Bernard and Marvin Kalb to Be Awarded
Lifetime Achievement Honors on Dec. 16
FOR THE FIRST TIME in its 96-year history, the Silurians Press Club will present its annual Lifetime Achievement Award to two recipients at the same time. They are Bernard Kalb, 98, and his brother, Marvin Kalb, 90, and although they worked together at various times in careers that each spanned more than half a century, they carved out their own remarkable records of individual accomplishment.
The Kalbs will be honored at a virtual event conducted via Zoom on Wednesday, Dec. 16, at 2 PM, so keep an eye out for emails from Silurian president Michael Serrill with details on how to register.
Both Kalbs are native New Yorkers. They each attended public schools in the city, each is a graduate of City College of New York, and each began his work as a journalist with New York-based news organizations. They worked together at times at CBS News and at NBC News, and they collaborated, on “Kissinger,” a 1974 biography of the former statesman, but for the most part, their careers followed discrete paths.
Bernard Kalb was an acclaimed newspaperman, television broadcaster, author and media critic for decades, but he made headlines of his own in 1986 when he resigned as a State Department spokesman to protest government “disinformation.” In so doing, he became a hero to many for calling attention to the importance of governmental credibility. It happened when Kalb, then spokesman for Secretary of State George P. Schultz, stepped aside because of “the reported disinformation program” conducted by the Reagan administration against Col. Muammar e-Qaddafi of Libya.
“Faith in the word of America is the pulsebeat of our democracy,” Kalb said on the day he resigned. “Anything that hurts America’s credibility hurts America.”
“In his final official act,” wrote William Safire in The New York Times, “Bernard Kalb rose above State Department spokesman to become the spokesman for all Americans who respect and demand the truth.”
Among friends, he sometimes irreverently referred to himself as “keeper of the nation’s ambiguities.”
For more than 30 years prior to leaving the government, Kalb covered international affairs at The New York Times, CBS News and NBC News. For almost half that time, he was based in Indonesia, Hong Kong, Paris and Saigon. Kalb was also the founding anchor of “Reliable Sources,” CNN’s critique of the media, and, for a decade, a frequent panelist on the program.
He was named a Senior Fellow by the Freedom Forum Media Studies Center at Columbia University, and won a fellowship from the Council of Foreign Relations as well as recognition from the Overseas Press Club for his CBS documentary, “Viet Cong.”
Following his graduation from CCNY, Marvin Kalb studied Russian language and literature at Harvard, where he got his M.A. In 1956, he was working on his Ph.D. in Russian history when he was hired by the U.S. State Department as a translator and interpreter at the American Embassy in Moscow. A year later, he was the last correspondent recruited by Edward R. Murrow to join CBS. Assigned to the Moscow bureau and later to Washington, Kalb became a familiar television presence. In 1980, he moved to NBC News as chief diplomatic correspondent and as host of “Meet the Press.”
In 1987, Kalb left the world of daily journalism to become founding director of the Shorenstein Center for the Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard. He remained there until 1999. He is a James Clark Welling Fellow at George Washington University and a member of the Atlantic Community and Advisory Board, as well as a guest scholar at The Brookings Institution. He is a senior adviser at the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. He hosts “The Kalb Report,” a monthly discussion of media ethics at the National Press Club in Washington and is the Edward R. Murrow Professor Emeritus at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and a contributing news analyst for National Public Radio and Fox News Channel. He is a frequent lecturer and television guest on matters concerning the press and government.
Kalb has written or co-written at least a dozen non-fiction books and two novels. In 2018, he published “Enemy of the People: Trump’s War on the Press, the New McCarthyism, and the Threat to American Democracy.” Other books include “The Road to War: Presidential Commitments Honored and Betrayed,” on how the power to make war has shifted from the Congress to the White House; “Haunting Legacy: Vietnam and the American Presidency From Ford to Obama,” co-written with his daughter, Deborah, a freelance writer and editor; “Kissinger,” with Bernard Kalb; “Roots Involvement: The U.S. in Asia, 1784-1971,” with Elie Abel; “The Nixon Memo: Political Respectability, Russia and the Press”; and “One Scandalous Story: Clinton, Lewinsky, & 13 Days That Tarnished American Journalism.” His novels, both bestsellers, are “In the National Interest,” with Ted Koppel, and “The Last Ambassador,” with Bernard Kalb.
The many honors he has received include two Peabody Awards, the DuPont Prize from Columbia University, the 2006 Fourth Estate Award from the National Press Club, and more than half a dozen awards from the Overseas Press Club.