Death of a Watchdog: Reed Irvine (1922-2004)

To many liberals in the media targeted by his pointed criticisms, Reed Irvine, the founder of Accuracy in Media, was a tormenter. But to his legions of friends and admirers he was the “Sergeant Joe Friday of the American media.”

Following his death on November 16 from complications following a stroke, the 82-year-old Irvine was remembered as the conservative movement’s pioneering media watchdog.

Born in Salt Lake City, Irvine graduated in 1942, at the age of 19, from the University of Utah. He then joined the U.S. Navy, which taught him Japanese, and became an interpreter for the U.S. Marine Corps in the Pacific theater of war and in occupied Japan. Following his discharge, he did graduate work at the University of Washington and won a Fulbright scholarship to Oxford, where he earned a master’s degree in 1951.

From 1951 until he retired in 1977, Irvine worked at the Federal Reserve Board. The topic of media bias dominated a group Irvine regularly lunched with and soon he founded Accuracy in Media to try to keep the national press honest.

Through op-ed pieces, lectures, in-depth studies, a regular newsletter and frequent appearances on radio and TV, Irvine provided evidence that the major media indeed had a liberal bias. The grassroots following he developed provided AIM with the resources to launch national campaigns against the “gods of the antennae.” In 1983, for example, an AIM crusade convinced the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) to give equal time to AIM to rebut an hour-long special, Vietnam: A Television History.

In 1985, Irvine started Accuracy in Academia to combat leftist teachings at U.S. colleges.

For those outside the movement, Irvine may be best remembered for his spirited appearances at town hall meetings hosted by Ted Koppel on ABC’s “Nightline.” Perhaps the most poignant tribute to Irvine came from Koppel. “Reed Irvine was, at times, a harsh critic of the television news industry and me in particular,” Koppel told HUMAN EVENTS, “but throughout the many years that I knew him, he was never anything but courtly and personally gracious. Just as I would insist that all other enterprises in our society benefit from the presence of a critical and fearless press, so, too, the press benefits from being held to high and occasionally harsh standards. Reed Irvine fulfilled that function to the greater good of all.”

Irvine leaves his wife of 56 years, Kay Araki Irvine, son Don (who succeeded him as president of Accuracy in Media), and three grandchildren.