Indiana University

About Roy W. Howard

Courtesy Scripps Howard Foundation
Roy W. Howard

The Media School is proud of its close ties to journalist Roy W. Howard, an innovator who, while leading Scripps Howard Newspapers, protected the rights of a free and independent press. Yet he thought of himself as a reporter, often traveling the globe to land critical interviews with world leaders.

Howard wasn’t born in Indiana and he isn’t an IU alumnus, but he did have Hoosier ties. Born in Ohio in 1883, he spent his boyhood in Indianapolis, where his first entry into journalism was as a newspaper carrier. As a schoolboy, he delivered the Indianapolis Star in the morning the Indianapolis News in the afternoons.

While still in high school, he began selling his own articles to those newspapers and eventually became a fulltime reporter at the Star, and later, sports editor at the News.

From there, his ambition and talent led to his post as New York correspondent for Scripps McRae Newspapers. He quickly made a name for  himself and, in 1912, had worked his way up to president of United Press.

He took a hands-on approach to furthering UP’s reach as an international news resource. One of his first tasks was to combat the competition, Associated Press, by hiring American reporters to cover Europe “straight,” as traditional journalists, instead of relying on foreign news services that too often were mouthpieces of governments.

He also traveled to South America to end a news monopoly and then to Great Britain to break a cartel that had cut off he agency’s press quota on British cables from Europe.

Howard never lost his nose for news and the excitement of the story led him all over the world. He filed a story from France announcing the armistice of World War I.

He moved to Scripps newspapers in 1920, and, by 1922, he was leading the company. He bought and consolidated newspapers and instituted a practice of investigative and public service journalism that, over the next decades, led to breaking union racketeering, uncovering bank scandals, exposing political corruption and prompting governmental safety regulations in the workplace.

Courtesy Scripps Howard Foundation
Left, Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek with Roy W. Howard, 1955, Formosa.

He never stopped reporting. In 1933, he traveled to Manchuria along the front of the Sino-Japanese war, covering it first from the Japanese side and later with the Chinese forces. He obtained an interview with Emperor Hirohito, the first ever granted an American newspaperman.

In 1936, Howard interviewed Stalin at the Kremlin, and the next day, was outraged that his story had been “edited” by Kremlin authorities. But when Stalin saw the original draft, he ordered Howard’s version restored.

Scripps Howard newspapers remained independent of local party ties. A disgruntled reader complaining of what she perceived as columnists’ political leanings received a personal letter from Howard. Published later as “An Editor’s Creed,” the letter reflects Howard’s belief that journalism’s mission is to “insure to readers the fullest possible access to the truth and the greatest possible divergency of viewpoint.”

Howard officially retired in 1953 but remained active in the company until his death at age 81 in 1964.

Roy W. Howard Archive

IU Media School is home to the Roy W. Howard Archive, a collection of letters representing Howard’s correspondence with world leaders and contemporaries, such as president Herbert Hoover to Dwight Eisenhower; international figures such as Lord Maxwell Beaverbrook, Gen. Douglas MacArthur and Madame Chiang Kai-Shek; and journalists Heywood Broun, Raymond Clapper, William Randolph Hearst, Ed L. Keen, Kent Cooper and Henry Luce.

Roy W. Howard National Collegiate Reporting Competition

The school also joins with the Scripps Howard Foundation in sponsoring the Roy W. Howard National Collegiate Reporting Competition each year, a program that awards journalism students from around the nation a trip to Japan and Korea. The competition’s prize — the trip — seeks to follow Howard’s footsteps in bringing a better understanding of other cultures and their journalistic practices to American students.

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