Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Remembering Tony Auth and the Philadelphia Inquirer in 1972

Even though I worked at the Philadelphia Inquirer, looked forward to seeing his cartoon in the paper each day, the editorial department and the newsroom were on different floors. As a photographer and then photo editor I attended the news meetings, but didn't never saw Tony Auth at one of those meetings. But when I was featured in one of his cartoons, I searched him out.

He drew a picture of me!

March 1972 editorial cartoon by Tony Auth.

That's me lying on the ground, the Philadelphia Inquirer was being picketed by the unions protesting coverage and it was more than just picketing. They blocked the entrances. ALL THE ENTRANCES. . . but I didn't know that, i just thought it was the rear entrance and loading docks.

On that day in March 1976, I was inside the photo department. My normal schedule was working Tuesday through Saturday from 11 to 7. Strange schedule? Photo director, Gary Haynes, saw how most assignments were sent a day in advance, reporters had interviews or there was an event planned well in advance, plenty of assignments, but nobody knew for sure what the front page story was till the 11 a.m. news meeting. A short meeting that put everything into perspective and told all the editors where to focus their attention. What was the most important story?

The lead story could be just be a big headline and run across the top of the page, but there needed to be a some photo on the front page. Haynes wanted to make sure it was a good photo and I was assigned to run out and get it. Unfortunately, many days the mail story was a national story or maybe a series they had already planned. I was the safety net.

We were in competition with the Philadelphia Bulletin.

Back in 1976 there wasn't the Internet, along with the evening paper we were competing with the 10 o'clock TV news, and the Inquirer's executive editor Gene Roberts felt the paper would lose readers if we just covered what the Bulletin and nightly news has already reported. H felt the paper needed the latest news, investigative reporting, information on what was going to happen.

That's why I got assigned the 11 to 7 shift, get the latest picture.

But in March 1976 the AFL-CIO started blocking the newspaper's doors. and Haynes told me to go stand in the Inquirer's parking lot across the street and they can't do anything. You'll be safe. This was before all those video remotes, that tape everything 24/7, only way to see what was happening was to look out the window.

So I go out there, it was my assignment. I'd covered other pickets and thought this pretty lame. Most groups wanted publicity, that's why the had they picketted and demonstrated. When covering anti-war protests I could move around and try to get different angles. Nobody was breaking the law. They didn't even have any signs or banners. Yawn, boring.

I took a couple of photos of the group at the rear entrance, and then waited, standing in the parking lot with a couple of cameras hanging around my neck, watching and wondering why I was there.

But then a couple of really big guys came across the street, walked right up to me and told me to leave. I said I was on the company property and doing what my boss told me to do.

Next thing I knew I was pushed down. This wasn't safe, I wasn't going to argue with them. I was getting out of there. They were blocking the back employee entrance, no body to help me, I better go around to the front entrance.

They wouldn't block the front door, it was a demonstration.

The front door on Broad Street was in the public view.

Unfortunately no TV crews were there, nor the competing Bullitin or wire services. But if it was just "demonstrators" I thought all I needed was determination and not be scared or intimidated and they'd let me walk into the building.

To my surprise, they blocked my way. They didn't part to let me enter!

I got knocked down AGAIN, this was not like any of the other demonstrations I'd covered in the past. They wanted to get their picture in the paper. These big guys obviously didn't want publicity.

I managed managed to go to the Triangle Printing building next to the paper that was still owned by Walter Annenberg (who sold the Inquirer to Knight-Ridder in 1971), it just happened they still had a door connecting to the Inquirer/Daily News and were happy to unlock it for me.

I went to the nurse, and they took my photo. Images later used in court. Tony Auth drew a cartoon.

And they didn't shut down the paper!

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