That is not why Neil Morgan argued that the highest
calling of reporters is to “create a sense of community
tolerance and understanding” in cities that have
grown too fast to recognize themselves.
That is not how Helen Tucker Beckwith covered the
small towns of Idaho or Maria Henson approached
the editorial page in Lexington, Kentucky.
They practiced combative, principled, and
impassioned adversarial journalism.
That’s not all they did, of course. Helen wrote
romance novels. Bill McIlwain penned a chapter of
“Naked Came the Stranger,” Newsday’s 1969 send-up
of, well, romance novels. Neil and his wife, Judith, co-
wrote a biography of Dr. Seuss.
But at a dozen newspapers that no longer exist or are
not long for this world – including the Bergen
Record, Lexington Herald-Leader, the Arkansas
Democrat-Gazette and the Times-News in Twin Falls
– four of the five writers we honor tonight asked the
tough questions, and put a premium on accuracy, not
And all five believed, as Penny Niven said of
Thornton Wilder, that “the artist, through his
creation, has been at al times a force that” fosters a
sense of community.