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Spencer Klaw, Former CJR Editor and Journalism Professor, Dies at 84

Spencer Klaw, who taught journalism at Columbia during the 1970s and edited the Columbia Journalism Review in the 1980s, died June 3 in West Cornwall, Conn. He was 84.

Shortly after graduating from Harvard in 1941, where he was editor of the Crimson, he became a copyboy at the San Francisco Chronicle. With a few stints along the way -- writing for Talk of the Town at The New Yorker, working as an editor at The New York Herald Tribune and Fortune -- Klaw went on to become editor of the country's foremost journalism review. He edited CMJ from 1980 until he retired in 1989.

After teaching at the University of California at Berkeley for two years, the New York-born journalist returned to his hometown to teach magazine writing at Columbia's School of Journalism from 1970 to 1980.

Klaw also wrote three books: The New Brahmins: Scientific Life in America (1968), The Great American Medicine Show (1975) and Without Sin: The Life and Death of the Oneida Community (1993). The critically acclaimed Without Sin described a 19 th-century utopian religious community with a communal sexual system called "complex marriage." The New York Times praised the book for its "vivid picture of Oneida" and for contributing "a useful chapter to American cultural history."

After retiring from CMJ, Klaw and his wife, the late Barbara Klaw, started a monthly newsletter in northwest Connecticut called The Cornwall Chronicle.

About a decade ago, Klaw's eyesight began to deteriorate because of macular degeneration. But his love of the news never failed him: He had family and friends read him The New York Times every day.

Published: Jul 07, 2004
Last modified: Jan 10, 2005

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