Academic journal article Journalism History

Book Reviews -- A Sacred Trust: Nelson Poynter and the St. Petersburg Times by Robert N. Pierce

Academic journal article Journalism History

Book Reviews -- A Sacred Trust: Nelson Poynter and the St. Petersburg Times by Robert N. Pierce

Article excerpt

Robert N. Pierce's exhaustively researched book tells the important story of one of the most influential newspaper publishers of the twentieth century and the paper he elevated to among the nation's elite. Nelson Poynter owned the St. Petersburg Times for three decades, and under his tenure it went from a respected small-city daily to a national model for both its innovations and adherence to traditional journalistic values.

The Times came into Poynter's family in 1912 when his father, Paul, bought a controlling share of the paper's stock. Amid family squabbles, Nelson Poynter bought controlling interest in the company in 1947 and owned the paper until his death in 1978.

As a newspaper owner, Poynter had a striking interest in public service as well as profits. His written standards of ownership continually emphasized the need for a publisher's commitment to community service, as the first standard makes clear: "Ownership or participation in ownership of a publication or broadcasting property is a sacred trust and a great privilege." As owner of the Times, he lived up to his creed. The newspaper became nationally known for its reporting, writing, and design. It championed worthy causes on local, state, and even national levels. More intangibly, his ideals came to be shared by his entire staff; the Times had an almost sacred aura shared by few other newspapers.

Significantly, Poynter ensured that his ideals would last after his death. He left managerial control of the newspaper to a single person who would carry on in Poynter's tradition and appoint his own successor; under this system, the paper added two Pulitzer Prizes to the one it received in 1964. …

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