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Independent and Catholic: Remembering Robert Hoyt

The Columbia Journalism Review has a nicely done piece on Robert Hoyt, founding editor of National Catholic Reporter, and on that newspaper's origins. I never met Hoyt, but it seems to me that his son, Michael Hoyt,  former editor of the journalism review, has provided a nuanced and well-written portrait of his father in this article. He shows the importance of maintaining an independent Catholic press with outlets such as NCR and Commonweal, for which Robert Hoyt became a senior writer after leaving NCR.

It is good to see Robert Hoyt's life and work placed before the broader journalism community that Columbia Journalism Review reaches. Here is the top of the story:

Here are some of the things and people that my father loved: Gregorian chant, Joe Louis, airplanes, the Detroit Tigers infield of the mid-1930s, Salem cigarettes, Martin Luther King Jr., Latin, and big northern lakes. “That’s not a lake,” he would say, whenever I used the L-word about some muddy little man-made body of water, “that’s a pond.” Once, we drove all night from Missouri to vacation at Torch Lake, in Michigan, where he had experienced some happiness as a boy. I was in the front with him when we arrived, exactly at dawn, the rest of the family slumbering in the back of the wagon, a golden sun fingering across the blue water. He had tears on his face.

Another thing he loved: reporting. He was in awe of how good reporters find things out—interesting and significant things to be shaped into news, analysis, argument. He believed that journalism has a moral center, and that its motor is honest, independent reporting. Doing that reporting—asking questions of strangers—was not his cup of coffee. But he was an editor, and he didn’t have to.

My father’s claim to fame is that, nearly 50 years ago, in the fall of 1964, he and some colleagues set in motion a lively newspaper that covers the Catholic Church and its tidal pull on the world, from an independent and intelligent lay perspective—a paper that changed the rules for covering religion and remains an influential voice.

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Thanks Paul for the link--and the reminder. I was editor at Commonweal and hired Bob as Senior Writer. Among his great talents was getting the right word, writing a sentence that was lean and accurate, and constructing a paragraph that helped shape the over-all argument (we could undoubtedly improved that sentence right there!). That also made him a terrific editor.

One of his daily challenges was to finish the NYTimes crossword puzzle between 86th Street, home, and 120th, the CWL office.

What did Charlotte say of Wilbur? Good friend and Great writer....Bob would look it up before writing it down.

Very sad.  He abandoned his wife and six children.  

(He spoke at my high school graduation.  Can't remember what he said.)

Sorry, Wilbur said it of Charlotte. Bob would have looked it up...

In case you were wavering about whether to click on the link that Paul Moses provided, here’s a compelling reason to do so:  the story includes a picture of Tom Blackburn, along with other early staff members at NCR.

Thanks, Paul -- this was a really interesting read. And I do recommend looking up Peggy's 2004 "farewell" to Bob Hoyt here.

Wow - Tom Blackburn is a handsome guy!

Thanks Mollie. I guess Charlotte's Web is intrinsically linked in my mind with Bob!

One of the many things I like about Commonweal is frequency with which I learn about neat people.