The Boston Globe from Boston, Massachusetts on February 20, 2002 · 10
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The Boston Globe from Boston, Massachusetts · 10

Boston, Massachusetts
Issue Date:
Wednesday, February 20, 2002
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A10 City & Region The Boston Globe WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 20, 2002 WILLIAM DAVIS TAYLOR: 1908-2002 Davis Taylor, publisher for a turbulent era TAYLOR Continued from Page A 1 ' vard College. He joined the f amfly- owned newspaper that year, be- ginning as a junior accountant " and working in all departments until hhAram VmcinAcc manncw ' and then treasurer in 1937. Mr. Taylor was named general manager in 1940 and publisher in 1955 on the death of his father, William O. Taylor, son of the founder, Charles H. Taylor. One of Mr. Taylor's first acts upon becoming publisher was to notify Laurence L Winship, his managing editor, that the other ti- tie held by his father, that of editor, now belonged to Winship. Davis Taylor became chairman of the board of The Globe Newspaper Co. tin 1963. After his retirement as chief ex- ecutive officer in 1981, Mr. Taylor continued as a director and con- sultant to the Globe, maintaining an office in the sprawling Morris-X sey Boulevard plant that he had brought into being and which is a monument to him. l As the late Louis M. Lyons wrote in his history of the Globe, i "Being a Taylor on the Globe was never a sinecure." Soon after Mr. X Taylor became publisher and can't struction of the new plant had be- gun, in March 1956, he had to 2, contend with potent threats to put the paper out of business unless he S agreed to a merger with another 'r Boston newspaper. His refusal to X bend to those threats ailrninated in a victory for the Globe after a battle of more than a decade. A friendly, unassuming man, Mr. Taylor evinced a strong belief in fairness and always showed f great sensitivity to the problems of I people of every race, creed, and class. He always operated an open office; no one needed an appointment to see him. Lean and handsome, with finely chiseled features capped by a full head of silvery white hair, he was known as Dave 2 to his many friends in and out of the world of journalism and to generations of Globe employees to t whom he was a beloved father fig- ture. i He let editors edit J He never told a reporter how to 'J write a story or an editorial writer what to say. The closest he ever came was on a Sunday, Oct. 21, 1973, when he was telephoned at ', home. It was the day after the Sat- urday Night Massacre, when At-1 torney General Elliot Richardson 1 resigned and his deputy, William D. Ruckelshaus, and Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox J were fired by President Nixon in j his unsuccessful effort to keep the J contents of subpoenaed White .J House tapes secret ;f Asked whether he would ap-' prove of the Globe's publishing a : lead editorial the following day 'X calling for the resignation of President Nixon, Mr. Taylor agreed. After the editorial was read to him, he said it was fine, suggesting ; i only that somewhere in it there ' should be a reference to freedom : of the press. Thus did the Globe i become the first major newspaper ' to call for Nixon's resignation, an event that finally occurred on Aug. :l 9, 1974. Mr. Taylor did suggest major f stories and features for the paper '.; (though, in truth, he was never fully satisfied with the way his newsroom covered weather sto-$ ries), and he was consulted when-i ever a major change of editorial I; policy was under consideration. r; Other than that, it was hands off. ; "A reporter should be as free from -restrictions as a publisher," he said. "That's what the First ' Amendment guarantees." j Thomas Winship, the Globe's 3 editor from 1965 to 1984, said, "Davis Taylor was an extraordinary publisher for any editor to work for. f "He inspired and encouraged ! his editors to be creative, innova-I tive, and to do what they felt was right," Winship said. "Davis was a proud traditionalist in every sense j of the word, yet was always open to changes on the paper and to j taking chances, once he was con- vinced a sound case was made for an innovation." J Matthew V. Storin, the Globe's i editor from 1993 to 2001, said yes-l tcrday that "generations of jour- nallsta at this paper have benefit-Jed and will benefit from the extraordinary climate of indepen-t dence and Integrity that Davis Taylor created for them at this newspaper." "For as long as the Globe's presses roll, we all will be In his debt," Storin said. i r 1 , , f ' ; t i. ' ; ' ' i ' 1 1 , r. i : f: . , . j I ! !l ' i ' ' - .