The inference the reader is asked to draw is that, by the mere act of formulating basic policies it wishes the paper to follow, the ownership of a newspaper imposes upon the paper’s staff an intolerable indignity, incompatible with professional integrity. This, of course, is the sheerest nonsense. So is the further charge that this ownership insists on the suppression or distortion of disagreeable news. A newspaper’s primary obligation is, of course, to print the news, agreeable or otherwise. The fact that ownership makes decisions in areas which are clearly ownership responsibility in no way reflects discredit upon newspaper personnel. The high status enjoyed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Miami Herald, under divergent ownership philosophies, demonstrates clearly that no question of professional standard need be involved in ownership policies. The Columbia article reveals a childish petulance in reciting the out-of-context remarks of various directors and represents nothing more than an attempt to find trouble where no trouble exists.
The ownership of the News-Journal Co. is committed to no goal beyond the production of newspapers of integrity and distinction, fulfilling in every sense their responsibilities to the community. The day-to-day operation of our newspapers represent the real test. We have every confidence in the abilities of the management and the staff to maintain the highest journalistic standards.
We take the greatest pride in the professional standing of our newspapers and in the high degree of excellence represented by personnel at all levels. I should like to thank you personally for your loyalty and devotion to the News-Journal and to assure you that your high ideals and abilities will continue to find growing opportunities for professional fulfillment and personal satisfaction.
Henry B. du Pont
To the Review:
Your sense of timing is exquisite. Hard on the heels of publishing an article—to say nothing of your own editorial comment—that is directed at discrediting me and everyone else at this company in the eyes of our professional colleagues, you send us invitations to subscribe to your magazine.
Until the article by Ben Bagdikian appeared, I had held the Columbia Journalism Review in considerable respect. That respect has now been lessened considerably if not dissipated entirely.
It is an editor’s responsibility to check on both the accuracy and completeness of the story that is submitted to him. This, I submit, you failed to do in the case of Mr. Bagdikian. Worse, you have allowed his account to sway your own editorial judgment. The result is a disservice, not only to these newspapers and those who staff them, but to the entire profession of journalism.
Mr. Bagdikian’s story purports to recount many instances of alleged interference by ownership. Unfortunately, two things are missing in most of these cases—the time element and the final outcome. A very natural question to ask is, “What happened?” Why did not you, as editors, ask it? My personal knowledge of most of these incidents is slight; on those of which I do have personal knowledge, I know that Mr. Bagdikian’s story misrepresents or overstates the case.
The whole effect of the story (and I suspect its purpose) is to make Creed Black [vice president and executive editor who resigned in April] look the knight in shining armor put to rout by the evil forces of management. This is scarcely the case. Mr. Black was not the only professional newspaperman on the premises here, although it must be admitted that he was far and away the most active newspaper politician. He also had weaknesses, which should have been clearly apparent from the way he handled his resignation, that were painfully obvious to those who worked under him as well as to those who own the papers. Not the least of these was the inability to admit that anyone but Creed Black could be right.*
You have been exceedingly quick to find something “deficient or irresponsible,” but you have failed to note the underlying irresponsibility of the story you ran. Is this the hallmark of “a meeting ground for thoughtful discussion of journalism?”
You have been guilty of the very irresponsibility you seek to “deal forthrightly with”—whatever that may mean.
Thomas R. Dew
* Mr. Black was named managing editor of the Chicago Daily News on Aug. 11, 1964.—The editors.
To the Review:
If Ben H. Bagdikian had gone whaling in a rain barrel he would have come off better than he does in this article. His attempt to blow up a cause célèbre out of the recent sacking of Creed Black was as futile as trying to popularize baldness. He ran around the facts like a poodle circling a grizzly bear and his net product, a smokescreen, is as transparent as one of the peek-aboo fashions from Paris.