Dick Fogel, journalist and FOI legend, 1923-2009


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San Francisco's Bay City News Service reported today that Dick Fogel, co-founder with his wife of the service, died Wednesday in Thousand Oaks.

Wayne Futak, a key member of the original founding group and now the general manager who has taken the helm,
told me that Dick "was passionate about the importance of journalism in society and he passed that on to the hundreds of young journalists who have come through Bay City News, including me.
In describing Dick's newsroom philosophy, perhaps the best tribute is the Bay City News Service Credo he established, which was given to all new employees." Futak sent along the Credo:

"It shall be the constant intention of Bay City News Service reporters and editors:
--to pursue and write the news with fairness, accuracy and a sense of professional detachment;
--to be purposeful and searching in the quest for information; and yet,
--to avoid arrogance and instead maintain a reasonable concern for the personal dignity of sources and contacts."

I asked Wayne if the BCN obit ought to have a byline. No, he said, it was a collective effort and should just say from the Bay City News Service. Here it is:

Richard Henry Fogel, 86, longtime newspaper editor and co-founder of San Francisco's Bay City News Service, died on Sept. 9, 2009, in Thousand Oaks, Calif.

A passionate advocate on issues relating to the public's right to access government information, Fogel worked tirelessly with other prominent journalists and news organizations across the country to craft the basic principles of what would later become the landmark Freedom of Information Act (Public Law 89-554, 80 Stat. 383).

Regarded as a legend among San Francisco Bay Area journalists, Fogel received the prestigious Northern California Radio-Television News Directors Association (RTNDA) Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005.

Born April 29, 1923, in Santa Monica, California, Richard Fogel, known to friends and colleagues as "Dick," was the younger of two sons of Moe Miller Fogel and Syndie Aileen Gardner Fogel.

After graduating from Beverly Hills High School in 1941, Fogel enrolled at Stanford University but deferred his college education to enlist in the U.S. Army after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. During WWII, he saw action in Italy's North Apennines and Po Valley campaigns, where he served as a gunner on a 155 mm "Long Tom" rifle in the 530th Field Artillery Battalion, Fifth Army. Later, he was transferred to Rome, where he became a news correspondent and sports editor for the army's Stars and Stripes newspaper, Mediterranean edition.

After the war, Fogel returned to Stanford, where he served as night editor for the Stanford Daily and interned as a reporter for the San Francisco News. After graduating with a bachelor's degree in journalism in 1947, Fogel worked as a correspondent and staff writer for United Press International (UPI) in San Francisco, Honolulu, Fresno, and Salt Lake City.

In 1948, Fogel moved to Oakland, Calif., and joined the Oakland Tribune as a copy editor. Over the next three decades he worked his way up through the company, being promoted to night editor, city night editor, news editor, Sunday editor, assistant managing editor, managing editor, and executive editor.

In the early 1960s, he successfully challenged the Kennedy Administration's national security policy of the "right to lie to the public" during the Christmas Island H-bomb tests. In 1969, together with California Chief Justice Donald Wright, Fogel developed the concept of courtroom closed-circuit television coverage and applied it to the Sirhan B. Sirhan trial for the assassination of U.S. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy.

In the early 1970s, Fogel continued to push for important free press issues, serving as chair for the National Freedom of Information Committee of the Society of Professional Journalists (Sigma Delta Chi), the California Freedom of Information Committee, and the Freedom of Information Committee of the Northern California chapter of the RTNDA. He was also an active member of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, the California Newspaper Publishers Association, the Press Club of San Francisco, and the Commonwealth Club of California.

In 1978, along with his wife Marcia Schwalbe Fogel, business partner Wayne Futak, and associate Joann Sutro, Fogel launched Bay City News Service (BCN), a regional wire service dedicated to local coverage of news and events throughout the greater San Francisco Bay Area.

BCN's first big story was covering the assassinations of Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone. BCN also provided continuous breaking coverage of the aftermath of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. For 30 years in his capacity as owner and editor, Fogel mentored a new generation of aspiring reporters, instilling in them the journalistic ethical principles of truthfulness, accuracy, fairness, and objectivity. BCN continues to play a vital role in providing balanced and accurate news to Bay Area television, radio, and print media outlets (www.baycitynews.com).

Throughout his career, Fogel garnered numerous awards for excellence in journalism, including the James Madison Freedom of Information Career Achievement Award (1989), the Public Service Award for Distinguished Reporting on the Administration of Justice from the State Bar Association of California (1975), the Contra Costa Press Club Award (1970), and the Editor and Publisher Newspaper Promotion Award (1967).

