A LOOK BACK AT SOME OF OUR SIGNIFICANT EDITORIALS OVER THE YEARS
The one item in The Vindicator that elicited the most enthusiastic response – in support or in opposition – was The Editorial. More often than not in its 150-year history, The Vindicator used its editorials to rail against injustices, advocate for issues and programs designed to make the Mahoning Valley a better place to live and work, and most significantly, support or oppose the election of candidates for public office. Here are some of the significant editorials published in our storied history as a daily newspaper:
First, some con- text. When The Vindicator was born in 1869, newspapers commonly tied their editorial policy to a political party. For decades, The Telegram was the city’s Republican paper and The Vindicator was the Democratic paper. It was not unlike cable television news today. Such divisions made sense for both philosophical and business reasons; each paper had a built-in audience based on partisanship, and so in its early decades, The Vindicator was a reliable endorser of Democratic presidential candidates. Also, one of The Vindicator’s early owners, John Hessin Clarke, was prominent in Democratic politics and was named to the Supreme Court of the United States in 1916 by President Woodrow Wilson. He resigned from the court in 1922, after which he devoted much of his time to promoting Wilson’s vison of a League of Nations. When Youngstown became a one-newspaper town in 1936, such partisanship raised ethical and business challenges. One paper had to recognize Democrats, Republicans, splinter parties and independents.
Regardless of perceived party ties, The Vindicator’s 1932 endorsement of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the Democratic New Deal liberal, over Republican incumbent Herbert Hoover raised eyebrows. And, indeed, the endorsement was not full-throated. The editorial honored Hoover’s service, paid tribute to his integrity and absolved him of responsibility for the nation falling into what we now call the Great Depression. It endorsed Roosevelt on practical grounds, saying he was better equipped than Hoover to work with a Democratic Congress in pulling the nation out of its economic depression. The Vindicator endorsed Roosevelt for re-election in 1936 and 1940. In 1944, the paper devoted two full columns to its endorsement of Roosevelt over his Republican challenger, Thomas Dewey.
Roosevelt died in 1945 and Vice President Harry S. Truman assumed office, and in 1948 The Vindicator endorsed Dewey over the incumbent.
In 1952, the paper took the unusual step of running a synopsis of its presidential endorsement of the Republican candidate on Page One. “The safety of the United States and the free world is the most important issue in today’s election. The man best suited for this task is the candidate who has made the protection of his country his life’s work – General Dwight D. Eisenhower. “
Over the next 60 years, The Vindicator’s presidential endorsements were: 1956, Eisenhower for re-election, again over Democrat Adlai Stevenson; 1960, Republican Richard Nixon over Democrat John F. Kennedy; 1964, Lyndon B. Johnson, D, over Barry Goldwater, R; 1968, Richard M. Nixon, R, over Hubert H. Humphrey, D, and George Wallace, I; 1972, Nixon over George McGovern, D; 1976, Gerald Ford, R, over Jimmy Carter, D; 1980, Carter over Ronald Reagan, R, and John Anderson, I; 1984, Reagan over Walter Mondale, D; 1988, George H.W. Bush over Michael Dukakis, D; 1992, Bill Clinton, D, over Bush and Ross Perot, I; 1996, Clinton over Bob Dole, R, and Perot; 2000, George W. Bush, R, over Al Gore , D, and Ralph Nader, G; 2004, Bush over John Kerry, D; 2008, Barack Obama, D, over John McCain, R; 2012, Obama over Mitt Romney, R; 2016, Hillary Clinton, D, over Donald Trump, R.
For those keeping score, in those 18 post-war elections, The Vindicator endorsed Republicans 11 times and Democrats seven. Its endorsed candidate won in 13 elections and lost in five.
Four U.S. presi- dents have been assassinated, but Abraham Lincoln’s assassination was in 1865, four years before The Vindicator came into existence. When President James Garfield was assassinated Sept. 19, 1881, The Vindicator was the city’s Democratic paper and the editorial commentary reflected blind partisanship. The editorial opened, “Never before in America’s history has politics reached such a depth of depravity as is now attained by the Republican Party. As an outgrowth of this social and political immorality, the president is shot by a fellow Republican.” It’s fair for us to note that this was nine years before the Maag family bought the newspaper. When Niles favorite son, William McKinley, was wounded Sept. 6, 1901, the Youngstown Vindicator condemned the “dastardly attempt on the President’s life.” And when he died eight days later, an editorial described the crime as “particularly heartless and cruel and the shadow of the crime will continue to linger over the public for years.” And when yet another president was assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963, the paper wrote: “The assassin’s bullets that took the life of President John F. Kennedy also gouged a gaping wound in the nation’s side and left America’s millions struggling with a mixture of emotions – a deep sense of grief and loss, giving way at times – to indignation and anger.”
