Never Slow Down  | American Journalism Review
 AJR  The Beat
From AJR,   April 2003

Never Slow Down   

At 85, Herb Klein announces his retirement as editor in chief of Copley Newspapers.

By Tamara El-Khoury
Tamara El-Khoury is a former AJR editorial assistant.     


Herb Klein, enduring newspaperman and former communications director for President Richard Nixon, announces he will retire in June as editor in chief of Copley Newspapers, after six decades in journalism and politics.

At 85, Klein has no intention of abandoning the newspaper business. He plans to write about the relationship between government and the press while also working as a consultant to San Diego-based Copley.

"I've had the unusual opportunity to have been asking the questions and answering the questions," he says. "Journalism is my career, and I'd say politics is my avocation."

But it wasn't his first passion. The former sports editor at the University of Southern California student newspaper thought he was called to a life as a sportswriter. "In junior college I played a little [football]. Then I finally figured out I could be a better writer than a football player," he says.

After graduating in 1940, he got a job as a copy boy for the Copley-owned Alhambra Post-Advocate in California. He served in the Navy during World War II, then returned to the Post-Advocate, where he covered the 1946 congressional campaign of another Californian just out of the Navy, Richard Nixon. The two became friends, and more than 20 years later Klein served as the first White House communications director, a position he created.

But Klein missed the news business; he left the White House to become corporate spokesman for broadcasting group owner Metromedia in 1973, unscathed by the Watergate scandal. "It was the first time in my life when I didn't know what the headlines were going to be the next day because I didn't know what they were covering or why," he recalls.

In 1980, Klein became Copley's editor in chief. He oversaw the 1992 merger of the morning San Diego Union and the San Diego Evening Tribune into the company's flagship Union-Tribune.

"Herb has had a huge impact on my career, and my decision-making," Union-Tribune Editor Karin Winner wrote in an e-mail to AJR. "He's taught me a lot about loyalty and commitment and so much more. He's a fierce advocate of the Copley family, our newspaper and this region."

"You should never slow down in trying to learn as an editor, a writer and as a person," Klein says. "I think I'm still learning today."

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