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Ben L. Yablonky
LSA Minutes


Ben L. Yablonky, professor emeritus of communication at the University of Michigan, died October 11, 1991. He was 80.

Yablonky was born August 26, 1911, in Chicago and received a bachelor of science degree from Northwestern University in 1934. He received a master's degree in history from Columbia University in 1954, was a Nieman Fellow in Journalism at Harvard University (1945-46) and was a Ford Fellow in Mass Communications at the U-M (1957-58).

Professor Yablonky was a newsman whose career as a print journalist, broadcaster and educator spanned 50 years in Chicago, New York City and Ann Arbor, with short stints in Hawaii, Ecuador and India.

Ben was a pioneer in the movement to give reporters greater control over their product and was an early organizer of the Newspaper Guild. He never lost his enthusiasm for the newsroom. This made him an exceptionally good student and teacher of journalism. His combination bird's-eye and down-to-earth view of the media was perhaps best represented in his weekly commentary, "The Press and World Affairs," produced at the U-M public radio station WUOM and distributed to more than 80 radio stations in the United States and abroad.

A self-described radical, in the late 1930s and early 1940s, Yablonky worked as an editor and reporter for the Chicago Herald and Examiner and the Chicago Sun, where he walked a picket line to organize one of the first journalists' unions. Decades later, he walked a picket line at Rockefeller Plaza in New York City, headquarters for the Associated Press, in support of Wire Service Guild employees, including his daughter, Judy, an AP reporter at the time.

In New York, Yablonky was on the staff of the adless, experimental newspaper, PM, in 1942-48. He then taught for 11 years at New York University, simultaneously working part-time for NBC and CBS television networks. In the 1960s, he coordinated the staff for CBS' coverage of the Republican and Democratic national conventions, and coordinated CBS coverage of the 1964 and 1968 presidential elections.

Professor Yablonky joined the U-M faculty in 1959. He was a visiting lecturer at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Journalism in Quito, Ecuador (1963); a Fulbright visiting professor in journalism at Osmania University in Hyderabad, India (1965-66); and a visiting professor of journalism at the University of Hawaii (1972).

In 1973, Yablonky founded and directed the National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowships in Journalism at U-M, now known as the Michigan Journalism Fellows Program. Under the program, dozens of American and foreign journalists have spent a mid-career year at the U-M studying the humanities and related areas.

In 1976, Yablonky was invited by the Swedish government to study the Swedish press and broadcasting system. In 1977 and 1979, he visited the Republic of South Africa for a study of the press, press law and the system of education for journalists in South Africa's colleges and universities.

Yablonky was co-author of "Your Newspaper: A Blueprint for a Better Press," a contributor to "How to Write for Pleasure and Profit" and ghostwriter of "Swedish Immigrants in Lincoln's Time" by Nels Hokanson.

Yablonky is survived by his wife, Gladys; son, John of Ann Arbor; daughter, Judy of Paris, France; and sister, Raye Friedman of Encino, California.

Neil Malamuth