Gene Pulliam, Scoop in his own right

Dateline: Mon 02 Oct 2006

Kathy Russell, for many years secretary to the late Gene Pulliam, read the recent tribute to Scoop on this blog. In an email, she reminded me to not forget...

"Gene Pulliam. He kept that old Royal typewriter straight on through the growing pains of Hendrix, PCs, Macs ... and nobody and I mean NOBODY could even get him to use an Electric typewriter. All those Publisher's Memos? Typewriter. All those "notes" ... handwriten on typewriter.

He used it until the very end.

Amen."

Eugene S. Pulliam, or ESP as he was known, became managing editor of the News in 1975 following the death of his father, Eugene C. Pulliam. ESP went on to become publisher of the News and the Star. He died in 1999, and Gannett took over in 2000.

Other recollections:

Mr. Pulliam's time was a reminder of the days when we had a "Fourth Estate," Kathy said, adding that his legacy was "accuracy and fairness."

I remember a quiet, dignified gentleman, almost a shy man, who dined at the Athletic Club every day in the same spot, almost always choosing to eat quietly by himself, altho he could have had the company of kings. Over the years, I heard many stories of his behind-the-scenes generosity. One aspect of newspapers I have always cherished is that we were havens for characters, and characters were cared for.

I asked Kathy if she was aware that Mr. Pulliam had personally looked after the street sales employees, including paying the weekly rent for one scruffy-looking gentleman who delivered the News Downtown on his bike. I told Kathy that I knew when Gannett came in and found that expense on the books, it was quickly eliminated.

Kathy was aware of that, and she said one of the street sales people -- it had to be the same guy -- always bought Mr. Pulliam a small can of his favorite brand of pipe tobacco.

"Oh I could tell stories about the infinite kindness of that man until the "cows come home," she wrote.

"And Patience? Lord did he have patience ... There was a

particular magazine publisher in town who was absolutely bipolar with

psychotic tendencies prior to it being a named a popular disorder. At

any rate, SHE would periodically call him and scream obscenities. I would

try to field the calls but every so often she'd get through to him. He never hung up on her! He would say, repeatedly, "I'm going to hang up unless you stop your bad language." Silence. "Now I said I was going to hang up ... "

"I'm going to hang up now."

Finally I would take pity on him, go in there and shout, "Mr. Pulliam, you ARE LATE for your meeting."

"And one more thing! I recall that every so often someone would come in and complain about a reporter writing this or that. The person would be angry and Mr. Pulliam would, ALWAYS, vigorously defend his reporter ... no matter whether the reporter was right or wrong.

"Now IF the reporter wrong ... Lord help us all. But never did he ever admit wrong-doing to an "outsider." The problem would be taken care of "in-house" with the dignity of the reporter always in the forefront.

"Yes, it's wonderful to remember the good ole' days. I consider myself especially blessed to have been close enough to watch the dignified workings of both Indianapolis newspapers."

Thanks, Kathy.

Any other stories? Send them my way.

ruth@ruthholladay.com

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