The year that Con- gress spent investigating and pursuing the impeachment of President Bill Clinton could have been avoided if Clinton had followed the advice of a Jan. 28, 1998, editorial, shortly after stories reported the president’s sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky. “It is almost impossible to describe as consensual sex a liaison between the most powerful man in the world and a 21-year old woman right out of college.“ Further, “for [the president] to knowingly take a risk that would inevitably result in the kind of upheaval we are seeing disqualifies him from further service on the basis of recklessness. For him not to see the risks disqualifies him on the basis of fecklessness.” Clinton did not resign, and in the end he won. But the nation was ill-served by a year of upheaval during which the House produced articles of impeachment that failed to get a majority vote in the Senate, much less at the required two-thirds.
September 11, 2001
The Vindicator was still an afternoon paper on the morning of Sept. 11, making it one of the relatively few newspapers that reported on the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks on the day they happened. An editorial described the terrorism as nothing less than an act of war that would require a military response. And it predicted that the attacks would change the American way of life.
Front page editorials
On rare occasions Vindicator editors have decided that an issue is of such importance that an editorial should be moved from the inside opinion page to the front page. On Oct. 31, 1999, a six-column headline across the top of Page One urged Mahoning County residents to “Vote yes on Issue 3,” Mahoning County’s 0.5 percent sales tax. Every day the preceding week, mini-editorials describing various ways in which the tax was necessary to the continuation of vital services in the county ran across the top of the front page. The concluding editorial in the campaign declared that Mahoning County could not be expected to meet the demands of an urban county without additional revenue. The issue passed by a vote of 43.208 to 28,236.
April 30, 1925: The Vindicator’s editorial support for the grand and ornate 3,000-seat Warner Theater’s construction and opening on that date reflects the newspaper’s longstanding role as a strong community patron, supporter and benefactor of the fine and performing arts. Similarly, in 1968 this newspaper joined in the effort to save the Warner – product of Hollywood’s leading production studio founded by Youngstown brothers Sam, Albert, Harry and Jack Warner – from the wrecking ball and in the next year, heralded the opening of the restored Powers Auditorium, new home of the Youngstown Symphony Orchestra. Fifty years later, the theater now known as the DeYor Center for the Performing Arts remains a jewel of downtown Youngstown. The Vindicator also steadfastly provided support for other community arts gems, including the Youngstown Playhouse, Ballet Western Reserve and The Butler Institute of American Art, which this year marks its 100th anniversary.
January 1939: The Vindicator’s long-standing editorial support for a regional airport in Vienna Township was evidenced by an entry in our files that reads: “William F. Maag Jr, saves the airport project by purchasing 100 acres of land for $17,315.” After that purchase by Maag, publisher of The Vindicator and at the time chairman of the Youngstown Chamber of Commerce, the project, which had been experiencing fits and starts, picked up steam. The construction cost was estimated at $1 million with major funding from the federal and state governments. A total of 600 acres were optioned. The city of Youngstown issued $350,000 in bonds at the urging of The Vindicator and many businesses and community organizations.
Work on the airport began in April 1939, with an estimated 3,100 “men” providing countless hours of labor for 10 months. It was one of the last Works Progress Administration projects and opened a year later.
The Vindicator’s editorial support for the airport, which was a major selling point for the Mahoning Valley’s job-creation efforts, has been steadfast. In recent years, the decline and ultimately the end of commercial air service has resulted in growing opposition to the commissioners in Mahoning and Trumbull counties allocating bed-tax revenue for the operation of the airport. To the end, we continued to believe that a viable full-service airport is essential to the economic and social well-being of the Mahoning Valley.
Whether it was the great flood of 1913, the blustery blizzard of 1950, the destructive tornadoes of 1985, the flooding from this summer’s monsoon-like storms or any other major natural disaster over the last century and a half, The Vindicator’s voice consistently has played important roles. It has served as a beacon of hope for recovery, as a source of praise for the teamwork to move out of crisis mode and as a voice for action to help lessen the potential for and losses from future similar disasters. In March 1913, when the Mahoning River reached 22 feet above its normal level, unleashing havoc in the downtown area, this newspaper became a catalyst for change. It staunchly urged action toward long-term flood control. In the ensuing decades, that advocacy contributed to the construction of the Milton, Berlin, Mosquito, West Branch and Shenango reservoirs. Similarly, after the first and only F5 tornado to sweep through the Valley in 1985, The Vindicator added its voice to those urgently calling for stronger tornado-warning systems and alerts in all local communities.
