RIP Otto Fuerbringer
Looking at a copy of Time today, and considering the utterly peripheral role the newsweeklies now play, it’s impossible to imagine how much clout that magazine had for so long until television took over as the purveyor and arbiter of news in the early 1970s.
But back in the day, Time and Newsweek did more than just report the news; they made news. (And Time was unquestionably the first among those equals.) Time‘s annual selection of a Man of the Year was a major national event.
Time‘s editor during the eventful period 1960-1968 was Otto Fuerbringer. His editorship coincided with the last years of Henry Luce’s life.
Mr. Fuerbringer died on Monday in his retirement home in Fullerton, California; he was 97. There is an obituary in today’s New York Times; there will undoubtedly be an appreciation in the next issue of Time.
He was born in 1910 in St. Louis into a family of Lutheran ministers. At Harvard (’32) he was President of the Crimson. He returned home and wrote for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch for a decade before joining Time as a national affairs writer. He wrote more than thirty of the magazine’s famous cover stories; the Times quotes his description, in one of them, of Senator Harry S Truman, before he became Vice President, as “a man as neat and grey as his double-breasted suits who has none of the flowing pretensions that many senators wear like togas.”
One of Mr. Fuerbringer’s innovations was to liven up Time’s hitherto staid and formulaic covers. One of the magazine’s most famous and controversial covers appeared on his watch on 8 April 1966 — asking, in bold print, the stark question: “Is God Dead?”
He also introduced the work of outside artists. Among them, he commissioned Bernard Safran to paint a portrait of RN for the cover of the 31 October 1960 issue.