It Continues . . . (1967-1993)

This section covers the 25 years since Hans Steinitz’s excellent account, namely 1967 to 1993. An astute mathematician will notice the discrepancy in dates for the 50th and 75th Anniversaries. Its origin lies in the origin of the FPA itself. A group of foreign correspondents held a meeting in November 1917 and agreed to form an organized body, but it was not until February 16, 1918 that they met again and elected a President, Frank Dilnot, and formed a committee. In past years the FPA has elected to use the earlier date; we have preferred to use the date when the first officers of the FPA were elected.

The last 25 years were kicked off in grand style in 1967 with a magnificent dinner for more than 400 guests in the Grand Ballroom of the Plaza Hotel. A special anniversary issue of the Foreign Press News featured the story by Hans Steinitz, reprinted above.

At the dinner, FPA president, Jeffrey Blyth, tried to sum up what the FPA is and what it does. He confessed it was not easy to do.

“The FPA,” he said, “is not a trade union. Nor is it a professional organization in the sense that, like lawyers or doctors, its members have to pass examinations before they can join. It is not, except in the most modest sense, a charitable organization. Nor is it very militant – although on occasion it has been known to rise up in wrath to defend its rights, and those of journalists working in America.

“The answer,” he suggested, “is that the FPA is a fraternal organization – like the old guilds and livery clubs of London – in which members with similar interests can get together. And if the need ever arises, join together to defend their interests.”

The guest of honor, Bill Moyers, then publisher of Newsday, admitted that while he was press secretary for President Lyndon Johnson the foreign correspondents were given second-hand treatment. “We tended,” Moyers said, “to deal with those men whose writings we read.”

Privately, Moyers told Blyth, “One of the problems was that there was no organization of foreign correspondents in Washington. There was no one like the FPA with whom we could deal.”

The next year the USIA announced the opening of a Foreign Press Center in Washington, similar to the Center it opened in New York in 1961.

During the last 25 years, there has been a great array of talent lined up to speak to the FPA.

It was standing room only in March 1968 when Mr and Mrs Arthur Miller appeared to speak on playwriting and photography, politics and the sense of personal responsibility. (No, not that Mrs Miller – Marilyn Monroe – it was Ingeborg Morath, a professional photographer.)

Film stars, celebrities and famous people have included Shelley Winters in May 1968 talking of a plan to bring foreign students and educators to the US to meet and instruct under-privileged youths. Angela Lansbury (now star of television’s Murder, She Wrote) was the featured guest in October 1969.

In 1970 Betty Friedan, president of the National Organization for Women, told the FPA that women’s demand for freedom and equality was becoming a “rage” which could not be extinguished. Her talk attracted more than 60 people as well as television coverage .

William Kunstler, one of America’s most controversial lawyers and defender of the “Chicago Seven” appeared in June 1970.

On April 1, 1971 Jules Feiffer told the FPA, “I’m basically a tap dancer,” and in September novelist Jacqueline Susann drew a large crowd at a cocktail party in the penthouse of Carnegie Hall.

Professor Zbingniew Brzezinsky spoke on world affairs.

In March 1975 UN Secretary General Kurt Waldheim spoke at a conference co-hosted with the Deadline Club, and in April Abraham Beame, mayor of New York, defended his city “in challenging and often humorous terms.”

Don Hewitt, producer of CBS’ 60 Minutes was guest of honor at an FPA luncheon in June 1979.

On March 12, 1985 a New York State Attorney, known as the “pizza connection” prosecutor, told the FPA of his work in fighting the Mafia and organized crime. And he denied, yet again, having any desire for public office. His name – Rudolph W. Guiliani, cur rently gearing up for his second attempt to become Mayor of New York.

Veteran CBS reporter for 60 Minutes, Mike Wallace, summed up the lesson of journalism: Truth will out. Speaking at the FPA in April 1985, Wallace also noted, “There’s nothing wrong with our being the object of scrutiny, just as we insist that we can scrut inize other institutions.”

The man who recently married film star and fitness promoter Jane Fonda, Ted Turner, attracted a big turnout of more than 60 journalists when he appeared at the FPA in November 1985. His comment then on keeping fit? – “I pace around a lot.”

