Photo: Shelly Palmer and Ed Bleier at the Fisher Center NYC. November 3, 2016
The world of media and technology lost a luminary this week, and I lost a dear friend. Edward Bleier passed away at 94, leaving behind a legacy of innovation, vision, and indomitable spirit. As I reflect upon our shared moments, both personal and professional, I’m reminded of the magnitude of his influence on the industry and on those fortunate enough to know him.
I met Ed in the summer of 1978. I was a Film/TV major at NYU and I needed to fly to LA for my very first industry meeting. My television production teacher told me that if I was going to LA on business, I had to fly first class and book a seat on American Airlines flight 1 out of JFK. I’d never flown first class (or even thought about it). I told him that, to my knowledge, the back of the plane was going to get to LA at the same time as the front. He said, “If you sit in first class, you may meet someone important.” I had no idea how right he would turn out to be.
As the plane took off, the man sitting next to me took out about 15 industry trade magazines and started poring through them. Noticing me eyeing the magazines on the armrest between us, he asked if I wanted to borrow one. After a few minutes, he asked, “Are you in the business?” I laughed and said, “Not yet.”
Over the next five hours, Ed taught me more about the business than I imagined possible. It was a combination of the history of film and TV, the current media landscape, and his ideas about what was going to happen with cable TV in the next few years.
During the flight, he asked about the meeting I was going to and walked me through how he thought I should handle it. His strategy was spot on (of course). I can’t say that I owe Ed my career, but I sure do owe landing that project to him.
Ed was my first “real” industry contact, but over the years he became so much more: a mentor, a personal advisor, an honest sounding board, an enthusiastic cheerleader, a font of endless information and insight, and most importantly, a dear and cherished friend.
Ed had an uncanny ability to see the potential in the horizon long before others even recognized there was a horizon. We often mused over the next wave of media transformation. He’d opine about every aspect of the business, his eyes twinkling with foresight, as he predicted the next big shift. Ed was always several steps ahead.
Our conversations weren’t limited to shop talk or industry events. We shared countless personal moments, during which he would regale me with tales from his early days in journalism, his time at Syracuse University (where, much to his pride, I now teach), and his memories with the remarkable William Safire. I never tired of Ed’s stories. He was a voice of experience and wisdom. I miss him already.
Edward Bleier’s passing is truly a monumental loss to the world of media. There is an exceptional obituary in the New York Times that I hope you will read.
During one of our last conversations, we spoke for almost an hour about misinformation, deepfakes, and how AI would play a role in the future of media and communication. Ed never stopped thinking about the future. He never stopped asking questions. He never accepted that anything was simply inevitable. Ed cared deeply about leaving the world better than he found it, and I think I can speak for everyone who knew and loved Ed Bleier when I say, we are all better for having had him in our lives. May his name be for a blessing and may he Rest in Peace.