Summer 2014, by Paul Van Slambrouck
a concluding section of his autobiography "Paper Boy to Pulitzer,"
John Hughes, former editor-in-chief of the Christian Science Monitor,
director of Voice of America and State Department spokesman in
the Reagan administration, offers advice to aspiring journalists.
Helpful though it is, he needn't have bothered. Any reader who
has gotten that far in the book has the answer. You become a journalist
because you think seeing the globe, meeting interesting and influential
people and learning how the world works--the kind of life Hughes
has led--is a no-brainer.
memoir makes you wonder why anyone wouldn't want to be a journalist.
The fact that journalism isn't a career for those seeking wealth
and security is truer than ever. Yet by the end of this book those
limitations offer little deterrence to those who hear the calling.
by and about well-known journalists are not in short supply. Barbara
Walters has spoken. So has Tom Brokaw. We've had more than one
account about Walter Cronkite and we've winced our way through
dissections of Rupert Murdoch and his empire.
distinguishes this work is that Hughes is not a household name
or media power broker. Yet Hughes' career was distinguished and
worth knowing about both as a glimpse into the heady days of robust
print journalism and more simply, as an adventurous ride through
history. He was there to chronide the rise of the Afrikaners and
apartheid in South Africa, chaos in the Congo, civil war in Indonesia,
the Vietnam War and China's Cultural Revolution.
at this distance, the recounting of the uprising, bloodbath and
eventual downfall of Indonesian President Sukamo in 1965--the
story that earned Hughes a Pulitzer--makes for riveting reading.
We learn through this episode what it's like to be a reporter
amid chaotic and dangerous circumstances. As anti-American sentiment
built and U.S. buildings were attacked, Hughes found himself in
the middle of an angry mob that pinned him and an interpreter
between two cars, some identifying him as an American that should
be killed. Someone pointed out that just because Hughes was white
was not proof he was an American, and so the crowd moved on.
Indonesia story was complicated, not a simple good-guys-bad-guys
script It required stamina, skill and guts. Hughes' work reflects
fine journalism. It also reflects handsomely on the commitment
of the Monitor and other major newspapers of the day to deep,
patient international reporting that was once considered an unequivocal
part of their mission. Today, not so much. As Hughes worries in
his concluding pages about the state of journalism today, he identifies
foreign reporting and investigative reporting as the two most
was built to be a foreign correspondent. A Welshman who as a young
boy watched air battles against German planes over Britain, he
got an early crash course in world affairs. After the war, the
Hughes family moved to South Africa and John, at 16, entered journalism
as a cadet reporter for the Natal Mercury.
there he bounced back to Fleet Street in London, then returned
to the Mercury in South Africa, and eventually made his way to
Boston, fulfilling a goal of joining the Christian Science Monitor.
In 1955, the Monitor sent him to South Africa as its correspondent.
is no exaggeration to say that Hughes, who served as Monitor editor
from 1970-79, was instrumental in the Monitor's survival in the
years beyond his editorship. The paper rested on a quirky business
model: it didn't accept tobacco or alcohol ads; it was sent through
the mail to homes across the country and certain parts of the
world. Hughes pitched the idea of establishing an endowment fund
for the Monitor, which the paper's governing board approved. That
fund has grown over the years into the millions of dollars and
has produced a stream of revenue vital to the Monitor, cushioning
consistent operating deficits.
first met Hughes on a hot summer day in Boston in 1976. I wanted
a job at the Monitor and Hughes agreed to see me. I had flown
to Boston on a red-eye from San Franciso. Standing over his desk
in white shirtsleeves, accompanied by managing editor Earl Foell,
Hughes was surveying my portfolio of artides and photographs.
I was working for a small business magazine. Little did I know
that Hughes was in the middle of staff layoffs--a recurring theme
for many editors, including myself at the Monitor over many decades.
Noting the lavish production quality of the magazine, Hughes asked
about the size of our staff. I said there was one reporter and
myself and that we used a fair bit of freelance copy. What did
we pay them, Hughes asked. "Nothing," I said. "Maybe
we should try that," Foell joked.
served as president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors
and as a member of the Pulitzer Board before leaving the Monitor
and trying his hand at being what he calls a "country editor"
as owner of a weekly paper on Cape Cod.
day he received a call from U.S. Information Agency director Charles
Wick, a pal of President Reagan, who asked him to join the agency.