One of the most prolific writers in America told the FPA all he knew about Halley’s Comet on March 19, 1986. As befitting his vast output, Isaac Asimov covered an array of subjects, including comets, space colonies, robotics, doom and gloom, despots, dictators, the Battle of Hastings, Attila the Hun, the rise and fall of emperors, Giotto, the implementation of photography, amateur astronomers, the space shuttle, artificial intelligence, humans that walk up stairs and horses that don’t, and cars that need directions to Detroit.

The acerbic and witty economist and writer John Kenneth Galbraith entertained the FPA in November 1986. But, mindful of his hosts, Galbraith offered this answer to the ills of the world: “Alert, concerned journalism which is the avenue to responsible publ ic opinion,” he said.

There were occasional film screenings. The most notable was an exclusive showing of a French television special titled Bardot in March 1968. The screening attracted more than 75 correspondents – almost all of them men!

And there was heavy politics.

The highlight of 1970 was a special trip to Washington on July 9 to visit the White House and meet senior officials. They included General Alexander Haig and Dr Henry Kissinger “who, after a few minutes, took complete control with his air of dominating and almost irritating self-assurance,” reported FPA member Leo Armati.

The same year two Foreign Ministers spoke to the FPA in highly successful meetings – more than 100 members were there. The speakers were Senor Gregorio Lopez Bravo of Spain and Walter Scheel of Germany.

April 21, 1971 newly appointed US Ambassador to the UN, George W. Bush, met with the FPA. Bush was reported to be “quick, perceptive and even humorous.”

In one of the major events in the history of the FPA, German Chancellor Willy Brandt gave a special news conference on June 17, 1971, thanks to the efforts of FPA president Gitta Bauer. His comments, particularly on the Berlin question, were reported around the world, including on the front page of the New York Times (although the Times reporter omitted to mention that the FPA hosted the press conference!).

It was not all famous people and world leaders. One of the most imaginative activities undertaken by the FPA, and one of the most revealing of the underbelly of the US, was called “Black Journey.” It was a 10-day tour of the black ghettos of urban America in early February 1972. The idea was Gitta Bauer’s, the sponsor was the National Urban League.

“Black Journey” took 12 FPA members through the ghettos in Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Chicago, Gary, San Francisco, Greene County in Alabama, Birmingham in Alabama, with a visit to Washington, DC a few days later. Tour members paid their own way, booked into black hotels or bedded down with local families.

Among the many highlights of “Black Journey” were meetings with the Rev. Jesse Jackson in his home in Chicago, with Julian Bond and Andrew Young in Georgia, and sessions with the father and the widow of Martin Luther King.

FPA member Sabina Lietzmann, who took the “Black Journey,” reported: “Few of us may have been prepared for the depth of bitterness and emotionalism that burdened some of our discussions in the big city ghettos of the North. Nor, for that matter, for the soaring hopefulness and optimism down South.”

Time was also given over to the lighter side – dining, dancing and celebratory award-giving lunches and dinners.

Marta, student of “Stairway to Heaven,” New York’s only school for belly dancing, performed at the Foreign Press Ball at Stonehenge Inn, Ridgefield, Connecticut, on September 19, 1970. Air-conditioned buses transported 110 members and their guests to the fine country inn.

October 1, 1971 saw the FPA’s annual dinner-dance at the Terrace Room of Tavern on the Green in Central Park. Entertainment was provided by US soprano Barbara Reisman, who sang songs from many lands.

Dr Henry A. Kissinger accepted the FPA Special Award in 1973. It was given “for his understanding and clarity in communicating to the world press the story of the complexity of the Vietnam negotiations, and for his contribution to the cause of peace.” However, despite a promise to do so, successive world crises prevented Dr Kissinger from receiving his award in person.

A special dinner-dance at the Biltmore Hotel honored the US Bi-Centennial and Walter Cronkite, the long-time anchor for CBS News, on April 30, 1976. Cronkite accepted the FPA’s International Press Award and Certificate of Honor. The citations stated in part: “for consistent journalistic excellence and unfailing zeal in strengthening international understanding and peace through unbiased reporting, thereby enhancing the flow of information throughout the world.”

