The Seltzer Way

Changing of the guard: End of the Seltzer era

By Ray De Crane

In January 1966, in his 38th year as Editor of The Press, Seltzer was a very unwilling retiree from Scripps-Howard. Even the day before Tom Boardman succeeded him as editor of The Press, Seltzer was insistent that he had no plans to retire.

Weeks before that date, Associate Editor Norman Shaw huddled in whispered tones at the city desk with Louie Clifford and said that we had better get something in type about Seltzer's retirement and the identity of his successor.

It had to be done in the greatest secrecy, Shaw insisted. No cooperation could be expected from Seltzer in the preparation of the story, because he was still denying there was any truth to his retirement. Yet, a newspaper could not be caught flat-footed on such an important breaking story. A complete story would have to be written in advance and set in type so that it could be dropped into the paper at a moment's notice.

It was decided that the author selected to write the story would have to be sworn to secrecy and that he could not divulge what he was doing to anyone on the staff.

As Shaw related the events leading up to the scheduled change of command at the paper, the Scripps-Howard executives together with the editors of the many S-H papers had voted on compulsory retirement at age 65 a few years earlier. An exception was made in the case of Seltzer -- perhaps at his insistence -- because he was then nearing that age. He was given a few additional years.

Even though his extended time was now up and his departure was imminent, Seltzer apparently thought it could not happen to him. Wasn't he considered for years to be the outstanding editor of the chain and wasn't he a personal friend of Roy W. Howard, the chairman of the board?

The retirement story of Louis B. Seltzer and the naming of Thomas L. Boardman as his successor was written. Shaw personally took the copy back to the composing room and selected the printer to set the type. The printer was sworn to secrecy.

Once the type was set, a limited number of proofs were made of the story. Shaw kept all the proofs in his possession after first making sure that all the type for the story was carefully hidden away in the composing room where it could not be seen by Editor Seltzer.

While all this secrecy was going on, incoming editor Boardman came into Cleveland and moved into a hotel room at Cleveland Hopkins Airport.

Boardman summoned Louie Clifford to the hotel room and the two of them went over the names of everyone on the Editorial staff of the newspaper and the assignment held by each.

Clifford confided in me how thorough Boardman had been in his research, how he knew the salary of everyone on the staff, knew their background and how long each had been working on the paper. He recognized also, Clifford said, that there were many inequities on the staff and that many were insufficiently compensated while others were seemingly overpaid.

The day that Boardman took over as editor, television crews were in The Press office photographing and interviewing him. Boardman was insistent he had no intention of being a kingmaker and that there would be a new direction on the paper.

It soon became clear to the staff that there was an entirely different atmosphere at the paper. Unlike Seltzer, Boardman spent little time in the city room, was mostly in his private office.

The easy-going camaraderie that once existed at the office was ended. Those who hoped that there would be many changes for the better under the new leadership were soon disappointed.


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Last Updated November 2, 1998