After some mild resistance, Hughes moved to Washington and began
a period he labels in his book "Serving America" He
spent the next five years as a government insider, migrating from
USIA to director of Voice of America and eventually to spokesman
for Secretary of State George Schultz. In the interview process,
Hughes asked Schultz his philosophy for answering reporters' questions
and was reassured by the answer: "as speedily and fully as
possible," Schultz told Hughes.
spokesman job required diplomatic skills, not a trait often associated
with reporters. Hughes managed, with help, to get Schultz to press
noses in New Zealand to show respect for Maori culture. He toweled
off reporters unhappy with "off the record" briefings.
Hughes could also be tough. He fought to make public the secret
tapes of Soviet pilots' chatter recorded before they shot down
a civilian South Korean airliner in 1983, going toe to toe with
Under Secretary of State Lawrence Eaglebruger and winning.
writing style is straightforward. There is no gushy forward or
nostalgic reminiscing at the end. "I was born in Wales, to
working-class parents, in 1930" the book begins. There is
minimal delving into personal feelings and emotions. Still, there
is enough flesh on the bones to get a sense of the man. Though
anxious to go to Asia as the Monitor's foreign correspondent,
Hughes the dog-lover found upper management resistant to paying
for his Labrador, Candy. Here, he drew a line in the sand: "Ether
the dog goes to Hong Kong, or I don't," he told a manager.
Beloved Candy joined John and his wife on the Asia posting.
his time in Washington, Hughes began writing a column for the
Monitor and later returned to the Monitor full-time to run its
radio broadcasting. The Monitor's costly and controversial expansion
into television was under way at the same time. Hughes makes dear
in the book that he voiced his skepticism about the viability
of the TV venture, which eventually collapsed.
spent some time in New York as communications director for UN
Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Gali, and also served as editor
of the Mormon Church-owned Deseret News in Salt Lake. The latter
was an unusual assignment given that Hughes is a lifelong Christian
Scientist. These days he is a professor at Brigham Young University,
where he founded an international media center.
2008, as the Monitor celebrated its 100-year anniversary, Hughes
faced what he calls "the most emotionally wrenching assignment"
of his career. Looking at the Monitor's finances and circulation,
he recommended--and the governing board accepted--that the Monitor
cease daily print production in favor of a weekly and shift its
focus to digital news delivery.
bookend to Hughes' memoir represents a poignant coda to his career,
and reflects the larger arc of print journalism at which he so
excelled. Neither doomsayer nor Pollyanna, Hughes chooses to end
his book with a touching anecdote. Wandering through the Deseret
newsroom at 2 a.m. one morning many years ago, Hughes found a
veteran reporter sprawled across two chairs sleeping. The reporter
was there, he said, so he could see his story as soon as the paper
rolled off the presses.
magic never ends," condudes Hughes. We can only hope.
veteran storyteller's vivid saga." John
Yemma's Editor at Large columm in the July 21, 2014 Christian
Science Monitor. He says "the book is packed with vivid
recollections" For the full article, click
in The Overseas Press Club Bulletin,
July/August 2014, P.16 Click
here for full review.
his autobiography, former Deseret News editor John Hughes describes
a life worthy of a dozen journalists."
-- Lee Benson, Deseret News, 7/13/14
his autobiography, former Deseret News editor John Hughes describes
a life worthy of a dozen journalists.
think you know somebody pretty well? You work together for most
of a decade. You park your car close to theirs. You know their spouse,
youve met their kids. Youve enjoyed some lunches together.
thought I knew John Hughes pretty well.
Mr. Hughes was editor of the Deseret News for 10 years,
from 1997 to 2007. He hired me to be a news columnist when he talked
me off a Santa Barbara beach in 1998.
knew he was a lifetime newsman. I knew hed spent a previous
life working for the Christian Science Monitor. We all knew hed
won a Pulitzer Prize.
that was more or less the extent of what was known around here of
his curriculum vitae.
was perpetually congenial odd for an editor and as
unassuming as Clark Kent. He was definitely old school, which fit
since he was already in his 60's when he took over as editor at
the DNews. He always wore a coat and tie to work. Something else
he always wore was this perpetual amused smile that suggested no
matter what you threw at him, hed been there, seen that, and
plenty more besides.
out we had no idea.
know this now because last week Nebbadoon Press, a publisher in
Connecticut, released Paper Boy to Pulitzer John
it, he tells us everything he didnt tell us.
me see if I can hit the high points before I run out of room:
was born in Wales and grew up in London when it was getting
bombed by Hitler. His father, Evan, fought the Nazis in South Africa,
a country he liked so much he moved there after the war with his
wife and only son, John, who was 16 and got a job at the local newspaper.