The 65th Anniversary luncheon on October 25, 1983 at the Waldorf Astoria was hailed as a huge success. William Averell Harriman was the guest of honor, and he was presented with the FPA Award for Sterling Service to Humanity. The keynote speaker was George M. Ball, a former Under Secretary of State and Ambassador to the United Nations.

Harriman was a successful businessman when he was picked by President Roosevelt in 1933 to help guide the country out of the Great Depression. During the Second World War Harriman served as Ambassador to the Soviet Union, and immediately after the war he was sent as Ambassador to Great Britain. In the late 1940s he administered the Marshall Plan, which is helped to rebuild war-torn Europe. In 1954 Harriman was elected as Governor of New York State. In the latter part of his life Harriman worked untiringly as a senior statesman, and was involved in advising the US government until he died in July 1986.

Ball, an investment banker with a long career in government, was known for his position as “devil’s advocate” in the State Department during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, because he severely criticized America’s involvement in Vietnam.

In his speech Ball credited Harriman with a set of rules on how to deal with adversaries in the foreign policy arena, observations that still apply today. One of the central principles, Ball said, is that “we should not eternally concentrate on the worst scenario, to the extent where we become paralyzed and incapable of effective diplomacy.”

Three heads of state sent personal messages to the FPA when it made its first World Humanitarian Award on March 27, 1985. President Reagan of the US, President Sandro Pertini of Italy and President Patrick Hillary of Ireland congratulated Monsignor John Patrick Carroll-Abbing for winning the Award.

The Monsignor was honored for his lifetime’s work in caring for and educating abandoned youth, and for founding the Boys’ Towns and Girls’ Town of Italy. The Monsignor was also awarded a Life Membership in the FPA because he used “the printed word with great effectiveness to focus attention on the underlying causes of their unrest.”

During the FPA’s 70th Anniversary year, Edwin J. Wesely, President of CARE International, accepted the FPA’s World Humanitarian Award on November 29, 1988. The award was made to honor Wesely’s role in the battle against hunger and the tragic effects of poverty. President Reagan and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, among many others, sent congratulatory messages to Wesely.

One of the highlights of the evening was the presentation of a full-sized US flag to Wesely. The flag was sent by Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, together with a certificate stating that the flag had been flown at the top of the Capitol Building in Washi ngton just the day before.

A sweeping revision of the FPA Constitution was passed unanimously at a special meeting on November 28, 1990. A subcommittee of three FPA presidents, Alfred von Krusenstiern, Roy Murphy and Gastone Orefice held a series of meetings and discussions. The draft they put together was discussed in detail at several Executive Committee meetings. The whole process took a year and a half.

The 1980s saw the passing of many of the FPA’s links with the past. A number of our past presidents moved on to hopefully better assignments in the next life, including Maurice Adams, Gitta Bauer, Alex H. Faulkner, CBE, George Fenin, Jean-Paul Freyss, Jurij Gustincic, Sir Randal Heymanson, CBE, Jussi Himanka, Simon Koster, Piers H. Powell, Paul F. Sanders and Richard Yaffe. It was a heavy toll in one short decade.

The toll continued in the 1990s when we lost both our Press Secretaries, Louis Weintraub and Eleanor FitzSimons. They gave long and valuable service without charge to the FPA after their appointment in 1976. They helped most significantly with the 65th Anniversary celebration in 1983 and with the arrangements for the World Humanitarian Awards of 1985 and 1988.

An interesting and instructive study was made this year by comparing the foreign correspondents registered at the US Government’s Foreign Press Center in New York in 1988, and with those registered five years later in 1993, together with the Active Members of the FPA.

We discovered that in those five years, more than four-fifths (82.6%) of the correspondents had moved on. There was also an increase of more than 100 correspondents (approximately 14%) compared with five years ago. This gives a total of nearly 800 foreign correspondents now working in the New York area.

The study shows that while the number of foreign correspondents is growing larger and more influential, the turnover is staggeringly high.

This makes the need for the existence of the FPA even more intense and sweeping. The FPA supplies a stability and continuity that not only helps correspondents do a better job, but also benefits everyone who deals with them – the politicians, the businessmen, the diplomats and the scores of ordinary people a correspondent has to deal with to get the stories out.

Roy Murphy

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