A sad Valentine’s Day message: “Nathaniel died”

Pub date February 14, 2012
SectionBruce Blog

A sad Valentine’s Day message: “Nathaniel died”

The email came from Doug Giebel from his hometown of Big Sandy, Montana.

“Nathaniel died shortly after midnight. Valentine’s Day. Montana Time.

“His condition badly worsened yesterday. Was in much pain, so it is the kindest thing that could have happened.”

Nathaniel, as his friends and former students called him, was Nathaniel Blumberg, a great journalist and a great journalism professor who inspired six generations of students at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln as a professor and at the University of Montana in Missoula as the Dean of the School  of Journalism and wherever he taught and lectured.

He was my first journalism professor when I took his class my freshman year at Nebraska in the fall of 1953.  And he was the first person to make it clear to me that there were serious problems with the mainstream media and that a paper like the Guardian could and would be a viable alternative to the local daily monopoly. “Bruce,” he would say to me later, “think what you can do in San Francisco with a paper that is truly an alternative to the Examiner and Chronicle” His classes and his 1954 book, “One Party Press?”  a critical study of the 1952 presidential election and the first significant assessment of press performance during a presidential election,  foreshadowed the founding of the Guardian in 1966 and the flowering of the alternative press from then on in virtually every city in the country.

Nathaniel, who was retired and living on Flathead Lake, had a stroke last Wednesday.

He was about to step into the shower when it happened, according to Giebel. Ninety minutes later a friend found him and, after an argument, convinced him he needed to be hospitalized. He was helicoptered to the Kalispell Regional Medical Center. The word that Nathaniel was down shot around the state and beyond to all who knew him and the hospital was inundated with messages and people coming to see him.

I asked Giebel about the obituary and he said that Nathaniel’s two daughters and two of his former students, Printer Bowler and Wilbur Wood, would be working up a full obituary and send it to me for posting. Stay tuned.

Nathaniel always insisted on meeting  deadlines.  I think he would have liked making it to Valentine’s Day, 2012.

P.S. Late on Valentine’s Day,  Wood called me from his hometown in Roundup, Montana.   Nathaniel had sent Wood, a talented editor of the campus paper,  to San Francisco to work on the Guardian in 1967. He was our city editor and did some of our best reporting in the late 1960s.  Wood  was still on the  job four decades later  and informed me that Nathaniel had written his own obituary and that he would send it along.for posting. I will put it up  tomorrow (Wednesday, the day after  Valentine’s Day.) Nathaniel would have been pleased. He always urged his students to never forget their paper and to always contact the editor immediately whenever they had a good story. B3