Fogel is survived by his wife of 60 years, Marcia Fogel; daughter Vicki Fogel Mykles (Don Mykles); sons Richard Henry Fogel, Jr. (Marilyn Morrison) and Jonathan Miller Fogel; and grandchildren Rebecca Morrison Fogel, Christopher Kjell Mykles, and Andrew Morrison Fogel.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Richard H. Fogel Memorial Fund for Excellence in Journalism through Stanford University's Office of Development, Gift Processing, 326 Galvez St., Stanford, CA 94305-6105 or http://giving.stanford.edu.

Services are pending.

B3: Let me add a personal note. I knew that Dick had a long history of passionate conviction and effective advocacy on the FOI front. And so I called him one day back in the early l980s at Bay City News and asked him for his ideas on how the Guardian and our local SPJ chapter could be more effective and outfront on FOI. It was quite a phone call and quite a lunch afterward at one of his favorite restaurants, the Benihana in Japantown. Over mai tais, we talked over one good idea after another and cemented a working relationship that lasted till his death.

He, the late Norwin Yoffie, former publisher of the Independent Journal in Marin County, Jim Wheaton from the First Amendment Project, and I founded the Freedom of Information Committee for the Northern California chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists in the late l980s. The committee and the chapter, among other things, instigated and led the successful battles in the l990s to reform the state's Brown Open Meetings Act and to establish the San Francisco Sunshine Ordinance and Task Force, which was the first and still the best local open government ordinance in the nation.

The committee and the chapter are still highly visible and effective promoters and defenders of Freedom of Information and the First Amendment. Each year they put on an FOI dinner recognizing and honoring Freedom of Information warriors, from student editors and papers under attack from their administrators, to politicians who carry the FOI flag, to citizens storming the barriers of government secrecy.
I was happy and proud to present Dick with the chapter's lifetime achievement award in Freedom of Information at a special ceremony at San Francisco State University.

Dick and I were also members of the old California Freedom of Information Committee, which worked on statewide FOI issues in association with the California Newspaper Publishers Association. This group, with Dick's help, was transformed into the California First Amendment Coalition, the nation's first and still most effective group promoting and defending public access and First Amendment issues. The group has recently changed its name to First Amendment Project (FAC) so it can have a wider focus and mission.

Dick is almost unique in the newspaper business. He spent his entire life as a newspaperman, from his days on Stars and Stripes in Italy during World War II, through his long career at Bill Knowland's Oakland Tribune, to his days at Bay City News, where he wrote and edited and directed coverage and inspired generations of young journalists. Who else can say they ended a lifetime of newspapering at 86?

Every time I called him through the years, he was working on a story or an assignment. "Hmmmmmmmmm," he would say, "let me pull that up," referring to a story he was working on. Unlike many of us from the typewriter generation, Dick adapted easily to the computer and combined it with his daIly journalism experience to write and supervise a veritable flood of breaking stories going out hour by hour and day by day for three decades to Bay Area newspapers and radio and television stations. It was quite a feat. His secret weapon was his wife Marcia who worked at his side all through the years and helped insure BCN's success.

His was the authoritative voice. I remember the horrible day that the sister of Beverly Kees, our beloved SPJ president, called me at the Guardian to say that Beverly had been killed by a truck in a freak accident while walking her dog across the intersection from her downtown apartment building. Her sister wanted the Guardian to get out the news to the SPJ members. Shocked and knowing one doesn't put out that kind of news without real authority, I immediately called Dick at Bay City News and asked if the report were correct. He was on the phone to the coroner and told me to wait on the line for the coroner's confirmation. :"Yes," he said in a moment, "the coroner said it was Beverly."

When Dick confirmed the news, I knew alas that it was so and put out the story.

Despite his decades of accomplishments, Dick was a modest guy. I tried to get him to talk about his days at Stars and Stripes. Well, yes, he knew the famous cartoonist Bill Mauldin. And he even had some of his cartoons but somehow he lost them. Well, yes, Bill Knowland's Tribune was an interesting place to work, but he never provided many details. I had to read the BCN obit to get a fuller picture of his life.

Dick and Marcia founded BCN, made it a journalistic institution, and kept it going despite hard times as one of the very few remaining independent, locally owned and operated news operations in the Bay Area, the state, and indeed the newspaper business at large. As Bay Area media cut back on their staffs and coverage, Dick and Marcia made BCN ever more essential and ever more useful with their timely and professional coverage of local news. And, to insure BCN would continue as an independent news service, he left his capable manager Wayne Futak in charge and moving toward full ownership.

I know Dick Fogel wanted the Bay City News Service to be his most important and lasting contribution to Freedom of Information, Freedom of the Press, and good government in San Francisco and beyond. To that end, Dick kept the faith and was in effect still banging away at his typewriter when he died at 86. B3