Osborn Elliott, 83, Former Newsweek Editor
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The former editor of Newsweek, Osborn Elliott, widely credited with making the magazine competitive with archrival Time magazine, died yesterday at 83.
He died of complications from cancer, his family told Newsweek.
Elliott, known as Oz, was editor of the weekly news magazine between 1961 and 1976. The current editor, Jon Meacham, called Elliott “the architect of the modern Newsweek.”
“With his vision and his passion, he made the magazine into a global force, and those of us who stand in his shadow are forever in his debt,” Mr. Meacham said.
Elliott also served as dean of Columbia University’s graduate school of journalism for seven years. He retired in 1986, agreeing, at the request of the university’s president, to continue as its George T. Delacorte Professor of Journalism.
Under Elliott, the journalism school’s endowment more than doubled, and enrollment shot up 15% to full capacity.
Elliott was born in New York in 1924 and graduated from Harvard University in 1946. He then began his career as a reporter and columnist for the New York Journal of Commerce. After three years, he moved to Time magazine as a contributing editor, and he later became associate editor.
In 1955, he began a 21-year career at Newsweek as senior editor in charge of the business section. In 1959, he was appointed managing editor, and two years later he became editor.
Newsweek said that under Elliott it pursued “an ambitious, liberal agenda that gave the magazine a sharper identity and sense of mission.” It dedicated many of its pages to coverage of the civil rights movement of the 1960s, producing such special reports as “The Negro in America,” a detailed study of black life and attitudes, and a follow-up, “The Negro in America: What Must Be Done.”
“To deal with the racial crisis effectively, there must be a mobilization of the nation’s moral, spiritual and physical resources and a commitment on the part of all segments of U.S. society,” Elliott wrote in an accompanying editorial.
In 1976, Elliott left Newsweek to serve under Abraham D. Beame, New York’s mayor at the time, as a deputy mayor for economic development, a post he held until joining Columbia.
Elliott was among the first inductees to the American Society of Magazine Editors’ Hall of Fame and received the Frederick Douglass Award from the New York Urban League for his work in civil rights, Newsweek said.
He was the author of several books, including the memoir “The World of Oz.”