Dick Tofel, a former assistant publisher at The Wall Street Journal and the author of an upcoming book about Journal managing editor Barney Kilgore, writes in the paper’s editorial page on his 100th birthday about his lasting influence at the paper and in business journalism.
Tofel writes, “By the time he died prematurely in 1967, the Journal’s circulation had grown from 32,000 when he became editor to just under one million, on its way to more than two million today.
“Finally, Kilgore’s Journal cemented its reputation for independence and integrity by facing down General Motors, then the nation’s largest company and the newspaper’s largest advertiser, in a confrontation over who would decide what the news was.
“GM objected to Journal stories, including one accurately detailing the secret designs for 1955 model cars. The auto company pulled all of its advertising and demanded an apology and retraction. Kilgore held firm, went public with the dispute, and prevailed. The result was a sharpening of distinctions between newspapers’Â ‘church’ (their editorial content) and ‘state’ (their business operations) that provides a gold standard, an aspiration for the industry and its progeny in newer media, which resonates to this day.”
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