People We Should Know – #25 Milt Rosenberg

Milt Rosenberg     For almost 40 years, when most of the world had converted what is considered entertainment into a certain kind of superficial fluff, the Chicago radio station WGN stubbornly held on to an anachronistic concept of entertainment that was unavailable in almost every other forum.  From 1973 to 2012, in the evening hours on WGN  a very special idea that learning and enlightening listeners through conversation could be a popular form of entertainment, was made possible by a unique man, Dr. Milton Rosenberg.  For decade after decade, Dr. Rosenberg with a mesmerizing voice, commanding intellect and bottomless interest in a universe of conceivable topics captivated his audience with thousands of interviews with the famous and unknown, topics great and obtuse, side by side.  The concept that quiet and in-depth discussions with individuals most knowledgable in their area of expertise could survive in a culture where the acquiring of  opinions have progressively been based on feelings rather than facts and logic was revolutionary.  It could not have been done without the special personality and abilities of Milton Rosenberg.  The fantastic legacy of this program is one of the major influences that formed the logic for the existence of this blog, as is why Milt Rosenberg is Ramparts  People We Should Know-  #25.

Milt Rosenberg was already a distinguished professor when he started with WGN in a cultural affairs program that eventually became the program, Extension 720.  With a doctorate earned in Psychology, Dr. Rosenberg had already been a teaching professor at distinguished universities such as Yale, Dartmouth, Ohio State and the Naval College, when he became a full professor at the University of Chicago and became involved in the radio program.  The concept was a two hour conversation with an expert or investigator in the subject of the evening, followed by an hour allowing the listeners to call in and ask the host and the expert questions.  The subject was ‘everything’, or as Dr. Rosenberg put it, “just about everything except pop psychology and poodle trimming.”   Night after night year after year, listeners could hear in depth discussions from scientists, writers, reporters, historians, actors, and politicians, the growing influence of the program bringing prestigious guests as diverse as Carl Sagan, Henry Kissinger, Jimmy Carter, Bob Feller, MArgaret Thatcher, George Will, Mark Steyn and David Brinkley.   It required Rosenberg’s magnificent mind and voracious study habits to make each interview an enveloping thought process, rather than a question and answer session with shallow questions and staged answers.  It was brilliant, it was wonderful, and it was interesting.

In 2012 at age 87, Dr. Rosenberg’s program as a regular feature on WGN was finally terminated, and a special piece of American culture was thought to be lost.  The wonderful thing is that despite Dr. Rosenberg’s advanced age, he remains a powerful intellectual force and is completely in tune with the times.  He has seemlessly moved on to the current great foum of ideas, the internet, continuing to entertain people with wonderful conversations now available in podcast form sponsored by the website Richocet.com which is hosting the current Milt Rosenberg Show where Milt is continuing with ongoing wonderful energy and brilliance the ideas central to the original Extension 720.  Even better, he is assuring that the almost 4 decades of radio history that encompassed his show will now be made available to current generations with a thirst for knowledge through conversation, by subscribing at 45 dollars a year to the library of all his previous radio shows.  It is a treasure to go back and listen to a Henry Kissinger, a Martin Gilbert, a Margaret Thatcher at the height of their intellectual powers review the pressing ideas of their day, and for me has been already worth every dollar.  I don’t now how long Dr. Rosenberg can keep it up, by I am certainly cheering him on as tries to preserve for all of us a vanishing form of discourse that can so enrich our lives. For his many years and ongoing efforts to bring the richness and diversity of learning and knowledge in a comfortable form to all of us, Milton Rosenberg is Ramparts  People We Should Know-  #25.

Milt Rosenberg interviews Martin Gilbert on the Life of Winston Churchill

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One Response to People We Should Know – #25 Milt Rosenberg

  1. Dan Z says:

    I have listened to Milt Rosenberg’s radio (and archives) for years. Milt is not only able to cover a wide genre of topics from history to art to…(well anything!), but Milt has a great knack for delving into the topic (well before the show) to really cover the importance and details of the interview in an extremely captivating way. Great choice for Ramparts “People We Should Know” !

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