From the official an- nouncement on March 16, 1956, of construction plans for “the world’s largest auto assembly plant” to the rollout of the final Chevrolet Cruze at that facility in March 2019, this paper has long stood as an advocate for and a watchdog over the many assorted triumphs and troubles at the General Motors Lordstown Complex. As the once-Herculean steel industry in the Mahoning Valley crumbled during the opening decade of the auto plant’s 53-year life, the importance of GM Lords-town to the economy of the region and to Vindicator editorial writers grew. In its early years, this newspaper argued for labor peace and greater quality controls as the Lords-town Strike of 1972 – a 22-day work stoppage that cost GM an estimated $150 million – created an unflattering image of the workforce and its products throughout the nation. The Vindicator and others consistently appealed for stronger and more cooperative labor-management ties. The UAW and GM took heed and by the mid-1980s the factory had made great strides in quality control and labor-company harmony. No doubt that new climate helped the company beat out all other GM plant competitors for GM’s J-car body frame contract and later to new products including the Chevrolet Cavalier, Cobalt and Cruze. Over the past decade, The Vindicator drew much criticism for its support of a massive federal bailout of GM and the plant, which enabled it to survive another 10 years. Most recently, the newspaper has taken corporate leaders to task over their decision to close the plant that had established itself as one of the most efficient in the nation. It also joined a regionwide campaign to save the plant via the ongoing national UAW-GM contract talks while questioning the viability of its potential purchase by a fledgling manufacturer of electric-powered vehicles.
March 9, 1963
The Saturday Eve- ning Post published a seminal article about the Youngstown area called “Crime Town USA” that urged “the whole citizenry” to clean up the cesspool of organized crime that was able to exist because of pliable police and politicians and an apathetic public. But what is noteworthy about the Saturday Post article was the author’s acknowledgement of The Vindicator’s long history of battling first the Black Hand and then the Mafia.
This newspaper launched an editorial campaign against the murderous organized crime factions that not only attracted national attention, but encouraged honest politicians, law enforcement types and community leaders to stand up and be heard.
On the Editorial Desk there’s a First Place award plaque from the Society of Professional Journalists to the editorial writers for “Anti-Corruption Editorials”.
The Vindicator was in competition with all the newspapers in Ohio.
April 25, 1976
“An Appropriate Honor – A modest man, William F. Maag Jr. wanted no honor or glory. His greatest concerns aside from his family and The Vindicator were Youngstown, the welfare of its citizens and education of its children. Certainly it never occurred to him that Youngstown State University would give his name to its great library.” The dedication of the $6 million William F. Maag Library in May 1976 was emblematic of The Vindicator’s long-standing relationship with Youngstown State. The library was opened to student use on Jan. 1, 1976.
Few institutions in the Mahoning Valley can boast of a longer, more enduring and influential legacy than the 150-year-old Vindicator. But the Canfield Fair certainly ranks among those chosen few. This year’s 173rd annual Mahoning County Agricultural Exhibition continues through Monday. Over those years, this paper has become virtually synonymous with the largest county fair in the Buckeye State and one of the largest fairs – period – in the United States. And for good reason. Over those 15 decades, we have recognized the sterling value of the fair in emphasizing the important but often understated role of agriculture to our community’s livelihood. We have also supported initiative after initiative after initiative to make the sprawling exhibition even bigger, better and “something to crow about,” as the fair slogan so aptly puts it. The closing paragraph of the 1949 editorial heralding the start of the 104th Canfield Fair remains every bit as true today – 70 years later: “On the Canfield midway for the next five days, city and country people alike will find entertainment to suit their tastes from the ice and vaudeville shows to horse races. That is the magic of the fair, a mixture of farm and fun to brighten the day of all who attend.” Long live the Canfield Fair!
June 17, 1983
“Traficant Acquitted – The accused is presumped innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. That basic principle is what saved Sheriff James Traficant from conviction for accepting a bribe and evading taxes.” That editorial was the newspaper’s opening salvo against Traficant that grew in intensity through his term as Mahoning County sheriff, his 17 years as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives and his seven-plus years in federal prison. The newspaper never endorsed Traficant while he served in Congress and when he ran for president. The Vindicator’s editorial position was unwavering: Traficant was not to be trusted. His failure to win this newspaper’s support became a rallying cry for his legions of supporters.
When Republican Gov. John R. Kasich signed into law House Bill 70, which was approved by the Ohio General Assembly with Republican votes only and which struck at the root of the persistently failing Youngstown City Schools, it marked the beginning of an aggressive editorial campaign by The Vindicator to ensure that all the provisions of the law were embraced. Indeed, we took on the elected school board, the local and state teachers unions and special interests determined to hold on to the failed policies of the past. The so-called Youngstown Plan turned the governance and operation of the academically challenged Youngstown district on its head. We have been harshly criticized for applauding the replacement of the school board with a special academic distress commission and for the appointment of a chief executive officer to take the place of the superintendent. We argued time and again that HB70 was the urban school district’s last chance for survival. And we’ve made the following point on numerous occasions: Youngstown’s children must be given a chance to succeed academically.