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Morris S. Novik papers

 Collection 0049-MMC-NPBA

Morris S. Novik (1903-1996) entered broadcasting in 1932 when he took over the management of the relatively new radio station WEVD (named for labor organizer Eugene V. Debs) in New York. During this period, he founded the University of the Air, a regular series of lectures, discussions, and debates. In 1938, he accepted a position as director of communications for New York City and also the public radio station WNYC. While in this post, Novik is said to have coined the term "public broadcasting." He also became involved in the National Association of Educational Broadcasters' genesis, serving as its first executive secretary from 1941 to 1948. After leaving WNYC in 1946, Novik helped establish radio stations in Detroit and Cleveland. The collection focuses on Novik's career in public broadcasting.


  • 1940-1992
  • Majority of material found within 1949-1964

Use and Access to Collection

This collection is open to the public and must be used in the Special Collections reading room. Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection.

Duplication and Copyright Information

Photocopies or digital surrogates may be provided in accordance with Special Collections and University Archives duplication policy.

Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs unless otherwise specified. It is the researcher's responsibility to secure permission to publish materials from the appropriate copyright holder.

Archival materials may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal and/or state right to privacy laws or other regulations. While we make a good faith effort to identify and remove such materials, some may be missed during our processing. If a researcher finds sensitive personal information in a collection, please bring it to the attention of the reading room staff.


5.00 Linear Feet

Scope and Content of Collection

The Papers of Morris S. Novik cover the years 1940 to 1992. The bulk of the material ranges from 1949 to 1964. The collection focuses mainly on Novik's career in public broadcasting. Types of documents include correspondents, reports, hearings, newsclippings, program materials, conference materials, speeches and writings, newsletters, and press releases.


Morris S. Novik was born in Nevel, Russia in 1903. He came to the United States when he was eleven years old with his mother and his two younger brothers. It was in New York City where the family settled that Novik first met his father who had come to the United States years earlier. He was educated at a Yeshiva in the city but after graduating decided that he did not want to continue his religious education so at the age of fourteen he was sent to public school.

At this time Novik became involved with the social-political changes of 1917 engendered by the Russian Revolution. He headed a local chapter of the Young People's Socialist League while he was working at the Daily Record, a newspaper covering issues relating to the manufacture of clothing. He then received a scholarship to the Rand School which Novik described as a "right-wing socialist school of learning". During this time he became very involved in the socialist movement, starting a magazine called The Monthly Free Youth and serving as its editor.

In the early twenties Novik became involved with the Discussion Guild, arranging lectures and debates of well known writers and lecturers. The first speaker he engaged was noted British philosopher Bertrand Russell, who subsequently asked for Novik to represent him in future United States engagements. Through his work with the Discussion Guild Novik also became the manager for Clarence Darrow.

Novik entered the field of broadcasting in 1932 when he was asked to take over the management of radio station WEVD in New York. It was during this time that he also founded the University of the Air. He was recruited by New York mayor Fiorello LaGuardia to run radio station WNYC. Novik declined until Germany invaded Czechoslovakia in 1938. He realized it was more important now to keep democracy over the airwaves than to promote socialism and labor interests as he was doing at WEVD. He became director of communications at WNYC (1938-1946) and it was at this position that he coined the term "public broadcasting." It was also during this time that he became involved in the genesis of the National Association of Educational Broadcasters. Novik claimed he was one of the seven men who met in Ames, Iowa in 1939 to plan the permanent organization of this association. He then served as its first executive secretary from 1941 to 1948. Subsequently, Novik was involved in buying or establishing radio stations in Detroit, Cleveland, and the New York area.

After leaving WNYC in 1946 Novik helped establish radio stations in Detroit and Cleveland. In 1950 he bought the station WLIB in New York on which he established Black radio programming, amidst a growing industry of programming directed at African American audiences. He kept this station for 5 years, selling it to his brother Harry in 1955 when he then bought the Italian station WOV. He kept the Italian language format at WOV during his ownership but upon selling this station in 1959 this format was abandoned by the new owners.

Novik maintained a long relationship with the labor movement, serving as a communications consultant for the American Federation of Labor and later for the merged American Federation of Labor - Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO). His career also included some presidential appointments. In 1952 President Truman appointed him to be delegate to the UNESCO conference in Paris. In 1953 he participated in the UNESCO London conference on TV, advising Europeans on how to establish television stations. He was also selected by President Kennedy to serve on the U.S. Advisory Commission on Information in 1962. President Johnson reappointed him to that body.

Morris S. Novik died in 1996.


Organized as one series.

  1. Series 1: Subject Files

Custodial History and Acquisition Information

The Morris S. Novik Papers was donated to the National Public Broadcasting Archives, University of Maryland Libraries by Morris S. Novik in January of 1991 and in April of 1992.

Guide to the Morris S. Novik papers
Processed by Thomas J. Connors.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
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Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Revision Statements

  • 2007-04-15: EAD markup checked and verified using JEdit software by Karen E. King.
  • 2010-07-19: EAD revised by Karen E. King.
  • 2017-11-05: Finding aid reviewed and edited post ArchivesSpace migration by Rebecca Thayer.
  • 2022-06-13: Lindsay Oliver contextualized details in the biographical note; Jim Baxter re-wrote the collection abstract.

Library Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives

University of Maryland Libraries
Hornbake Library
4130 Campus Drive
College Park Maryland 20742