What Next, Creed, Al?

Article excerpt

TWO LEGENDARY editor/publishers-turned newspaper foundation gurus, this fall, observe major milestones in their professional careers. They both deserve a hefty salute.

One is Creed Black, 70, who steps down in February as president of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation after 10 years of painstakingly creating and funding huge educational, journalism and urban enterprises in the United States and abroad. When he turns his chair over to Hodding Carter III in February, he will have presided over grants totaling more than $300 million. "I've made a lot of new friends the last few years, I'll tell you," says the urbane Paducah, Ky., native.

The other is Al Neuharth, the industry's greatest marketing visionary, and then some, who celebrates the 15th birthday of his bouncing baby, USA Today.

The two, old friends and competitors, are about as different in style, manner and dress as any two people could be.

Black is the cool doer, a small megaphone man. Neuharth, Mr. Flamboyance himself, mans a large megaphone, very large.

Both clawed their way to the front office via the newsroom jungle. Both were civilized by the late, great Montgomery Curtis at a memorable American Press Institute seminar in New York in 1962. It was there that Neuharth and Black ate, drank and were housebroken at the feet of Monty, along with such two-fisted editors as Pete McKnight, of the Charlotte Observer, Mike Ogden of the Providence Journal, Newbold Noyes of the Washington Star, Norman Issacs of the Louisville Courier-Journal and Eugene Patterson, then of the Atlanta Journal and Constitution.

Under Black's tutelage, the Knight Foundation went about searching for and funding large journalistic ventures, 11 in all, with a minimum of fanfare. Among them: the Newspaper Management Center at Northwestern University; 11 Knight chairs at major universities across the country; the ASNE Institute for Excellence in Journalism; the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism at the University of Maryland; mid-career programs for journalists at Stanford, Michigan, Columbia, MIT, Harvard and Yale; the Knight International Press Fellowships to assist journalists in less-developed countries; a joint project to promote dialogue on public journalism; and an Inter American Press Association project on unpunished crimes against journalists.

Black explains, "We try to encourage creativity and innovation and concentrate on things that probably wouldn't happen without our support." He has succeeded, and then some.

Under the eye of Hodding Carter, the Knight Foundation doubtless will continue its activist tradition in journalism. Nobody. has a bigger network with those who count in all fields of communications, nor is there a more eloquent voice in front of a mike than Hodding's.

Before becoming a foundation guru, Black touched more newspaper bases and held more elected leadership roles in the business than perhaps anyone we can think of, i.e., president, executive editor, publisher, as the case may be, of the National Conference of Editorial Writers, American Society of Newspaper Editors and the Southern Newspaper Publishers Association. …