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TV Commentator Agronsky Dies

July 26, 1999

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Martin Agronsky’s proudest accomplishment, says his son, was winning the 1952 Peabody Award for distinguished broadcast reporting for his work on the excesses by Sen. Joseph McCarthy as he tried to cleanse U.S. society of communists.

Agronsky, who died Sunday at age 84, lost at least half his sponsors nationwide for his commentary on ABC each morning from a studio above a downtown Washington drugstore, David Agronsky said.

He received reams of hate mail, attacking his Jewish roots, ``calling him a commie, a traitor,″ the son said. In the midst of the turmoil, his dad was summoned by ABC officials to New York. ``He thought he was going to be canned,″ David Agronsky said. ``Instead, they congratulated him and took him to lunch.″

Agronsky was a voice from radio’s golden age and a pioneer in television news-talk programming before retiring in 1988 from what was then the nation’s most popular public affairs show, the syndicated ``Agronsky & Company.″

Agronsky began his journalism career in 1936 as a reporter for the Palestine Post, now the Jerusalem Post then became a war correspondent on radio. From 1943 until retirement he was a Washington correspondent, foreign correspondent and commentator for U.S. commercial networks and public television.

David Agronsky said his father died at his Washington home of congestive heart failure. Stricken by a massive heart attack in early June, Agronsky recently returned home after a lengthy hospitalization, his son said.

``You’ve been one of the few people who fought the battle for the news and for seriousness against commercialism and schlock,″ panelist Tom Oliphant of The Boston Globe told Agronsky as he closed out ``Agronsky & Company″ after an 18-year run.

The show, which began as a newscast on Washington’s WTOP-TV, now WUSA-TV, was among the first to use the informal format of reporters talking among themselves rather than interviewing newsmakers. Agronsky described it as a bull session among first-class reporters.

The format, generally with newsmakers participating, became the stock-in-trade of today’s Sunday talk shows.

``Agronsky & Company″ ran less than a year as a local newscast, but the concept was spun off into a program syndicated on commercial and public television stations across the country.

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