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Martin, John (1938-) | Special Collections & University Archives

Name: Martin, John (1938-)

Historical Note:

John Martin was born on December 3, 1938 in New York City. He worked as a newspaper and television reporter for 46 years and reported and wrote dozens of newspaper stories. He reported more than 1,400 television stories between 1966 and 2002.

Among the stories Martin covered were the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas (1963), the rise of Idi Amin in Uganda (1971), the trial of Daniel Ellsberg (1972), Patricia Hearst's kidnapping (1974), Egyptian President Anwar Sadat's visit to Jerusalem (1977), the Israeli invasion of Southern Lebanon (1978), post-World War II U.S. Army assistance to Nazi fugitive Klaus Barbie (1983), U.S. President Ronald Reagan's visit to China (1984), the international search for Nazi fugitive Josef Mengele (1985), a Gulf War incubator atrocity hoax perpetrated by the Kuwaiti government (1991), the Los Angeles riots stemming from the Rodney King beating(1992), and the tobacco industry's manipulation of nicotine (1994).

Martin began work as a professional journalist in 1956 as a freshman at San Diego State College. He accepted a job as a stringer (freelance reporter paid by the inch of published stories) for the San Diego Evening Tribune. He later worked as a copy boy, then copy editor, assistant photo editor, and reporter for The San Diego Union. In 1962, Martin was drafted into the U.S. Army and sent to Georgia, where he worked at night as a copy editor for the Augusta Chronicle. Assigned to Germany, he worked as a reporter for the weekly 4th Armored Division newspaper, Rolling Review. In late 1963, Martin was recruited to be editor of the weekly VII Corps newspaper, The Jayhawk.

Accepting an overseas U.S. Army discharge in 1964, Martin joined the copy editing staff of The New York Times International Edition in Paris, where he wrote occasional features and edited stories for a 16-page daily newspaper distributed in Europe and Asia. In 1965, Martin moved to Spain, where he wrote a draft manuscript for a low-cost travel guide to Europe by Temple Fielding ("Fielding's Super-Economy Guide to Europe").

In 1966 Martin returned to the United States and joined the staff of KCRA-TV News in Sacramento, California, where he worked as an education reporter, as the producer, writer, and anchor of a weekly news review program, Newsbeat Sunday Magazine, and as a general assignment reporter.

In 1971, Martin arranged to spend six weeks in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania compiling more than 25 reports on politics, economics, tourism, archeology and assorted topics. In 1974, he spent a month traveling as a reporter in Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Israel, gathering reports for a series on the Middle East.

Martin incorporated some of the stories in an hour-long program involving Arabs and Jews living in the Sacramento area, KCRA Reports the Middle East. In December 1975, Martin joined ABC News in New York, where he was hired to cover stories throughout the northeastern United States. In eight years based in New York, he also covered events in the Middle East and Europe. In 1979, Martin was assigned to report for America Held Hostage, a nightly program created to analyze and report events surrounding the capture of American Embassy employees in Iran.

In 1980, Martin was assigned, with Charles Gibson and Ron Miller, as one of the three original correspondents for a new program, called Nightline with Ted Koppel. In 1982, he located evidence that caused the U.S. Attorney General to order an investigation of post-war American support for Klaus Barbie, the Nazi Butcher of Lyons. The investigation led to a formal apology to the Government of France for harboring and helping a war criminal escape capture by relocating to South America.

In 1983, Martin assumed the title of national correspondent and was assigned to Washington as the principal field correspondent for This Week with David Brinkley. He reported more than 100 background stories for the Sunday discussion program, traveling in the United States, Central and South America, Asia and Europe.

In 1985, Martin began reporting as a general correspondent in the Washington bureau. In 1987, he covered the trial and imprisonment in Nicaragua of Eugene Hasenfus, an American mercenary who was shot down delivering arms and supplies to the contras for the Central Intelligence Agency.

Between October, 1992 and 2001, Martin was assigned by ABC News to cover government spending in Washington in a series titled It's Your Money. Working with a producer and a researcher, Martin reported an estimated 400 stories of questionable Congressional projects and subsidies.

Over 25 years at ABC News, Martin researched and wrote more than 30 obituaries of major figures in politics, entertainment, and sports. The stories appeared on World News Tonight and Nightline. Based on a preliminary search of records, they were, by year: 1979: Emmett Kelly, John Wayne, Arthur Fiedler, Fulton Sheen; 1980: Jesse Owens, Marshal Tito; 1981: Melvyn Douglas, Anwar Sadat, Moshe Dayan, Edith Head, Hoagy Carmichael, Terry Fox; 1982: John Belushi, Henry Fonda, Grace Kelly, Leonid Brezhnev, Artur Rubenstein; 1983: Meyer Lansky, George Cukor, Bear Bryant, Tennessee Williams, Maxie Anderson, David Niven;1986: Admiral Hyman Rickover, Averill Harriman, William Schroeder; 1987; William Casey; 1990: Armand Hammer; 1991: Lee Atwater.

John Martin was honored for a number of stories, sometimes sharing the award with colleagues: the Emmy Award (shared), the George Polk Award (shared), the DuPont-Columbia Award (shared), the National Headliner Award, and the National Association Black Journalists Award.

Martin retired from ABC News in May 2002.

Between 2002 and 2010, Martin taught television news writing (2002-2003) and national affairs reporting (2003-2010) as an adjunct professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

Martin currently works as a photographer and editor for the World Tennis Gazette, an email-only newsletter.

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