Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Ben A. Franklin of NYT Dies, And Gets A Small Obituary

A reporter I knew long ago who had the temerity to buck A.M. Rosenthal when he was the imperious executive editor of the New York Times has died and received a curt eight-paragraph obituary at the bottom of the obituary page in the NYT.

Ben A. Franklin served the New York Times for 30 years in its Washington bureau and most notably as roving correspondent in the mid-Atlantic states of primarily Maryland and Virginia.

Franklin died last Saturday at his home in Garrett Park, Md., of lung cancer. He was 78.

I knew him mostly for his diligent coverage of the civil rights battles in the Eastern Shore Maryland town of Cambridge in 1963, when I was working for Life magazine. The Maryland National Guard was sent into Cambridge to keep order after the Student Non Violent Coordinating Committee protested, sometimes violently, against segregation there.

Rosenthal as executive editor definitely had his favorites and less favorites. After he learned that Franklin was a critic, he cut down on the quality of Franklin's assignments and made it clear that Franklin would never escape the narrow confines of his beat.

The New York Times was always a demanding place to work, but I knew many NYT correspondents who had fine careers there, including Gladwin Hill here in Los Angeles, Laurence Davies and Wallace Turner in San Francisco, E.W. Kenworthy on the Eugene McCarthy presidential campaign, James Wooten on the Jimmy Carter campaign and Howell Raines in a variety of posts.

The L.A. Times under Otis Chandler was probably as good or better place to work, especially for local reporters, who long had three advantageous pages to appear on, Page 1, Page 3 and Page 1 of Metro. This, of course, changed when Page 3 became a foreign news page and the California Section limited local space on Page 1 of Part 2.

At the New York Times, it was far more difficult to command great space unless you were sitting on one of the great stories of the day.

Nevertheless, Franklin persevered and seldom complained to outsiders. I remember him as a skilled and conscientious colleague.

Also dying this week was Hugh Sidey, Time magazine's Presidential correspondent, who covered the White House for many years. His civil attitude toward the Presidents he wrote about was marked, and Sidey was highly respected in the days before reporters were expected to be sons of bitches around every President they encountered. I knew him only a little.


Anonymous Kevin Walter said...

Ken. I noticed and appreciated your comments about Ben. I wanted to draw your attention to the obit we ran for him in the Washington Spectator. See

12/15/2005 10:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr Franklin's legacy includes an article in which he expresses his belief that Ezra Pound should have gone to prison and not a hospital. Of late there is more realization that Pound's activities did not merit any prosecution and that his 12 year incarceration was an injustice and a shame on this country for such treatment of this important poet.

7/09/2015 11:49 AM  

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