Marshall McLuhan’s DEW-Line Newsletter (1968-70)


Announcement for the Dew-Line Newsletter

The Marshall McLuhan DEW-Line Newsletter was “an early warning system for the changing age we live in”. It was issued by media theorist, commentator and critic Marshall McLuhan [between 1968 and 1970], and included several loose-leaf facsimile papers on the nature of media, society and advertising, loose-leaf reproduced advertisements, and typographic experiments. DEW-Line is an acronym for Distant Early Warning Line, a defence system set up in the northern reaches of Canada during the Cold War to detect and report any incoming invasion of North America by the Soviets. The DEW Line became a metaphor for McLuhan on the role of art and the artist at a time of rapid social and technological change and he repeated the idea frequently. He wrote in Understanding Media (1964) “I think of art, at its most significant, as a DEW line, a Distant Early Warning system that can always be relied on to tell the old culture what is beginning to happen to it.”(Source: ).

McLuhan biographer Philip Marchand writes that the newsletter was the brain child of New York publishing entrepreneur Eugene Schwartz, who conceived of the idea of publishing McLuhan, as Schwartz put it, “in a medium that could be delivered faster than a book but had more inherent depth than television “ – that is, through periodic newsletters. After McLuhan’s arrival at Fordham University in the Bronx in the summer of 1968 to spend the next year there, Schwartz signed him to a two year contract. The newsletters were to be edited by McLuhan’s son Eric, ensconced in an office on the top floor of 200 Madison Avenue. Marchand writes: “The newsletter was offered to the public at $50 for a year’s subscription; more then 4,000 people eventually signed up. Schwartz considered this figure to be ‘relatively low’. He assured McLuhan that this was only the beginning and that circulation would climb as the newsletter took off. The readers were primarily top-flight executives in advertising, in firms like IBM. Schwartz even made sure a copy was sent to the White House”. The first issue appeared in July of 1968. (Marchand, P.  (1990). Marshall McLuhan: The Medium & the Messenger. Toronto: Vintage Canada, pp. 209-210).

DEW Line Card Deck – A spin-off product of the newsletter

2 Responses to “Marshall McLuhan’s DEW-Line Newsletter (1968-70)”

  1. 1 Short Wave Radio

    Reblogged this on shortwaveradioproject and commented:
    Props to McLuhan Galaxy for this very pertinent information!


  1. 1 Marshall McLuhan, What A Card | ShoutYourSite

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