Before we go on, attention must be paid: David Zurawik, award-winning media critic of The Baltimore Sun and my colleague and friend, has retired from his position after 32 years at the newspaper. With pithy zest and a unique voice, the Z on TV columnist spent decades smartly chronicling and critiquing the television industry in all its forms — from network sitcoms to documentaries and British dramas on PBS to Trump’s media bonfires and cable TV’s political coverage of presidential elections. He also focused on Baltimore and Maryland broadcasting — reporting on the changing faces and formats in regional television news as well as the local production of films and episodic shows for the streaming platforms.
David was a regular Sunday guest on CNN’s Reliable Sources, hosted currently by Maryland native and Towson University grad Brian Stelter. The Z also co-hosted a show of media criticism with Sheri Parks on WJHU back in the days before Baltimore’s NPR station became WYPR. Later, he and I teamed up on my Midday show for some raucous and laughter-filled conversation about television and politics.
David Zurawik was always on top of things, keeping us informed of good programming and providing a deeply informed perspective on TV’s place in American culture and the country’s political life. “He has imbued his criticism with moral authority, historical context, incisive analysis and passion,” said Anne C. Tallent, former director of content/news for The Sun, in nominating Z for a prestigious award three years ago.
He ticked off readers on the left as well as the right because, whatever the subject, the Z hit targets across the ideological spectrum. He frequently criticized the “news coverage” and commentary on FOX and, in recent years, the cable channel’s “predatory culture” of sexual harassment under Roger Ailes and its sickening suck-up to Trump. But, when deserved, he’d also throw darts at FOX’s left-leaning competitors. That aspect of his journalism would lead us into some testy moments on WYPR and, later, the Sun’s Roughly Speaking podcast.
The Z leaves behind a mountain of trenchant criticism written on deadline.
He will continue to teach freshmen at Goucher College respect for the First Amendment; he’s also teaching an advanced course on producing content for the web. He’s been an assistant professor of media studies at Goucher for several years, and he’s the author of “The Jews of Prime Time,” published in 2003.
Z’s departure is a loss for the Sun and its readers. The man has an energy field around him, a writer who approaches his work with enthusiasm, insightfulness and a sense of humor. I’m proud to call him colleague and friend. All of us at The Sun wish him well, and I suspect we will see his byline and his bespectacled visage somewhere in the years ahead. He’s now retired, but there’s never been anything retiring about the Z Man.