

Late this evening comes news of the death of Neil Postman, University Professor of Culture and Communication at NYU, and author of Amusing Ourselves to Death. I never studied with Postman while I was at NYU, and, frankly, much of my recently-completed manuscript on the relationship between contemporary literary culture and television argues explicitly against the Postman line. Nonetheless, he has been for years a leading figure in media ecology circles, and will be much missed.

[UPDATE, 10.08.03: At last, confirmation. Interesting that this comes from Toronto; there’s still nothing in the NY Times…]

[UPDATE2, 10.09.03: The NY Times obituary has at last appeared.]


  1. I used to teach a Postman essay in my freshman composition classes, even though I recall disagreeing with him on many accounts. Still, he’s one of the few academic media theorists/critics to gain a relatively wide audience. He was also an incredibly lucid writer for the most part. I’ll have to go back and revisit his work at some later point.

  2. I was struck by a sense of irony as I heard of Neil Postman’s passing on NPR’s “Morning Edition” this morning. For a man who has done perhaps more than anyone to raise public awareness our media environment, the two-minute report on his death — and life — seemed rather inconsequential as compared to the “other news of the day.” While I do not always agree with his ideas, there is still no other source I reference more often as I teach “Media Literacy” to my high school students. Postman’s lifework will continue to serve a most important service for many years to come.

  3. It is a bit ironic — though, like most ironies, it seemed in some sense fitting, to me — that Postman’s death was the one piece of “news” not immediately leapt upon by the media. Postman’s work has been enormously influential, and he will be terribly missed — but perhaps that silence (admittedly temporary, now that the New York Times has finally weighed in) can be seen as a gesture of respect, a decision not to transform “something happened” into soundbite quite so reflexively.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.