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Thursday, December 2, 2010
Obituaries

Remembering Phil Record and Wilson Barto

Phil Record

Phil Record, a 55-year member of SPJ and 1983-84 national president, died Oct. 30 in Fort Worth, Texas, where he was a reporter, editor and journalism instructor. He was 81.

In retirement, Record taught journalism at Texas Christian University, having spent 43 years at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. He graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 1950.

Steve Geimann, 1996-97 national SPJ president, remembered Record’s influence on the Society and the wider industry.

“Phil has been an inspiration for many SPJ leaders, and many more journalists across the country,” Geimann said. “His passion for our profession, and kindnesses over his long life, will always be what I remember about Phil. He taught many of us the value of balance in life, and balance in work.”

While at the Star-Telegram, Record mentored a young reporter, Bob Schieffer, who worked on the night police beat under Record’s editing. Schieffer, also a longtime SPJ member, went on to fame as a reporter and anchor for CBS News. He told the Star-Telegram in a news story announcing Record’s death that Record was “my mentor, then my boss and for more than 50 years my close friend.”

“As my editor, he taught me the basics of journalism and how to cover a beat, and 53 years later, I still try to do it that way,” Schieffer told the Star-Telegram.

On CBS News’ “Face the Nation” Nov. 7, Schieffer dedicated a segment to remembering his friend and journalism mentor. He said in part:

“There was nothing fancy about Phil. He was just an old-fashioned beat reporter who loved the news, took nothing for granted, and never wrote a story unless he was absolutely sure he had it right. TV personalities and well-known bylines come and go, but reporters like Phil Record at newspapers across our country are the reason journalism evolved into what it became in modern America: the crucial source of independently gathered, accurate information that citizens can compare to the government's version of events. We can no more have democracy without that than we can have it without the right to vote. I'll miss my friend but I'll never forget what he taught me and the values that made him who he was.”

(Watch the full remembrance from Schieffer.)

Record was notable in journalism circles for an unwavering approach to ethics and moral decision making, and he used those values to guide his SPJ presidency. He earned the Wells Memorial Key, the top honor given for service to the Society, in 1991.

“Mr. Record was a devout Catholic. His experience with faith gave him a moral compass that he applied to his various endeavors,” said John Dycus, past president and current board member of the SPJ Fort Worth chapter. “He talked it, he lived it.”

Dycus said that because of the insistence of Record and fellow national leader and friend Howard Dubin, SPJ survived a tumultuous time monetarily.

“[Record] insisted that the organization run in a business-like way. That was what turned SPJ around financially,” Dycus said.

Past president Geimann remembered the advice Record gave him before leading SPJ.

“Phil wisely reminded me to never forget to love my wife while serving in the office,” Geimann said. “Phil knew what was important. He was passionate about our profession and about getting the stories right. But his passion for family and our lives was the more important and lasting memory I have of Phil.”

Another past president, Georgiana Vines, recalled Record’s sympathy toward others as a notable trait.

“He was wonderful about caring about people when they had problems. We got on his prayer list,” said Vines. “My name was added when I had breast cancer in 2004. It meant a lot to know Phil Record was praying for me.”

Aside from his national SPJ leadership, Record was an active local chapter member and served at various times as a board member, vice president and chapter president.

Wilson Barto

An SPJ member for over six decades, Wilson Barto died Nov. 1 at age 83, having spent a career in newspapers for 59 years. His positions included beginning at the Standard Sentinel in Hazelton, Pa., and continuing as a Washington correspondent and ombudsman for the Times of Trenton (N.J.). He officially retired in 1991 from The Trentonian, though he continued to write for weekly newspapers in Pennsylvania until September.

He helped found the New Jersey chapter of SPJ in 1959, 10 years after joining the national organization of what was then known as Sigma Delta Chi. Honoring his commitment to guiding young journalists, the chapter maintains the Wilson Barto Award for Outstanding Achievement by First-Year Reporters.

David Levitt, a past president of the chapter, wrote of Barto: “Wilson set the example for all of the (chapter) presidents who succeeded him — listening and responding to the needs and wants of the working journalist, helping each succeeding generation acclimate and succeed, fight for our rights and protect and defend us from those who would limit our rights. It's supremely fitting that our Barto Award rewards first-year journalists, because that was the direction he pointed the organization.”

After Army service in World War II, Barto attended Penn State University and graduated with a journalism degree in 1951.

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