-J'-- rlv ;vi-DT ' ' y J U::FX - The Taylor team in 1967: Publisher WUliam Davis Taylor flanked by his son and successor William O. Taylor (left), and his cousin . . , . . i-.i cKiioi,0. rhoi-iniH Tivin William rinvis Tavlnr's Grandfather. John 1. Taylor. Bemna mem is a pnoio oi iue iiewspat:i a m oi jiuiiwum , vui . , j r I ( I .V , ; I - , . i" 1 0 V Above, William Davis Taylor in the 1930s. At right (top) are the Taylor cousins, Davis and John I., at a congressional hearing in 1958 concerning the award of the Channel 5 broadcasting license to the Globe's chief competitor in Boston, the Herald-Traveler Corp. More than a decade later, after years of legal acrimony, the award was overturned. One of William Davis Taylor's favorite moments was presenting awards to area Boy Scouts. These scouts from Dorchester were honored for their dedication in 1969. Taylor also led fund-raising drives for the Boston Council of the Boy Scouts of America, for which he served on the executive board. I. I 1 f 1'. Richard Gilman, publisher of the Globe, said: "Tonight we mourn a man who made extraordinary contributions to the city of Boston and to American journalism. We at the Globe will forever be indebted to him for his leadership in building a newspaper of national renown." He took the lid off John F. Reid Sr., longtime advertising director of the Globe, once described Mr. Taylor's place in Globe history this way: "W.O.," he said, referring to Mr. Taylor's father, "held things together. Dave took the lid off, and the Globe took off." With typical modesty, Mr. Taylor once explained: "We have the resources now that my father never had when he was struggling through the Depression and war rationing in the most over-news-papered competition of any city." During the 1930s and '40s, there were as many as eight newspapers in Boston, and the competition for advertising, circulation, and news was fierce. Oswald Garrison Villard, in a much earlier period, had described Boston as "the poor farm of American journalism." What he meant, in part, was that in the struggle for survival, quality suffered. One of the first papers to fold was the Boston Transcript, whose stockholders, having seen their holdings drop in value to three cents on the dollar, were content to liquidate when the value rose to 10 cents. As Mr. Taylor took over as Globe publisher in 1955, another battle had begun, to decide who, among five applicants, would be awarded a new television station in Boston. Two of the five applicants to the Federal Communications Commission for the new Channel 5 were newspapers: The Boston Herald Traveler, whose publisher was Robert B. Choate, and The Boston Post, which was owned by John Fox, who had bought it in 1952 from the estate of Richard Grozier of Cambridge. The other three applicants were groups of prominent citizens. The Globe was never an applicant The newspaper had its hands full in planning and building its new plant and was relying on a guideline of the FCC, a criterion that said that if more than one newspaper in a city applied for a television channel, the FCC would not award the channel to any of them for reasons of fairness. Behind the scenes But much was happening behind the scenes, as testimony would later show in what was to become a drawn-out legal case. Choate made several trips to Washington to entertain members of the FCC and ask them for their votes. He obtained promises from three of them, including George C. McConnaughey, the FCC chairman. He needed four to have a majority of the seven-man board, and so he went to see Robert E. Lee, who came from Wisconsin. Lee told Choate that he had already promised his vote to John Fox because when his appointment to the FCC, made by President Eisenhower at the urging of Senator Joseph R. McCarthy, had come under criticism in the Senate, Fox had printed a front page editorial in the Post supporting Lee. But Lee promised Choate to vote for the Herald if Fox should withdraw the Post's application. The Herald then embarked on a long campaign attacking John Fox for his stock market dealings and other operations. About the same time, the Internal Revenue Service audited Fox's tax returns and then charged that he owed the government some $3 i million in back taxes. Moreover, the IRS brought tax liens against much of Fox's property, including bonded Jim Beam whiskey in a Boston warehouse and a small yacht, the Ballerina. Finally, Fox found himself unable even to pay for the newsprint the Post needed to publish. In search of fairness Mr. Taylor, because he believed in fair competition and because he did not want to see the Herald-Traveler win Channel 5, had been