The family had joined the Christian Science Church (not to be confused
with Scientology, or, for that matter, Mormonism) and after a few
years John, the budding journalist, decided to hop a freighter for
Boston to see if he could land a job with the churchs highly
regarded newspaper, the Christian Science Monitor.
got it. His first beat was Africa. He was there when colonial rule
ended, when Ghana got independence, when apartheid began to crumble.
His next beat was Asia. He covered the Vietnam War at its height
(President Johnson once called John to the White House to ask him
how he thought things were going). In Indonesia, he won the Pulitzer
Prize for reporting the collapse of President Sukarnos regime.
He also won the Overseas Press Club award for best international
reporting for a series on the burgeoning illicit drug trade (this
was the 1960's) that sent him around the world.
theres more. In a long and winding career set up by those
days when he was a cross between Indiana Jones and Woodward &
Bernstein, he was at one time or another:
Editor of the Christian Science Monitor.
Nieman Fellow at Harvard.
of the American Society of Newspaper Editors.
member of the Pulitzer Board.
of the Voice of America in Washington, D.C.,during the Reagan
Secretary of State to Secretary of State George Shultz.
Secretary-General and Director of communications to Secretary-General
Boutros Boutros-Ghali at the United Nations.
lived about a dozen lifetimes by the time he got to the Deseret
came about after he took a teaching job at Brigham Young University
Johns wife, Peggy, is Mormon and the News
board of directors asked him for some consulting help.
led to them asking him to run the newspaper, which is owned by The
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
pointed out he wasnt Mormon, which led to a visit with then-church
President Gordon B. Hinckley.
writes about their relationship in his book: I asked him what
he wanted the Deseret News to be. He said he wanted it to be a strong
regional newspaper, reaching out to all religions, all races, all
ethnic groups. I asked him what independence the papers editor
would have. Well, he said, weve got to give
you running room. We cant have people over here (in church
headquarters) telling you what to do.
the man who had run a mainstream newspaper for one church wound
up running another mainstream newspaper for another church.
neither at the Monitor nor the Deseret News was his news judgment
as editor interfered with. One was very much like the other,
both papers, editorials were sent to church headquarters for review,
but after his first six months at the Deseret News Hughes got a
call from President Hinckley.
said, 'Dont bother to send them over any more, were
good.' There was a huge amount of good will and trust on both sides.
reading an advance copy of Paper Boy to Pulitzer, I
called John on his cell phone. He and Peggy are in Maine for the
summer, prior to his return this fall to BYU, where at 84 he is
still a professor.
asked him why I had to read his book to learn about all his adventures.
laughed. Well, if youd asked, he said, Id
have told you.
told him I thought it was remarkable that he didnt start every
sentence when he was talking to us whining reporters with, When
I was getting shot at in Vietnam
or, There was
this time at the White House
or, Let me tell
you what its like getting quotes out of a dictator
He laughed again. You dont need to ride people,
asked him if he had any advice for a reporter.
he said. Get behind the policemen, not in front of them.
said he wrote his book (available at nebbadoon.com or wherever ebooks
are sold) for his children and grandchildren. But more than that,
he wrote it because I thought I had a love story in me, and
its about journalism. The greatest profession in the world.
when John Hughes finally wrote his life story, it wasnt about
link to article
Hughes's memoir Paper Boy to Pulitzer was mentioned in The
Christian Science Monitor Feb. 16, 2015 weekly issue p.41:
thoroughly enjoyed reading Paper Boy to Pulitzer, by John Hughes.
He is a Pulitzer prize-winning journalist and former editor of the
Monitor, and he literally went all over the world to cover stories.
The book is 349 pages of information written to be understood."--Pat
Long, Charlotee, N.C.