In Praise of Publishers Who Happily Sign the Checks to Pay for Great Journalism

After reading “Saving the Nation’s Newspapers and Magazines: The More Billionaires the Better,” Barnard Law Collier adds John Hay “Jock” Whitney, publisher of the New York Herald Tribune, to the list of great publishers who enthusiastically backed great newspapers.

I worked for a “billionaire” publisher. He paid my way first class to remote and exotic places all over the Western Hemisphere just because he liked to read “compelling” stories from his New York Herald Tribune crew of roving correspondents.

His name was John Hay “Jack” Whitney, one of the world’s ten richest men in his lifetime (1904-1982).

His heritage harked back to the earliest Pilgrims. He was educated at the Groton School and Yale; his body was elegantly masculine, as was his psyche; he was a four-goal handicap polo player (mid-level); he ran his race horses in four Kentucky Derbies; his collection of paintings was breathtaking; his speech was casual and almost entirely free of BS.

It was a joy to visit his unpretentious, comfortable Trib office on West 41st Street and to be drawn into deep, often funny discussions about polo players in Argentina, or Fidel Castro’s Bulgarian milk cows, or the fearlessness and wisdom of President Dwight Eisenhower (who made Mr. Whitney his United States ambassador to the United Kingdom), and whether or not the word “bifurcated” should be used in a front page headline.

He was pleased that the Trib was known as “a writer’s newspaper” because he was romantically hooked on the power of well chosen words. The length of a Trib story was known to be “until it starts to bore you.”

Mr. Whitney’s intellectual luxury was to support a crew of unfettered prose writers who successfully broke the established rules and cadences of American newspapers.

Without the exuberance of Mr. Whitney there may never have developed a so-called “new journalism.” It was he who willingly signed the checks for most of its better practitioners.

Barney Collier describes himself as cultural anthropologist, writer, former New York Herald Tribune and New York Times correspondent and bureau chief, and publisher.


Speak Your Mind