This article from CJR's archives is presented as part of our 50th anniversary celebration.

Before joining the Morning News, I worked on the Bloomington, Indiana, Weekly Star and Daily Telephone, the old St. Paul Daily News, the Detroit Times and the Minneapolis Tribune. I mention this only as evidence that the opinions and observations I have offered have not been colored by provincialism. Neither have they been influenced by any unusual affection for the owners. The only things I owe them are a good day’s work and the normal loyalty of an employee—and these I give.

Herbert H. Skirvin
Financial Editor
Morning News
Wilmington

Mr. Bagdikian replies:

My article did not make innuendos. It reported specific instances in explicit language, usually quoting verbatim the suppression orders by the owners. It included these items: H. B. du Pont, president of Christiana and chairman of the board of owners, ordering suppression of editorial comment on an important (Delaware) controversy which involved the paper professionally but which happened to be in conflict with a personal political project of his own family; similar orders concerning the University of Delaware; rejection of an editorial endorsing a Democrat and adaptation of a rewrite done outside the newspaper’s office; a suppression order on the Shell Oil refinery and on an airport where Mr. Du Pont had a personal financial interest; and a written complaint by a director of the paper to an editor saying that a news report of a political rally should have been redone in order to make it “useful to the Republican Party… at the polls in November.”

I have read the complaints from Wilmington, most of them making passionate appeals for recourse to the facts. Not one communication I have seen mentions the facts in the article.

No one whose communications I have seen denies that the above incidents occurred. They say that I did insufficient research. When I see a stop sign at an intersection I do not feel it necessary to inquire at the police station whether the sign means what it says.

But it happens that I did inquire of the owners of the Wilmington papers at to the facts and their interpretation of them. Mr. H. B. du Pont was away at the Bermuda races for weeks. Mr. Robert Carpenter Jr., next owner most directly involved, was in Wilmington. I did speak to him, telling what I intended to write and offering to come to Wilmington to discuss it with him. He declined to comment. Later I asked the same of the president and editor, Charles Reese, though he was not directly involved in what I wrote, and he, too, declined to comment.

The only words I have seen from Wilmington have been denunciations of me, which are irrelevant, and the suggestion that my inferences from the facts are unsound. As to the latter, the facts remain in the article, documented and unrefuted. As for the inferences to be drawn from them, the readers can judge for themselves.

 

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Ben Bagdikian was an assistant managing editor at The Washington Post, and later dean of the University of California, Berkeley's journalism school. He wrote about the Washington press regularly for CJR in the 1960s and '70s.