‘Never be satisfied with the surface of the news.’

Bovard gravestone“In this space I cannot hope to describe his singular abilities or indicate the range of his sinewy, searching mind. Through one rule which he laid down for reporters he may be glimpsed. This was the rule: ‘Never be satisfied with the surface of the news.’ If he considered the pupil worthwhile he would explain: ‘There is a formal and superficial aspect of every story. It may be a police report, a lawyer’s brief, an application for a trolley franchise, or a President’s message to Congress. As such it may have a proper place in your story. But to print that alone may result in misleading the reader partially or completely. A vital part of your function is to supply the additional facts which give the reader the true picture. Between the reporter and the reader a direct and independent relationship exists. Your responsibility to the reader cannot be shifted. If through his reliance on you the reader is misinformed or inadequately informed, you have failed in your professional duty.’

“What journalistic crime would be prevented by the observance of that rule! When unoffending men and women are murdered in cold blood by professional thugs imported by corporations to break strikes, the public would not be told that they died in ‘labor riots.’ When a functionary of the State Department tries to turn the heat on Mexico in behalf of his friends, the oil companies, the public would not be blandly informed that ‘friendly relations between the two countries are being endangered by complications arising from … ‘ There would be fewer papers like the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times, and journalism would bear a less humiliating resemblance to a certain profession.” – Excerpt from “The Greatest Managing Editor,” former St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Paul Y. Anderson’s tribute to former Post-Dispatch managing editor Oliver K. Bovard, published in The Nation on Aug. 13, 1938.