Opinion: Eugene Pulliam made a front-page promise: “These newspapers want to be good citizens. Arizonans can count on them when there is worthy work to be done.
In two weeks, I will be 92 years old.
More than half my life I worked for newspapers owned by Nina and Gene Pulliam. Events to this day trigger memories of an exciting career in the newspaper industry.
Unfortunately, newspapers like me today are victims of progress and technology. Some think they will fade without fully acknowledging the importance of their in-depth reporting and the many valuable resources they bring to a community.
We should all pray that the purpose of true journalism never ends. It is the bulwark of a free society.
Today’s issue marks the beginning of the 131st year in the life of the Arizona Republic.
What began as the voice of a territory before statehood, the Republic still holds that position as the preeminent source of news gathering and distribution under its umbrella title of Republic Media.
The spirit of those pioneers who started The Arizona Republican, later shortened to The Republic in 1930, still lives on.
The men and women based at 200 E. Van Buren St. always adhere to the principle of a free press. Journalists have always been the target of those who cry “fake news”. Perhaps today it is more popular than ever.
Pulliam published this creed in 1946
In December 1951, three months after joining The Indianapolis Star and The Indianapolis News, I was fortunate enough to be given a project with Eugene C. Pulliam, owner and publisher.
He was a known executioner. I was afraid of him because of what I had heard from everyone, including my journalism teachers. Yet that event was the start of a rewarding career and decades-long friendship built on loyalty and respect.
After 11 years working in Indianapolis newspapers, he asked me if I could transfer to his newspapers in Phoenix, The Arizona Republic and then Phoenix Gazette.
On my first day in Phoenix, he gave me a copy of what was called “The Creed of The Arizona Republic and The Phoenix Gazette”. Pulliam published it on the front pages of newspapers on October 26, 1946, his first day of ownership. He read:
“A newspaper is a human institution and, as such, is subject to all the evils and all the fortunes of which man is the heir. It’s not like other business assets that can be bought and sold by cold barter. It takes heart and a fiery grip on the men and women who produce it on a daily basis. It becomes part of their very existence.
“The basic policy of these newspapers under new management will be to continue to give Arizona the best newspapers that the fine family of employees can produce. The first duty of a citizen is to render a useful service to his community. These newspapers want to be good citizens, and the people of Arizona can count on them when there is worthy work to do.
We have lived in this order: do good
That was my order – “do good”. (“And don’t spend too much money.”)
This from a publisher that, at the time, offered life and health insurance as well as a pension plan. He has worked with over a dozen unions without a strike.
They gave membership to all employees at the Lazy R&G Ranch, a 20-acre country club-style recreation park they established at 4747 E. Indian School Road. Nina and Gene have organized all types of events for employees and their families.
It was quietly known that any employee facing difficult circumstances could find help “just between us”.
Loyalty and pride were part of employee relations.
To fulfill our role as good citizens, my community and corporate services department has spawned more than 40 holiday charity programs, concerts, school programs, events and public services.
La Saison du Partage, which still exists today, was one of these shows. We freed up staff to volunteer when requested and encouraged employee representation in nonprofit and civic organizations.
The newspapers supported the reorganized civic government, encouraged citizens like Barry Goldwater and John Rhodes to seek public office, and supported their candidacies. Newspaper support for Senator Carl Hayden spurred his development of plans to build Arizona.
The Republic had an incredible influence
The Pulliams, particularly Nina, protected the state’s environment and fought poorly planned transportation projects. They oppose roads that strip the beauty of cities. Newspapers fought to divide neighborhoods and endorsed good planning. The ugliness of inner cities like Los Angeles and other cities were examples they fought against.
After Gene’s death in 1975, Nina succeeded him as editor. I’ve served on the editorial board of newspapers, and on several occasions Phoenix City Manager Marvin Andrews and his team have proposed building freeways in and above downtown Phoenix. None of the ideas appealed to Nina.
Once, in his frustration, Mr Andrews asked, “Mrs. Pulliam, what will you like?
Without hesitation, she replied, “Put him underground.”
It became the start of what would become the tunnel under the Margaret Hance Deck Park, posthumously named in honor of our beloved mayor.
This unpublished story is one of the many events I witnessed.
I have observed the power which the newspapers possessed under Mr. Pulliam. Not “power”, he would say, “influence”.
Challenges remain, but the promise holds
Many will dispute that there was too much power, but Gene felt it was his duty to oversee government and business. As he wrote in his 1946 front-page creed, “these newspapers want to do good.”
There were days of sorrow.
The murder of investigative journalist Don Bolles was, without a doubt, the most horrific experience of my career. I spent 11 days outside his room in the intensive care unit at St. Joseph’s Hospital, with armed police at all times, to console the Bolles family and liaise with the newspapers with the media and law enforcement. Don never regained consciousness.
Tragedy would strike again nearly a decade later when the editor of Republic Medicine, Charles Thornton, was killed by Russian fire while serving in Afghanistan. (It was my responsibility to deliver confirmation of his death to his wife.)
Photos of Bolles and Thornton hang in The Republic’s newsroom today.
Today, Phoenix and the Valley of the Sun are respected and envied as America’s great center of beauty and opportunity.
Like its namesake, the Phoenix bird of mythology, Phoenix rose.
Our problems are many, our leadership is being tested. But the promise of the 1946 creed still holds.
The Republic of Arizona wants to be a good citizen.
Bill Shover was community relations manager for Phoenix Newspapers, Inc, for four decades. His legendary influence and leadership lives on in countless ways through organizations such as the Fiesta Bowl, Super Bowl, Valley Leadership, Greater Phoenix Leadership, Phoenix 40, 100 Club, Theodore Roosevelt Council of Boy Scouts, and the Army. of Hi.