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Journalist Victor S. Navasky has died. For years, he led The Nation.

Victor Navasky was also the author of a classic work about the Hollywood blacklist, <em>Naming Names</em>.
Leo Sorel
/
The Nation
Victor Navasky was also the author of a classic work about the Hollywood blacklist, Naming Names.

A left wing political luminary has died. Journalist Victor S. Navasky died at the age of 90.

Navasky ran The Nation, one of the oldest magazines in America, with a sharp progressive bent. He started as editor in 1978, a year when teachers's strikes and the Camp David Accords ruled the headlines. He also worked as the magazine's publisher, and then publisher emeritus until his death Monday at a hospital in New York. The cause was pneumonia, his son Bruno Navasky told NPR.

"For many years, we had a bad joke: If it's bad for the country, it's good for The Nation," Navasky told NPR in 2009. He was alluding to the magazine's pointed criticism of the George W. Bush administration and the soaring number of subscriptions his publication saw after the advent of the second Gulf War. "It's a rallying point for people who feel that they're not represented at the highest levels of power."

Navasky, the second child of a clothing manufacturer, was also a scion of the Upper West Side in Manhattan. He attended progressive educational institutions, including Rudolph Steiner School and Swarthmore College. After a stint in the U.S. Army, he enrolled in Yale Law School and quickly became part of the journalism establishment, working for The New York Times as an editor, writer and columnist.

But it was at The Nation that Navasky's singular voice became a clarion call for the left. He mentored other writers whose playful prose and sense of satire breathed wit into what had been an occasionally pedantic publication, among them Christopher Hitchens, Calvin Trillin, Katha Politt and Alexander Cockburn.

Navasky appreciated the work of making news stories passionate and beguiling. He told NPR he watched Fox News for years, because Bill O'Reilly and other Fox stars were so entertaining. He even claimed to welcome the channel's conservative check on Democratic administrations. But Navasky added he missed progressive voices in mainstream media.

"It is a credibility problem if you don't — if you distort, omit or otherwise demagogue against the opposition," he said.

Navasky, for whom entertainment and ethics were always intertwined, wrote the National Book Award-winning book Naming Names which told the story of Hollywood blacklisting, as well as other titles, including Kennedy Justice and A Matter of Opinion, which won the George Polk book award in 2005.

A statement provided to NPR from his family said Navasky "usually had nothing but kind words for everyone he encountered — even adversaries — and took a particular joy in his close relationships with family and a few select friends who were with him through to the very end."

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Neda Ulaby reports on arts, entertainment, and cultural trends for NPR's Arts Desk.