Louis Stark

Louis Stark (May 1, 1888 – May 17, 1954) was an American journalist. He spent most of his career working as an economic reporter for The New York Times. He won a Pulitzer Prize in 1942.

Louis Stark
Born(1888-05-01)May 1, 1888
Tibolddaróc, Hungary
DiedMay 17, 1954(1954-05-17) (aged 66)
OccupationJournalist
NationalityHungarian-American
SubjectIndustrial relations, News reporting
Notable awardsPulitzer Prize for Telegraphic Reporting
1942
Spouse
Jennie S. House (m. 19161954)
ChildrenArthur Stark

He is considered "a pioneer in the field of labor reporting."[1] Harry S. Truman called him the "dean of all reporters on the labor scene."[2]

Early life and education

Stark was born on May 1, 1888, in Tibolddaróc, Hungary. He was the son of Adolph Stark and Rose (Kohn) Stark, and moved with them to the United States when he was two years old. The family settled in New York, where he attended public schools, DeWitt Clinton High School, and the New York Training School for Teachers.[2][3]

Career

In 1909, Stark taught for six months at Public School 75 in New York. He then worked as a book agent for a New York publisher. From 1909 to 1913, he was employed in publishing and advertising. In 1911, he held a job in the advertising department of The New York Times, then "began to do occasional assignments" for Arthur Greaves, then that newspaper's city editor, who helped Stark find a job with the New York City News Association. After working as a general assignment reporter for the City News from 1913 to 1917, Stark went over to the Evening Sun in 1917, and to the Times later that same year. From 1917 to 1922, he was a staff member at the Times.

He became a labor specialist in 1924 at the suggestion of Carr V. Van Anda, then managing editor of the Times. From then until 1951, he reported on business, economic affairs, and labor news for The New York Times, based in that newspaper's Washington bureau. During his first two days in Washington he "came up with two important exclusives," including the founding of the National Recovery Administration. "He covered all topics that have a connection to employment and the workforce," notes one source, "including strikes, international conventions of labor organizations, and the organization of labor, as well as national legislation and its impact on labor. He had a reputation for his 'accuracy and impartiality.'"[2][3]

In a November 1935 article, "Cars and the Men," Stark reported on automobile workers in Detroit who had lost their jobs owing to increased mechanization.[4] He reported on the 1936 Akron rubber workers strike, on the activities of the National War Labor Board,[5] on the U.S. government's takeover of railroads in December 1943,[6] on the postwar decline of Henry A. Wallace's Progressive Party,[7] on postwar concerns about a potential alliance between "an extremely nationalistic Germany and Soviet Russia,"[8] on efforts in the late 1940s to purge Communists from unions,[9] and on efforts by Communist labor leaders to survive those efforts,[10] among hundreds of other topics.

Stark's Times obituary drew special attention to a series of articles he had written on the battles in the Harlan County, Kentucky, coal fields, and to the "virtual running account" he had provided to Times readers "of the union organizing campaigns, including the rise of the Congress of Industrial Organizations, the sit-down strikes and John L. Lewis." The Times also noted his coverage of the heresy trial of Bishop William Montgomery and of the Sacco-Vanzetti case. An account by Stark of the latter case appeared in a book by Times writers entitled "We Saw It Happen".[2]

Senator Paul Douglas, Democrat of Illinois, once said on the Senate floor: "I have never known Lou Stark to make a factual error in a story."[2]

In 1951, Stark left Washington to become an editorial writer for the Times in New York. At a dinner marking his farewell to Washington, Fred Perkins of the Scripps-Howard Newspaper Alliance said: "We regard Louis Stark as the pioneer of labor reporters. He has made the daily affairs of labor unions sought-for news among the newspapers."[11] When he departed Washington, former President Truman said in a statement: "I want you to know that you carry with you in your new position the respect and admiration of all those who have had the privilege of knowing you and of reading your careful reporting."[2] From 1951 to 1954, he was a member of the Times editorial department in New York.[3]

His last editorial, "Trade Union Democracy," written on the last day of his life, noted approvingly the decision of the Upholsterers International Union of North America to create an independent "court" that would allow any union member at risk of being punished by their unions "to put his case before an impartial nine-man board of jurists, educators and former public officials."[12]

Book

He wrote Labor and the New Deal: Public Affairs Pamphlets, Number 2 (1936).[3]

Other writings

He also wrote for the annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Survey Graphic, The Atlantic Monthly, The Yale Review, The Nation's Business, The Outlook, and Current History.[2]