telling his reporters during this period that he hoped that the Post would keep publishing. But Fox was strapped for funds. Twice during the summer of 1956 the Post suspended publication, the second time filing for bankruptcy. Finally, on Oct. 4, 1956, the newspaper closed forever, costing 800 employees their jobs. Fox took his tax case to the US Tax Court and, after losing there, appealed it to the Tax Appeals Court That tribunal, a year or two later, overturned the lower court's decision and ruled that instead of Fox owing the government $3 million in back taxes, the government owed him a refund of $ 1.5 million. But the ruling came too late to save the Post Years later, John Fox was to say that of all the Boston newspapers, only the Globe had treated him fairly during his long battle to save the Post Choate now had his fourth and deciding vote on the FCC. Davis Taylor and his cousin, John I. Taylor, said in affidavits that Choate told them in the course of two luncheon meetings that he was going to get Channel 5 and that the Globe had better merge with the Herald, because if it did not the Herald would force it out of business anyway. The Taylors refused. Choate and Carl Gilbert, an associate who also was present later denied in affidavits that Choate made such a threat It was a period in which a trend toward fewer newspapers had already started in major US cities. But Davis Taylor, as the Globe's new publisher, was determined to fieht ; Although the Globe had not ap plied for the television license, it now applied to be admitted to the legal case as an interested party, and the FCC granted the request But the FCC overruled the recommendation of its own senior examiner and awarded Channel 5 to the Herald. After later protests, revelations, and court suits, a federal court ordered the FCC to rehear the case. A decision in 1960 withdrew the license from the Herald and reopened applications. In the meantime, the Herald was allowed to enjoy its franchise for three-year terms, which were renewed several times as the battle continued. As a result the Herald was able to use profits from Channel 5 to balance its books; its newspaper earnings were declining, and they finally became losses. In 1968, a differently constituted FCC reassigned Channel 5 to a Boston community group, but even then appeals and further litigation delayed the channel's actual transfer until 1972. In 1972, the Herald was sold to the Hearst chain, which renamed it the Herald-American. In 1982, Hearst sold the property to Rupert Murdoch, owner of newspapers in Australia, England, and the United States. Murdoch later sold it to Patrick Purcell, its current publisher. Interests wide and varied In addition to his intensive in- , volvement in Globe business, Mr. Taylor maintained a keen and ac- tive interest not only in Boston and New England issues, but also j in national and world affairs. He credited his father with instilling in him a sense of moral responsibility, as an individual and as a publisher. Under Davis Taylor's direction, the Globe's previous policy of maintaining neutrality in public matters was discontinued, and the paper began editorializing for changes and reforms, taking strong positions on civic affairs and public issues. One sign of this change was the dropping of the name Uncle Dudley from the end of the lead editorial, effective Jan. 5, 1966. For 75 years, the avuncular signature had been used by various editorial writers, but the tradition was never to take sides, except perhaps "between the lines." Now the Globe began to speak out, and strongly. The following year, in editorials from May 29 to June 3, the newspaper sharply criticized the country's involvement in the war in Vietnam and called for US withdrawal from that cnflict. The Globe became the second major newspaper in the country to do so, after The St Louis Post-Dispatch. Through the election of 1892, the Globe had been a Democratic newspaper, in the fall of 1967, Davis Taylor gave his assent to breaking the 75-year-old tradition of not endorsing political candidates, and the newspaper endorsed Kevin H. White for mayor of Boston in his race against Louise Day Hicks. Youth, minority concerns Mr. Taylor was especially concerned about the paper's coverage of youth and of minority communities. In 1965, without a word of publicity, he went to Selma, Ala., and took part in the historic march that became a hallmark of the civil rights movement in this country. In 1972, under Mr. Taylor's leadership, the Globe joined The Chicago Sun-Times and The Philadelphia Bulletin in sponsoring a Continued on th next pay

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