In 1962, the editors proposed that they interview major candidates for state office from both parties to help them editorialize during the campaign. This was approved. But when the editors decided to back the Democratic candidate for Congress as “the lesser of two evils,” there was a special meeting of the board of Christiana Securities. Christiana is probably the richest investment trust in the world, with assets of more than $3,000,000,000, but that day its attention was directed to the cosmic subject of an editorial that compared the demerits of two candidates for Congress and came up with a begrudging net in favor of the Democrat. Christiana had the editorial rewritten outside the newspaper office. It finally appeared, watered down from the original. The papers did endorse one Democrat openly—the candidate for state auditor.

Other clashes came quickly. When Shell Oil wanted to build a refinery in Delaware, the owners ordered the papers to stop comment on the issue. When Congress was considering legislation for relief of the Du Ponts in selling their General Motors stock under court order, the papers were told not to criticize Senator Byrd, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. During the same period, the Du Pont Company public-relations department asked the paper not to run on page one a statement on the matter by Harris McDowell, Democratic member of Congress from Delaware, for fear it would anger a friendly senator.

H. B. du Pont also told the paper to put the damper on stories of public charges of mismanagement at the Wilmington airport, whose chief activity is handling the business of a private aviation corporation in which H. B. du Pont has an interest.

Some idea of the clash between owner ideologies and professional practices can be seen in the complaints of board members. The significance of these conflicts is not so much in the views of the owners (who, of course, have views, as do all interested citizens) as it is a revelation of what happens when an owner fails to understand the role of the monopoly newspaper and the discipline of news.

Henry Silliman and Robert Richards, both members of the paper’s board, formally requested through Richards that the paper give a prominent play to a family wedding. “I do not know if this is in accordance with your policy or would require a deviation from your rules. If the latter is true, there should be exceptions to every rule…”

At a time when Richards was on the paper’s board and also Republican National Committeeman from Delaware, Richards complained bitterly to the editors that the paper’s reporter had written a conventional news account of a Democratic rally when he should have turned it into a pro-Republican essay. Richards even wrote his own anti-Democratic story as an example of how the paper should have carried it, though presumably Richards was not at the rally himself. “This was a matter which, if properly handled, could, in my opinion, have been very useful to the Republican Party and their success at the polls in November,” he wrote.

When Wilmington began having racial troubles, H. B. du Pont told his editors, “A continual overplaying of integration in our papers certainly plays right into the hands of the radical element of our population… many of the writers on your staff seem to have a degree of dedication to certain causes which would make them appear to be quite far to the left.”

Most revealing is the collection of complaints issued by Carpenter to the executive editor:

On an editorial praising President Kennedy’s Supreme Court appointments: “Why should we devote space to one who is an enemy of private enterprise and the capitalistic system?”

When editors asked him if his complaints about their comments on a bill by Representative McDowell meant the paper should oppose everything McDowell was for, the answer was, “I would say, Yes.”

When an editorial criticized some Republican choices of candidates: “Are we endorsing the Democratic Party by criticizing the Republican Conventions? …Could we not become a house organ for the conservative cause?”

When he objected to running a letter to the editor signed by sixty-four University of Delaware students favoring integration, the editors asked if they should close the column to all letters from students. His answer was, “Yes.”

On an editorial noting that French Socialists had outmaneuvered French Communists: “Should the News-Journal take the position of favoring actions of any Socialist Party? I believe it is a grave error for a subsidiary of Du Pont to follow the philosophy of the ultra-liberal whose objectives are destruction of capitalistic systems.”

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.