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Reuven Frank Papers

 Collection
Call Number: MS137

Scope and Contents

The collection consists mostly of secondary source research material (largely photocopies of articles) assembled by Reuven Frank for his book, Out of Thin Air: The Brief Wonderful Life of Network News from the late twentieth century. Material not related to his book includes awards for achievements in journalism, numerous photographs, and AV materials of mostly NBC documentaries and special reports. Of note is a 1963-1964 Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in News Reporting.

Dates

  • 1940 -- 2008

Creator

Language of Materials

English

Conditions Governing Access

This collection contains some restricted material. Restrictions related to specific material are listed in the detailed contents list. This collection may require review before it is available for use. Please contact DCA for further details.

Conditions Governing Use

Some material in this collection may be protected by copyright and other rights. Please see “Reproductions and Use” on the Digital Collections and Archives website for more information about reproductions and permission to publish. Any intellectual property rights that the donor possesses have been transferred to Tufts University.

Biographical / Historical

Born in 1920 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, Reuven Frank helped transform the world of television journalism when radio still dominated the airwaves. A graduate of Columbia University's prestigious Graduate School of Journalism, Frank also served in the U.S. Army for four years during World War II, two of them in Europe. Upon his return, Frank married Bernice Kaplow on June 9, 1946. They later had two sons, Peter and James, and eventually a grandson and granddaughter.



Frank joined NBC in 1950 as a writer after spending three years at Newark Evening News (Newark, N.J.) where he made his mark as an editor, rewrite man, and a reporter. As an executive at NBC News for much of the latter half of the twentieth century, Frank helped to solidify the importance of the medium with his emphasis on the visual power of television. As a standard, Frank believed in "the transmission of the experience, rather than the transmission of information" as a way of developing many of his newscasts.



As producer of such news shows as The Huntley-Brinkley Report, which later became NBC Nightly News, Frank also was the first to pair two anchors together in a broadcast. The show began on October 29, 1956, and ended in 1970. He also oversaw the transition of the nightly news from a standard 15-minute format to a half-hour format. Described as a wise and quiet man but with a dry wit, Mr. Frank noted one of his contributions to the field in his memoir, Out of Thin Air: The Brief Wonderful Life of Network News. As they struggled to find an ending for Huntley-Brinkley each night, he typed out the words, "Good night, Chet," and "Good night, David" - also evoking Edward R. Murrow's famous 'Good Night and Good Luck' line. The ending stuck and became one of the most recognizable phrases during that era. Putting different journalists in different cities talking to each other on television, as this show did with Huntley in New York and Brinkley in Washington, also helped reinforce standards for television news broadcasts.



As a news medium, television was ripe for experimentation and Frank did just that with news segments such as Background, Chet Huntley Reporting, and Frank McGee Reports. This documentary-style of news making was still quite revolutionary for the 1950s and allowed Frank to hone his skills in writing commentary, editing, and creative visuals. He won an Emmy Award for his documentary, The Tunnel, which told the story of a group of West Berlin students who helped 59 men, women, and children escape through a tunnel underneath the newly constructed Berlin Wall in 1962. It was the only documentary to win an Emmy Award for Program of the Year during the award ceremony.



Frank won numerous awards throughout his career, including The Broadcast Man of the Year Award from the Missouri Broadcasters Association, and the Sigma Delta Chi Award for "distinguished service in the field of television writing" for his script of The Road to Spandau. He was named a Poynter Fellow by Yale University in 1970, and was the first individual from the field of television to receive that honor. His later achievements included two Peabody Awards for his efforts as executive producer of the critically acclaimed nightly news program, Weekend. The Peabody committee recognized the show as "a new and refreshing approach to television programming, providing the viewer with a quality experience." He also wrote articles for magazines and newspapers.



Reuven Frank forged new ground with the method of coverage used during political conventions. His technique consisted of anchoring four floor reporters among the politicians, and then to record their reports using live cameras. The communication center controlled the "news gathering, reporting, and distribution" of the broadcasts. Once the communication center decided on a report, the technical team would execute it. This system became standard.



Frank was seminal in developing some of the most influential news programs on television, and was appointed president of NBC News in the turbulent year of 1968. During such events as the Tet offensive in Vietnam and the assassinations of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, Frank was a formidable force in shaping the ways news broadcasts were executed. After being producer, Vice President, Executive Vice President and finally President of NBC News from 1968 until 1973, he again worked on special programs and documentaries for the next nine years. In 1982 he again accepted the post of President and helped to select Tom Brokaw as the solo anchor of NBC Nightly News in 1983. After Robert E. Mulholland took over for Frank in 1984 as President of NBC he said, "Reuven wrote the book on how television covers the political process in America, has trained more top broadcast journalists than anyone alive, and simply embodies the very best professional traditions of NBC News."



Frank passed away on February 5, 2006, in Englewood, N.J., of complications from pneumonia.

Extent

12 Linear Feet (10 record cartons )

3 Digital Object(s)

Arrangement

The collection is organized into three series: Research and reference files; Awards and photographs; and AV materials.

Custodial History

The material was donated to the archives in the summer of 2007.

Processing Information

Material for this collection was processed in the spring of 2008. Processed by: Ashley Gaunt, spring 2008; supervised by Susanne Belovari. Unless otherwise noted, material was kept in its original order and filing system. Most folders have original titles. A majority of the items are duplicates. Titles added by archivist are indicated by square brackets. Conservation note: Most items were kept in their original folders unless otherwise noted. Since VHS and Beta tapes are copies, digitization is not necessary. As of spring 2008, VHS tapes are in good condition and can be used.

Processing status

This collection is partially processed.
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin

Repository Details

Part of the Digital Collections and Archives, Tufts University Repository

Contact:
35 Professors Row
Tisch Library Building
Tufts University
Medford Massachusetts 02155 United States
617-627-3737