March 10, 2006
In response to a petition by more than eighty leading journalists and journalism professors, the Newspaper Association of America (NAA) has publicly expressed regret at the failure of U.S. newspaper publishers to aid Jewish refugee journalists fleeing Nazi Germany. The NAA has also pledged to highlight the issue at its forthcoming national convention and board of directors meeting.
The petition was organized by The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies and former New York Times reporter Laurence Zuckerman. It was based on new research by Prof. Laurel Leff, of Northeastern University, revealing that U.S. journalism schools refused all requests to take in German Jewish journalists fleeing HItler, and that the American Newspaper Publishers Association (precursor to the Newspaper Association of America) rejected a request by Harvard Prof. Carl Friedrich to discuss the issue for ten minutes at its 1939 convention. Prof. Leff found evidence that some of the refusals to help were motivated at least in part by antisemitism. The petition asked the NAA to acknowledge these failures and permit Prof. Leff to address the organization.
In a letter to the Wyman Institute dated March 3, 2006, NAA President John Sturm:
* acknowledged, and expressed “regret,” for the ANPA’s action in 1939;
* invited Prof. Leff, and Prof. Friedrich’s son, Paul Friedrich, to address the next NAA Board of DIrectors meeting, to be held in Chicago on April 1, 2006;
* announced that NAA chairman Jay Smith will speak about “the work of Prof. Friedrich, and the issues raised in Prof. Leff’s paper,” in his address to the NAA annual convention, to be held in Chicago on April 3, 2006;
* asked Prof. Leff to write an article for the May issue of the NAA’s flagship publication, Presstime Magazine, about American journalism’s response to the plight of German Jewish refugee journalists
Dr. Rafael Medoff, director of the Wyman Institute, said: “We strongly commend John Sturm and the NAA for facing up to the failure of U.S. journalists and publishers to aid Jewish refugee journalists, just as other public figures, corporations, and governments have in recent years faced up to their own failures during the Holocaust. Acknowledging and regretting past mistakes is the first step in ensuring that they will never be repeated.”
The signatories on the Wyman Institute’s petition included Marvin Kalb and Alex Jones of Harvard University’s Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics, and Public Policy; Martin Peretz, editor in chief, and Leon Wieseltier, literary editor, of The New Republic; Victor Navasky, Publisher Emeritus of The Nation; Nicholas Lemann, dean of the Columbia University School of Journalism; and numerous other deans of journalism schools, professors of journalism, and prominent journalists.
(For the full text of the petition, and a complete list of the signatories, please visit www.WymanInstitute.org)
Prof. Leff said she is “pleased to have the opportunity to address the NAA Board of DIrectors, and write for the NAA’s magazine, about this troubling but important chapter in the history of American journalism.”
Prof. Leff, a member of the Wyman Institute’s Academic Council, is Associate Professor of Journalism at Northeastern University. Formerly a reporter for the Wall Street Journal and the Miami Herald, she is author of the critically-acclaimed new book, Buried by The Times: The Holocaust and America’s Most Important Newspaper (Cambridge University Press, 2005).