Honors and awards

In 1937, he received an Honorary Doctorate of Law from Reed College. "In these times of strife, when the reason of men is clouded by passion and counsel is darkened by warring opinions," read the citation, "the people of this country are deeply indebted to Mr. Stark for his accurate and fair recording of events in the field of industrial relations. ... he leads his readers from darkness to light. He has shown that facts may be interesting and far better than fiction and propaganda. Never seeking publicity for himself, he has brought distinction to a great newspaper by living up to his ideal of searching for and presenting the whole truth."[13]

In 1942, Stark won the Pulitzer Prize for Telegraphic Reporting "for his distinguished reporting of important labor stories during the year."[3]

Personal life

Stark married Jennie S. House in 1916. They had one son, Arthur, who at the time of Stark's death was executive secretary of the New York State Mediation Board.[2]

Death

Stark died suddenly, only three hours after his wife had telephoned his last editorial to the Times offices. His obituary and a memorial tribute appeared in the same issue as his last editorial. He "had suffered a series of mild heart attacks" during the months before his death.[2][14]

Legacy

A memorial article in the New York Times described Stark as

a colleague for whom we had a warm affection, Quiet and unassuming, with a kindly sense of humor, he had a devotion to duty that found him writing a final editorial on the very day of his death, even though he had excused himself from coming to the office. ... By contributing to full information on the problems of labor, its living conditions, its working conditions, and its aspirations Louis Stark served, by his own efforts, to improve the lot of the working man.[14]

Writing in 1993 about the many New York Times journalists who have won Pulitzer Prizes, Arnold Beichman counted Stark among the small number of those winners who were "truly great journalists," along with William Safire, James Reston, A. M. Rosenthal, and Brooks Atkinson.[15]

In 1955, the U.S. Department of Labor incorporated the Louis Stark Memorial Fund "to foster improvement in labor relations, research and reporting."[16]

The Nieman Foundation awards the Louis Stark Nieman Fellowship in honor of Stark's memory.[1]

References

  1. Romenesko, Jim (24 May 2011). "Nieman Foundation announces 74th class of Nieman Fellows". Archived from the original on 24 February 2016. Retrieved 24 February 2016.
  2. Editorial Staff. "Louis. Stark, 66, I Times Newsman; Former Labor Reporter Who Won '42 Pulitzer Prize Dies". The New York Times.
  3. Brennan, Elizabeth A.; Clarage, Elizabeth C. (1999). Who's who of Pulitzer Prize winners. Phoenix, Ariz.: Oryx Press. p. 594. ISBN 9781573561112.
  4. Stark, Louis (November 1935). "Cars and the Men". Portrain of America: Survey Graphic in the Thirties. Archived from the original on 25 November 2015. Retrieved 28 February 2016.
  5. Stark, Louis (28 May 1944). "Wide Powers Claimed by War Labor Board; Dispute Growing Out of Ward Seizure Turns on Board's True Functions". The New York Times. p. E6. Retrieved 28 February 2016.
  6. Stark, Louis (28 December 1943). "War is Put First; Roosevelt Says He Must Make Sure Troops Get Goods Without Halt". The New York Times. Washington. Retrieved 28 February 2016.
  7. Stark, Louis (1 October 1948). "PAC Sees Decline of Wallace Party; J. Kroll, Listing Primary Votes, Asserts It Is 'No Longer to Be Taken Seriously'". The New York Times. p. 22. Retrieved 25 February 2016.
  8. Stark, Louis (22 July 1948). "German-Soviet Tie Declared a Peril; U.S. Trade Union Mission Says Nationalist-Communist Link May Be Fruit of Present Rule". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 February 2016.
  9. Stark, Louis (14 November 1948). "AFL Acts to Oust its Reds in Canada". New York Times. Retrieved 28 February 2016.
  10. Stark, Louis (21 August 1949). "Communists Take Oath to By-Pass Labor Laws; Tactic Adopted by Some Union Chiefs Poses Baffling Legal Problems". New York Times. Retrieved 28 February 2016.
  11. Nieman Reports (22 September 1994). "Louis Stark: The Reporter Who Blazed the Way". Nieman Foundation, Harvard University. Archived from the original on 3 May 2016. Retrieved 28 February 2016.
  12. Stark, Louis (18 May 1954). "Trade Union Democracy". New York Times. Retrieved 28 February 2016.
  13. "Reed College Honors White House Aide". New York Times. 11 June 1937. p. 19. Retrieved 28 February 2016.
  14. "Louis Stark" (PDF). The New York Times. May 18, 1955. Retrieved 27 February 2016.
  15. Beichman, Arnold. "Other writers of the Times and elsewhere have discredited this coverage." Citation – To Walter Duranty 1932 – for his series of dispatches from Russia". The Washington Times. Retrieved 28 February 2016.
  16. "Louis Stark Fund Gains; Gifts Honoring 'Late Times Man to Aid in Labor Field" (PDF). The New York Times. January 26, 1955. Retrieved 27 February 2016.
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